Semestre in Italia

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By: Teresa Sarkela –

photo courtesy of Professor Jim Baken

photo courtesy of Professor Jim Baken

While most students who returned to Rocky this semester found themselves once again in Morledge-Kimball or Tech Hall, a few select students have had the opportunity to take part in a truly incredible out-of-class- room experience- a semester studying art, history, and culture abroad in Italy.

“Eleven outstanding Rocky students are studying at Villa Pieve and all parts of Italy,” said art professor Jim Baken. Baken is part of a team of educators working with the students, including art professor Mark Moak, photography instructor David Shumway, and instructor Catia Melani. Melani is an adjunct instructor educating the students in the Italian language and culture. Since September 22, the group has
studied in Rome, Sicily, and some have
traveled to Pompey and Florence.

The program first began in 2011. The main intent was to “give students the opportunity to travel abroad” said Moak, “furthering their education and personal growth outside of the classroom.” Originally seeming to focus toward art students, the Semester in Italy has since expanded to include those studying across all programs. This year’s students range from equestrian, sociology, art, and business studies. “What has been most unique about the program is the cohesive group dynamic of the students involved this semester,” said Moak, “I believe there are life-long friendships that will come from it.”

During their time in Italy, students are earning credits in journaling/ blogging, art history, painting, photography, and the Italian language under the team of instructors as well as special guest instructors. The group has also learned much from Italian artists including Giuliano Giuman and Rossella Vasta. Vasta, who early this semester visited Billings, presented a guest lecture in the Fortin Education Center and also at the Yellowstone Art Museum.

During their studies of painting, students spent the day with “true modern day Italian master” Giuliano Giuman. Baken described: “The students [spent the day walking] through cavernous spaces and up spiral steps to view work [Guiman] is preparing for multiple shows. Students engaged Mr. Giuman with questions and discussions. And before leaving, a sparkling toast was offered” to the students.

The students will be returning later in November with gained deeper knowledge of Italian culture, art history, and skills in watercolor painting, photography, and journaling. Despite its success and benefit to present and previous students, the future of the program is currently uncertain. Professors like Moak have hopes that the potential to continue programs like the Semester in Italy lies in building the desire of students interested in education beyond the classroom.

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