What are some of the biggest challenges facing AUR now?
There’s no mystery about this: Covid-19 and the havoc it is wreaking on international higher education. The public safety concerns, the slow down of student mobility and the oscillation between in-person and online learning have been difficult for everyone in the community. Despite these challenges, I have been deeply impressed by AUR's resilience, tenacity and collective spirit to get through this year.
Tell us something about your organization that would surprise us.
With around 500 students, we are small. Our size, however, translates into students getting to know their professors very well and receiving a lot of individualized attention and mentoring. We are also truly global: we have students from 50 different countries with 28 languages represented. We believe that discussing academic topics in such a globally diverse setting is one of the most unique and important features of an AUR education.
What creative things are you doing to attract new students?
While we have launched several new recruiting initiatives this year, the most important element is our renewed focus on high quality teaching and academics and ensuring that students have an exciting experience of discovery and self-discovery in the heart of Rome.
Why would we choose AUR?
Because our faculty are brilliant and an AUR education is about offering a life-changing learning experience. To truly benefit from what AUR offers, a student will likely have an explorer’s spirit, be someone who seeks out different people and different ideas, who will take advantage of the direct access to Rome’s cultural and political institutions, and aspire to a life and career in an international setting. It’s an American education “made in Italy” that would be impossible to find in the US.
What could AWAR be doing more of to help you at this time?
Perhaps your members might want to sponsor a scholarship, facilitate fundraising around commonly-shared projects, or provide internship opportunities to our students. We would also like to invite speakers from AWAR to campus to discuss specialized topics such as women’s leadership. I’m sure there are many more things we could do together.
Can you share a particularly funny story during the past year?
This past Thanksgiving, which occurred during a lockdown, we contracted with a local Italian chef to make and deliver turkey dinners to our students. Because the chef had never made American-style stuffing, he found the chunky texture strange and decided to “improve” it. When the students found pureed stuffing in their dinner packages, they were perplexed! In the end, they found the concoction quite tasty, even if the texture was off.
Who was your biggest inspiration in your life and why?
My undergraduate professors at the University of Washington. College radically changed my life by teaching me how to think for myself and appreciate life. Even after all these years, I see that experience as a turning point in my life.
Can you share a recent interesting story about a student?
A recent graduate in Film and Digital Media, Rocco Anelli has, within a year of graduation, directed two operas in Milan & Puglia, was the assistant director on a documentary in Kenya & Morocco, had his own short film presented at the 2020 European Film Festival, and is in the process of writing his first book! I’m not going to tell you that this is typical of all our graduates – but the spirit and determination Rocco has shown certainly is.
Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I thought I wanted to be an engineer, but a year-long study abroad experience in Europe dramatically changed all that. After learning French and falling in love with European literature and culture there was no turning back. That youthful and counter-intuitive choice somehow puts me in Rome today. I hope that all of our AUR students have a similarly transformational experience.
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