One of the University of Mississippi’s newest professors is introducing to students to Italian culture.
Paola D’Amora, Ph.D, who teaches Italian, was born in Napoli, Italy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in modern languages and literature there and was introduced to study abroad programs.
While working on her degree, she spent a summer abroad with the European exchange program, Erasmus, at the University of Nantes, France, where she met people from all around the world. Since attending this program, she has traveled all over Europe, the United States, and Asia.
While working on her undergraduate degree, D’Amora came to Ole Miss. This is when her fascination with the United States school system began, because she said she finally felt like her voice was being heard by professors through her papers and assignments.
D’Amora said this was exciting because the Italian school system is lecture-based, and professors never learn their students’ names. She said Italian college students are also never asked to write papers. She said the only paper she was asked to write was her bachelor’s of arts thesis on the plays and films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, an Italian intellectual.
After graduation, D’Amora studied for the Graduate Record Examinations, the standardized test required for most graduate schools in the United States. She was accepted to several different American graduate programs and decided to attend UT Austin, where she received her master’s of arts degree in 2013 and her Ph.D last August.
Her doctorate focused on Italian studies, and she wrote her dissertation on Italian films depicting office work. Her main focus was films and cultural studies, which she used to investigate the cinematic representation of Italian labor culture, specifically focusing films that represented workers movements in the 1960s and 1970s, which D’Amora described as, “a profound mutation of the composition of the Italian workforce, and intense social, cultural, and political change.”
D’Amora decided to pursue a career in the humanities, because she said this has always been her passion. This is because she went to liceo classic, a high school for the humanities, where she has been studying Latin, ancient Greek, history, and philosophy, since age 14. “This had an enormous impact on my life as an adult and on the choices I subsequently made,” she said.
D’Amora starts every day at 6 a.m. After waking up, she takes 30 minutes to drink coffee and read the La Repubblica web page, an Italian newspaper. She makes her bed and gets ready for work. She said these are her first tasks because they “help me stay organized and stay on schedule, and start the day right.”
She drives to her office and arrives around 7:15 a.m. She teaches three classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and as soon as she arrives on those days, she begins taking care of different teaching-related matters and class administration.
She is also the 100- and 200-level director for Italian, so she also spends time in the morning preparing teaching materials and assessments for all other classes, instructors, and teaching assistants; coordinating all Italian club activities; and co-directing the Ole Miss Italian study abroad program in Salerno, Italy.
D’Amora said: “These are my busiest days because, in addition to taking care of my own students, I supervise pedagogical and instructional aspects of the lower division Italian curriculum at Ole Miss.” Depending on her teaching schedule, she eats a packed lunch at either 1 or 3 p.m.
Even though she has only taught one full semester at Ole Miss, she has already made an impact. Italian 102 student Lawrence Routt, who also had D’Amora last semester, said he appreciates her teaching style.
“From the first day of class, Paola started giving us the tools she knew we needed to be able to learn Italian with ease,” she said. “She connects English with various points that will help us better understand Italian, and she has always answered our questions with the perfect response. I have never walked out of class not understanding her daily lecture.”
After she is done with work for the day, she returns home typically around 5 p.m. She takes this time to relax for a bit by browsing the internet, then she goes to the gym and eats dinner.
During the evening, she also Skypes with her fiancé, a researcher in plasma physics in Boulder, Colorado, and on some nights, she Skypes with her parents who now live in Mumbai, India. She ends her day by watching an old Italian film or reading Italian fiction or poetry.
Tuesday and Thursday are the days D’Amora does not teach. She devotes time to research reading and writing articles that she hopes to publish. She arrives later in the day, and goes home around 7 p.m. “It is more quiet,” she said, “and this helps me stay focused.”
She tries to save all teaching-related matters for the days when she actually has to teach, but sometimes that is not always possible, and she has to devote some time to those things. She said focusing on teaching things, “is a less intellectually taxing activity, so many times I use it as a break from writing.”
D’Amora said: “Organization is fundamental in my schedule, but flexibility is an important skill I very much value and that I learned by living so many years in the South of Italy, where unpredictable circumstances are around the corner.”