Student and professor bring Italian Honor Society chapter to Lafayette

The Italian studies program will hold a summer course in Florence every other year. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Efforts to bring the National Italian Honor Society to campus began with an email to the organization over winter break, and now, it has come to fruition. Marissa Bocchiaro ‘20 and professor Anthony Cummings were able to start a chapter of Gamma Kappa Alpha on campus.

Bocchiaro and Anna Levy ’19 are set to become the chapter’s first initiates. 

After realizing that the Italian studies minor did not have an honor society established at the college, like other language departments do, Bocchiaro decided to see if she could help to bring one here. Cummings, Director and Program Coordinator in Italian studies and music professor, has ambitions for the program to offer a standard major in the next year.

Bocchiaro and Cummings emailed Secretary-Treasurer Maria Rosaria Vitti-Alexander of the Italian National Honor Society and informed her of their interest in bringing a chapter to Lafayette.

According to Cummings, before it was approved by the honor society and college deans, it was necessary to find students who were eligible to take part and pay a small fee. 

The requirements for admission membership include taking at least five courses at institutions offering a minor in Italian courses, having a GPA of 3.00 in those courses and being in the top 35 percent of their graduating class, according to the honor society’s constitution.

The current members of the society, recently initiated, are Levy and Bocchiaro.

“[Italian studies] [has] been a small program, and probably will always be because the material is a little unusual,” Cummings said. “But each year we have more and more minors and actually the membership criteria is pretty stiff.”

Cummings said he hopes the society’s membership reaches a “minimum [of] six.” 

According to the honor society constitution, “any senior or junior in a college, university…may be elected to membership by a majority vote of the duly constituted Chapter.” In other words, “the current membership chooses the new membership,” Cummings said.

Cummings said that when it comes to selecting students to be part of the honor society, they will begin to take other criteria into account. They may consider if applicants are “active in contributing to a sense of a tying identity on campus.” He added that “students who have been involved in the [Italian] club, for example, can be considered,” as long as they qualify by the standards of the society.

With the “small budget” given to the program in Italian studies, Cummings intends to bring lecturers within the field of Italian studies to the school once a year in order to “bring a kind of greater awareness of the intellectual component of Italian studies…beyond campus,” he said. 

Cummings said he further hopes that a dinner with the lecturers and students would be able to take place. Special invitations for the lectures and dinners may be sent to society members, Italian studies students, as well as members of the Italian club, he added.

In the next year, Cummings and Bocchiaro aim to establish an Italian studies major at the college as opposed to just a minor. 

Bocchiaro and Levy both self-designed a major in Italian studies, adding three courses and a capstone to the minor requirement courses. Cummings hopes that in the next year, the college can offer a standard Italian studies major that does not need to be self-designed.

The Italian studies program will offer a month-long summer course in Florence this year for the first time. The course is called “Language and History: Renaissance Italy” and will take place every other school year.

Students in the course will have opportunities to “experience Italy,” receive a full course credit, and meet the foreign language requirement, according to Cummings. 

About Mario Sanchez

Mario Sanchez '21 is the Arts & Culture Editor for The Lafayette. He double-majors in English and Women & Gender Studies.

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