"Understanding another culture through language opens doors and allows you to view the world through an entirely different lens," says Professor Lisa Perrone, Italian studies. "Seeing yourself and others through another set of cultural values is a crucial step toward becoming a global citizen."
Perrone's students often begin working with her in a first-year course designed for students with no prior Italian language experience. By junior year, many of these students choose to spend a semester in Italy. "We encourage our students to study in an Italian city where they can take classes at the local university," Perrone explains. "So, in five semesters we take them from buongiorno to a solid intermediate foundation in language and culture — ready to experience total immersion."
In addition to her first- and second-year language courses, Perrone teaches a first-year seminar on Italian-American culture in the United States. The course covers the history of Italian immigration from the late 1800s to the present, exploring early hardships and examining media stereotypes from the Mafia to reality television. Because most students who take the course come from Italian-American families, Perrone has created a heritage project requiring students to interview an ancestor, compare notes with other students, and a write a magazine article on a theme of their choosing.
"Students often tell me they had no idea they had such a rich family history," says Perrone. "It had never occurred to them to interview the older generations, who are thrilled to tell their stories. The experience leads to some important self-reflection."
Much of Perrone's own research focuses on pedagogy. One of her recent studies focuses on the importance of acquiring a second language for students pursuing highly technical majors such as engineering. In 2015, Perrone co-directed the ENGR 290 summer program in Italy and taught Introductory Italian on site. She says the experience opened the students' eyes to the possibility of working overseas in the future.
"Language learning is more than a 'soft skill,' " says Perrone. "It's an essential part of a liberal arts education and greatly enhances a person's development as a global citizen regardless of intellectual and professional passion. Our students pair the Italian studies major with everything from computer science to art history. That's the beauty of Bucknell and a liberal arts education. You can become highly specialized in a discipline while developing global competence."
Posted Dec. 14, 2017