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Caffè Culturale Nurtures Italian Studies Through Immersive Experience and Career Exploration

Students discuss the difficulties of “straightening” the leaning Tower of Pisa, after having been lectured on its history

Students discuss the difficulties of “straightening” the leaning Tower of Pisa, after having been lectured on its history

In October the Italian program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, hosted an immersive educational experience titled Caffè Culturale. The event, held at the International House, captivated students’ interest and curiosity, offering a deep dive into Italian culture, history and various career trajectories associated with Italian studies.

Caffè Culturale, partially sponsored by the Center for Global Engagement’s Global Catalyst Grant program, and organized by the Italian program, showcased the university’s commitment to developing a culture in which global engagement is prioritized and encouraged.

Set over an entire morning, Caffè Culturale provided a multifaceted exploration of Italy’s rich heritage and career avenues linked to Italian studies. Tailored segments catered to different Italian classes, ensuring an interactive and enriching experience for students of all levels.

The event showcased an impressive lineup featuring Italian professors and experts from diverse disciplines. Each session provided a comprehensive understanding of Italian culture, history and career prospects.

Discussions ranged from Italian philosophers to insights into Roman art history, how fascism exploited the myth of ancient Rome, sensations and perceptions of Italian art, how Italy became a nation, the career of an Italian veterinarian and Italian music, offering a captivating journey through various facets of Italy’s intellectual and historical legacy.

Students learn about Italian Carnevale and craft their masks

Students learn about Italian Carnevale and craft their masks

What set Caffè Culturale apart was its emphasis on hands-on activities. Attendees engaged in practical experiences such as constructing the leaning Tower of Pisa, learning to cook Italian cuisine in a microwave and crafting masks and mosaics, adding a dynamic element and tangible connection to Italian culture and artistry.

The event aimed to expose students, both minors and majors in Italian studies, to a spectrum of career possibilities. Direct interactions with professionals and native speakers in the casual and relaxed environment facilitated meaningful conversations and firsthand experiences, enabling students to envision potential career paths and gain practical advice from those who had pursued them.

Students in the kitchen fill sweet bread with Nutella for a coffee treat

Students in the kitchen fill sweet bread with Nutella for a coffee treat

The UTK library table offered a resourceful hub featuring an array of Italian books covering art, food, politics, cinema and recommended readings. This resource corner provided attendees with avenues for further exploration and learning beyond the event.

Attendees were treated to an authentic Italian colazione, featuring biscotti, caffè, dolci and more, enhancing the immersive experience of Italian culture.

Gianna Dovell and Haileigh Walsh, co-presidents of the Italian Club, say that, “One can study leadership, however, there is no substitute for experience, and being an officer of the Italian Club fosters our learning of essential life skills such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and time management. These skills can positively impact our future career prospects and we are thankful to be given a chance to put our abilities and interests to use.”

By intertwining cultural immersion with career exploration, the event celebrated Italy’s rich heritage and served as a catalyst for students’ academic and professional growth within the realm of Italian studies.

About the Center for Global Engagement

The Center for Global Engagement works to lead, coordinate and support the university’s strategies for global education, research and engagement. Initiatives include developing and managing international partnerships, welcoming and assisting international students and scholars, providing education abroad opportunities to students and creating international and inter-cultural programming for campus and the broader community.

About the Italian Program

The Italian Program, located within the Department of World Languages and Cultures, provides students with an overall view of Italian culture, economy, history and society. Courses on conversation, composition and culture, as well as on Dante, Machiavelli, Italian Opera, women in literature, Italian cinema and more, expose students to Italy’s cultural treasures and current affairs. Italian studies are tailored for students interested in art, literature, music, politics and Italian business. The major is particularly geared towards students who love to learn and experience other cultures, speak other languages, travel and wish to work for American companies doing business in or with Italy.

About the Italian Club

The Italian Club provides opportunities for students to explore their interests in the Italian culture, learn about leadership and fill the various positions that engage them in activities such as heritage nights, immersion weekends, volunteering to help their local community, film nights, cultural conversations and more. 


Jason Moody (865-974-5752,