As program director for UCF’s College of Arts & Humanities’ doctoral program in Texts & Technology, I am working with Dr. Pierpaolo Limone University of Foggia in eastern Italy to develop a graduate exchange program between our two institutions. I was the third UCF faculty member to travel to Foggia this fall to further this exciting partnership. The other two faculty members were Mr. Tom Carbone, Research Associate/Technical Director and faculty member with the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), who presented a seminar on interactive gaming, and Dr. Richard Hartshorne, Associate Professor and Coordinator in the Department of Education and Human Resources, who presented a seminar at the Italian Conference of e-learning.
Foggia is a medium-sized city of about 150,000 people near the east coast of Italy in an agricultural region known as the “Granary of Italy” (yes, the food there is fantastic!). Existing at the intersection of the rural and urban, traditional and modern, European and global, with an ongoing crisis related to mass immigration (thousands of African migrants are coming to the area and the region is unprepared to help them all), Foggia is a fascinating area in which to live and work. The University of Foggia was founded in 1991—making it Italy’s newest university—and has about 11,000 students in 16 bachelor degree programs, 15 master’s degree programs, and 3 doctoral programs.
While in Foggia in early October, I led a week-long intensive graduate workshop for 15 students (including M.A., Ph.D., and Post-Doctoral), began work on the establishment of a student and faculty exchange program, and conducted a site visit to survey available resources for T&T students and faculty who will travel to Foggia in the future. The workshop I offered was titled “Texts and Technologies: The Emerging Interdisciplinary Scholarship of Media Education and Digital Humanities.” Many of the major themes and methods developed in the Texts and Technology program, such as invention of new humanities practices for the digital age, interdisciplinarity, collaboration, a focus on community problems, and emerging methods of public policy consulting, were covered. Many of the Italian students expressed interest in coming to UCF to study, with some expressing an interest in applying to the Texts & Technology Ph.D. program specifically.
UCF is poised to accrue major benefits from this partnership. First, UCF benefits from having European graduate students come here to study, either by staying for a semester as part of their Foggia degree program or by enrolling as students in UCF’s degree programs. European graduate students are required to have a portion of their studies conducted in English but until recently, continental students usually went to the UK for this portion of their studies. Brexit, however, has made studying in the UK more difficult and thus less desirable for continental students. Some European institutions are thus looking to American institutions to provide the disciplinary training in English required for their students. UCF can benefit from this situation by fostering meaningful relationships with European schools to serve our mutual student populations. UCF is poised to become the destination for European graduate students!
In addition, the partnership between UCF and Foggia opens opportunities for UCF students and faculty to work in Italy. There are numerous opportunities for collaboration between our institutions, particularly in the areas of e-learning, cultural heritage, media education, and research into emergent problems (such as the migration crisis).
UCF faculty would enjoy teaching in Foggia. During my workshop, it was evident that my Italian students understood English very well, were highly engaged, and had a good grasp of scholarship in their fields. Career opportunities for academics are more limited in Italy than in the U.S., so Italian students are motivated to make connections to U.S. faculty and institutions. In response, I plan to do what I can to foster opportunities for them here.
Soon we hope many students and faculty of T&T will travel to the University of Foggia to enjoy wonderful research opportunities, beautiful scenery, historical sites, great food, and the wonderful people of the region.
Barry Mauer, Associate Professor of English and Program Director, Texts & Technology