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Tony Fellow and Robin Larsen, center, with students who will be traveling to Italy. Photo by Kelly Lacefield

Italy Bound

Communications Students Prepare for Summer in Florence

June 30, 2009

By Valerie Orleans

Armed with video cameras, computers and English/Italian dictionaries, 23 students from Cal State Fullerton and Cal State San Bernardino will spend the summer in Italy, studying feature writing and Italian cinema.

For the past five years, Tony Fellow, professor and chair of communications at Cal State Fullerton, has led groups of university students to Florence. Once there, students have the opportunity to learn more about Italian culture while participating in communications classes that focus on writing, Italian history and global media concerns.

“Several years ago, President Milton Gordon said that he hoped every student would have the opportunity to study abroad during their years at the university,” Fellow said. “I really took that to heart and developed a program in Italy that allows students the chance to experience — at least for a summer — what it’s like to live and work in a different country.”

Fellow said the president has been very supportive of the program.

Fellow began thinking about a summer communications program in Italy after serving as director of the eight-week CSU summer program in Florence. With the help of Professor Fred Zandpour, Fellow developed a partnership with Cal State San Bernardino communications professor Robin Larsen four years ago.

Larsen teaches feature/travel writing while Fellow concentrates on Italian cinema and global media. This year, as part of their class assignments, students will blog about their experiences, posting photos and videos.

“The students are attending classes at Cal State Fullerton for the next two weeks learning about video equipment and preparing for their courses,” Fellow said. “This is the first time blogging has been included as part of their class assignments so we want to make sure they are comfortable with the equipment before we leave.”

The classes also allow time for the students to get to know one another and learn more about the culture, language and history of Italy.

Once they arrive in the homeland of Michaelangelo, Dante, da Vinci and Columbus, they will be able to participate in special programs as well. For instance, last year, students were invited to the villa of Gaddi Vasquez, an ambassador to the United Nations and friend of Fellow.

“It was fantastic,” Fellow said. “He had a reception prepared and spent time with the students, talking about opportunities and challenges they will face. The students were very impressed.”

This year, Fellow is preparing a dinner for the students with artists and scholars from neighboring cities. In addition to their classes, students will be able to visit different cities and explore the artistic and cultural treasures that Italy has to offer.

“What is so rewarding about this program is how it affects students’ lives,” Fellow said. “I have so many tell me afterward that this was the highlight of their college years and how it opened their eyes to countries outside our borders. And, since I spend so much time with the students, I really get to know them. I stay in contact with many of them, even after they graduate. It’s great to be part of a program that has such a profound effect on so many lives.”

Fellow said he is planning an international media conference in Florence to coincide with next year’s study-abroad program. Fellow, whose family comes from Caserta and Campobasso, Italy, said there were nine students in the program during the first year.

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