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First-of-its-kind online Italian minor launches at ASU

ASU Online students can now add an Italian minor to their studies


Books from the Pier Raimondo Baldini Italian Library on a shelf.

This spring, the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University became the first and only university in the country to offer an online Italian minor. Photo courtesy the School of International Letters and Cultures

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April 01, 2024

As a member of the U.S. Air Force, Angelo Chaknis needed an academic program that would allow him the flexibility to schedule his studies around his work in the military without the stress of competing schedules.

Launched this spring for the fall 2024 semester, a new online minor in Italian offered by the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University — the first and only university in the country to offer an online Italian minor — has done just that.

Chaknis was excited to enroll in the online minor, both to explore his Italian roots and to expand his career prospects.

“I'm in the Air Force and plan to attend law school in the next few years," he said. "Learning another language, especially Italian, could help me get stationed in Italy or another foreign country.”

A minor in Italian studies enables students to gain proficiency in the Italian language and enhance their historical, geographical and environmental knowledge of Italian culture. 

Through collaborative, project-based learning, students in the new online Italian minor program work toward obtaining a professional level of speaking, listening, reading and writing Italian, as well as research skills that allow them to develop innovative approaches to today’s significant cultural and social questions. 

According to Associate Professor Juliann Vitullo, students will tackle the cultural and social questions posed to them through the lens of a variety of perspectives, such as historical and nutritional, "but language and culture are always central."

For example, in ITA 350: The Mediterranean Lifestyle in Italy, students reflect on how to create healthier, more sustainable communities where they live by studying food strategies of Italian communities. For one week, students maintain a log of what they eat and analyze it in the context of their readings about local food systems and sustainability. 

“The food log and final project were perfect additions to course readings, providing a real-world application of what we were learning. I would say this is one of my favorite classes I've ever taken,” said junior Ava Schneider, a Starbucks College Achievement Plan scholar. 

In ITA 380: Natural Disasters — Environmental and Cultural Resilience in Italy, students learn from cultural scholars, natural scientists and risk management specialists. They also work collaboratively on emergency preparedness plans for dealing with a natural disaster, considering cultural, environmental and social factors.

This program not only fills a gap in offerings for online students, but also speaks directly to the tenet of inclusivity in the ASU Charter. Faculty who developed the program wanted to ensure that all online students interested in studying Italian have the same opportunities as immersion students.

In this same spirit, students enrolled in the online Italian minor will be able to conduct research alongside professors, study abroad and participate in internships.

Those enrolled in the program are eligible to engage in any one of the faculty-led study abroad programs offered by the Italian program, including Mediterranean Food and Culture in Sicily, Natural Disasters and Environmental and Cultural Resilience in Sicily and Italian Language and Culture in the Amalfi Coast

Students interested in completing an internship can apply for an Italian language, culture and professional experience in Recanati, Italy. The program matches students’ skills, interests and language proficiency with internships in various sectors, including tourism, communications, business, education, publishing, fashion, design and food.

Past internships have included:

  • MAC, in which students perform administrative tasks, operating through IT and management systems.
  • Sistema Museo, in which students rotate through several museums located in Recanati, greeting visitors, leading tours and more.
  • Scuola Dante Alighieri, in which students shadow Italian L2 teachers and observe teaching techniques.
  • ELI Publishing Group, in which students engage in digitalization of hard copy content, translation of Italian to English content and marketing research. 

Those enrolled in the online Italian minor are also eligible to participate in research opportunities through courses such as SLC 498: Food, Environment, Justice — Research in Context, and ITA 498: Topic — Hazards and Society Research. Both are part of the Online Undergraduate Research Scholars program.

Students of the program can expect to gain skills needed to pursue professions in the arts, museums, journalism, film, music, marketing, tourism, design, technology, law and more.

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