In its 20 years of operations, the CIC has helped build and support world language programs, created opportunities for students and faculty to study abroad, and sustained a rich series of programs to entertain and enlighten residents of North Central Massachusetts.
Anna M. Clementi recalls the founding of the Center for Italian Culture (CIC) at Fitchburg State with a transformative gift from Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio. “It was not designed to be a social club,” Clementi said. “It was to have an educational foundation.”
And that it has. In its 20 years, the CIC has helped build and support world language programs, created opportunities for students and faculty to study abroad, and sustained a rich series of programs to entertain and enlighten residents of North Central Massachusetts.
For Clementi, one of the center’s founding members and its current president, the CIC has been a tool to support the liberal arts and sciences and the critical thinking skills such study fosters. “You need the liberal arts,” said Clementi, who also served on the university’s Board of Trustees. “The liberal arts teach you how to think critically and support the formation of your soul, and contribute to the humanity in a person. I feel strongly that the CIC has been instrumental in keeping that going.”
CIC scholarships have brought study abroad opportunities within reach of dozens of students over the years, exposing them not only to world languages, but supporting other curricular areas. Courses on Roman history and the biology of the Mediterranean diet are among the many offerings that have been made possible thanks to its funding.
Professor Daniel Sarefield of the Economics, History and Political Science Department teaches ancient history and Latin, and has served on the CIC’s board since 2007. He has seen firsthand the transformative power of the CIC’s support.
“Through its scholarships directly to the students, the Center for Italian Culture has enabled many students who would otherwise be unable to do so to fly to Italy and live there for enough time to really get to know Verona in an intimate way and to develop a connection to its past and present,” he said. “In this way, the CIC supports the goal of our students becoming global citizens who are able to foster understanding across peoples and cultures.”
Sarefield has led students on four university-sponsored trips to Verona, Italy, where he has taught courses on life in the Roman city and reading Latin inscriptions. The voyages have animated the subject matter in powerful ways.
“The objective of my Verona courses has always been to provide my students with opportunities to probe beneath the surface of Roman life,” Sarefield said. “This is definitely the case with my history course. Over our four weeks in Verona, we locate, identify and explore the city's numerous Roman remains, many of which are still visible across the modern city today. We connect what we find in the field with the historical texts that we read and discuss in our classroom at the University of Verona. In this way, we develop an understanding of ancient Roman life that integrates evidence of a variety of sources.”
The Latin courses are similarly enriched by the in-person experience of Verona, Sarefield said.
Dean of Arts and Sciences Franca Barricelli said the CIC has enabled study across a variety of disciplines, from history and photography to exercise science and chemistry.
“As an academic resource, the CIC is a unique distinction of Fitchburg State,” said Barricelli, who also serves on the CIC board. “It makes an important contribution to the academic mission of the university by enabling faculty, students, outside national and international scholars and community members to interact in ways that enhance learning and provide opportunities for research, outreach and collaboration. By encouraging global engagement through study abroad and the study of Italian and Latin language, history and culture at home, the CIC has advanced our foundational liberal arts objectives, which equip students for academic success and purposeful lives beyond college.”
The CIC will hold its 20th anniversary celebration on Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Fitchburg Art Museum. Additional information will be posted online at fitchburgstate.edu/cic.
This story was first published in the Summer 2021 edition of Contact, the university's alumni magazine.