California State University, Long Beach
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The Mastering Of Italian Studies

Published: December 2, 2013

George L. Graziadio Chair of Italian Studies’ Clorinda Donato applauded the CSULB Academic Senate’s approval of a new Master of Arts degree for Italian Studies beginning next fall at CSULB.

“We’re all very excited in Italian Studies about the new degree,” said Donato, who joined Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures in 1988. “The goal of this Master of Arts degree is to provide professional-level coursework in the field of Italian Studies. Students want M.A. degrees and CSULB is the place to come. If you are an Italian teacher and you are want to advance in your career, you need a master’s degree, especially today, with the demand for advanced placement courses in high school. Those teachers need M.A. degrees.

“If you work in the arts or in any sort of international enterprise, an M.A. in a language, literature and cultural studies area is essential,” she added. “A master’s degree in Italian is a natural extension of the Bachelor of Arts in Italian Studies. Students increasingly realize that the B.A. is a beginning, but for subject mastery, you need those extra years in an M.A. program. I’ve received inquiries from students at a number of our CSU campuses who are interested in pursuing a higher degree in Italian Studies and happy to know that they can now do it within the CSU system.”

The new master’s has been a long time in the making, according to Donato.

“When I first came to Cal State Long Beach, I found only a minor in Italian Studies. As we raised funds for the Graziadio Center, we were able to attract more attention to Italian Studies and we added more courses and a professor that we didn’t have before,” she said. “If you offer more courses and students come, you know you have a winning formula.”

Rough budgetary seas swamped the degree’s first proposal in 2009.

“Budget cuts delayed its approval until we could provide the CSU Chancellor’s office with more data,” she recalled. “To discover the student body’s interest throughout Southern California in having an M.A. in Italian Studies, we constructed a survey that we e-mailed to Italian majors throughout the state. That survey yielded an overwhelmingly positive response. Ninety percent of the 200 who responded said they wanted a master’s degree. That data was very convincing. There are students who have been waiting since 2009 for this degree. I believe we will start strong with a student cohort of no less than 10 and possibly as many as 15 in the first year.”

Donato believes the new graduate degree benefits both the department and the College of Liberal Arts through the Graziadio Center.

George L. Graziadio, Center of Italian Studies

“This center makes it possible to do things for both students and the college that might not be possible otherwise,” she explained. “For instance, the center co-sponsors with other departments such events as the recent conference on Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, offered in collaboration with Film and Electronic Arts that drew to this campus some of the best people in the field. Next up is a lecture series on language and social justice in Italy offered through the College of Liberal Arts Scholarly Intersections Initiative and the Graziadio Center beginning in December and running through spring 2014. The center brings to campus experts who create knowledge.”

With the success of the new degree approval, Donato feels confident in the future of the Graziadio Center in particular and Italian Studies in general.

“The Graziadio Center has become the voice for Italian Studies on the West Coast,” she said. “In a recent conference of the National Italian American Foundation held in Washington D.C., the Italian ambassador to the U.S. pointed out Italian Studies at CSULB for its innovative thinking through such programs as Italian for Spanish speakers. The goal of the Graziadio Center is to find ways to work with the community and build bridges for the students,” she said. “People find us. We’re a beacon.”

Perseverance in the road to the master’s degree has paid off, and in the long run, created a better program, Donato believes.

“Through the ups and downs of the approval process, you learn more about your program and the constituencies it should serve. Learning how to gather the information and put it together for all parties involved is key,” she said. She also never lost sight of the goal set by the Italian American community and the Graziadio family when the Graziadio Center was created.

“I have believed in Italian Studies since the day I started working here and saw what it meant to our students,” she said. “What kind of university do you have if you can’t study Italian? My commitment really comes out of what ought to be present in a big, comprehensive university such as Cal State Long Beach. How can you not have a place for Italian? Without Italian, a whole chunk of professional possibilities goes out the window. Where do Art History students study Italian if they can’t do it on their own campus? Where do opera students study Italian? How does the marketing major find out how to sell more widgets to the Italians? We’ve committed to STEM but we haven’t committed enough to the humanities and the new knowledge that comes from both sides of the university working together. This master’s degree adds a vital component to CSULB’s stellar degree offerings.”

–Richard Manly