The San Francisco Bay Area is the location of the Berkeley campus of the University of California. As such, residents, students and visitors have access to educational and cultural programs and events offered by this world-renowned institution. Among the University’s opportunities is the Italian Society at Berkeley. Recently, L’Italo-Americano interviewed Francesca Morabito, the Society’s Director of Academic and Networking Activities, and that interview is presented below.
When was the Italian Society at Berkeley founded? What was the inspiration behind it? Who were the key people involved and who are those currently moving the organization forward?
The Italian Society at Berkeley was founded by Italian graduate students at UC Berkeley in 1999 as the Italian International Students Association (IISA). The Italian graduate students wanted to maintain their connection with their culture and build a network of Italians in Berkeley. In 2015, IISA merged with BIN (Berkeley Italian Network), an informal network of students and scholars and thus, IISA became Italian Society at Berkeley. The change in name reflected the diversified goals and diversified membership.
The purpose of the Italian Society at Berkeley is to promote Italian culture in the UC Berkeley community, and to foster academic and professional networking between Italy and UC Berkeley.
With regard to current membership, the Italian Society at Berkeley is headed by a “governing commission” comprised of a diverse group of students, staff, and faculty working in a wide variety of disciplines, scientific and humanistic. Our members are both Italian and non-Italian.
The organization has two co-directors: a Director of Cultural Activities and a Director of Academic and Networking Activities. The current Director of Cultural Activities for the Italian Society at Berkeley is Arthur “Arturo” Lei, a PhD candidate in the Department of Italian Studies at UC Berkeley. Francesca Morabito is the current Director of Academic and Networking Activities and Scientific Engineer Associate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The Italian Society is a UC Berkeley student organization dedicated to promote Italian social, academic and cultural events at UC Berkeley and LBNL
Please share the mission and goals of the Society. What are the intended effects/ results/impacts of the organization both on campus and in the broader sense for the Bay Area?
The Italian Society at Berkeley promotes Italian culture in the UC Berkeley community by organizing events such as film screenings, guest speakers, and live performances, and fosters academic, cultural and professional connections and exchanges between Italy and UC Berkeley with events, such as aperitivi or social outings.
We aim to present aspects of Italy that may be unknown to or little understood by many Americans. We want to share a vision of Italy that challenges widespread stereotypes of Italy and Italians. With our film screenings and special presentations such as our research symposia, we also hope to raise awareness about socio-economic issues affecting modern Italy.
Is the organization and its events limited to UC students?
Our events are open to the public and are held on the UC Berkeley campus. Our events have attracted both academic and non-academic audiences from all over the Bay Area.
All those affiliated with UC Berkeley whether they are student, staff, or faculty and whether Italian or non-Italian are eligible for full membership in our organization. Those who are not UC Berkeley affiliates are welcome to join as non-voting members.
Share some of the Society’s past events, such as the April, 2015 symposium. Might you share details of the intended purpose and outcome? Will there be future similar events?
For our first symposium, “Berkeley Chiama Italia”, we wanted to raise awareness about how Italian researchers have played a prominent role in academic endeavors at UC Berkeley. Our speakers, young and established scholars from various disciplines (biology, physics, and literature) spoke not only about their research but also recounted what life experiences brought them to the United States.
The event proved to be a great success. The presentations gave us much to consider and to discuss. Following the presentations, this event became an excellent networking opportunity for Italian and American researchers. Mauro Battocchi, Consul General of Italy in San Francisco and Professor Massimo Maresca, Scientific Attachě for the Italian Consulate in San Francisco were also heavily involved and for them it was a unique opportunity to meet their constituents and members of the Berkeley community.
We planned this event as the first in a series of symposia and conferences. We are looking forward to our next symposium scheduled for the end of Summer 2016. Although not set in stone, our next symposium will focus on researchers working on joint projects organized by Italian and American institutions.
As to other past notable events, we’ve had the great fortune of hosting numerous talented directors and artists who have presented and shared their work with us. For instance, in conjunction with African-American Studies and in observance of Black History Month, we recently organized a screening of the documentary “Blaxploitalian” with the film’s director Fred Kuwornu. The film follows the different waves of pioneers of African descent who have contributed to Italian Cinema.
For more information about the Italian Society at Berkeley, visit their website at http://italiansociety.berkeley.edu
. Click on “Events” and you will find a link to their Spring 2016 Film Series which offers free Italian films every Wednesday in Berkeley.