When you think of Italians, do you imagine folks dressed in striped shirts like gondoliers? Passionate souls who, under a hot Tuscan sun, eat spaghetti from dawn til dusk, gesticulating about soccer matches and fashion shows? "Sorry to burst your bubble," Amy Boylan might say to that characterization. As a scholar and teacher of Italian Studies, Professor Boylan is dedicated to providing a nuanced picture of Italian culture that unsettles these romanticized stereotypes. And she is careful to help students understand rather than judge the very real differences between Italian and American culture. Her passion is a medium-sized Mediterranean country; her objective is nothing less than teaching the habits of mind that define skilled global citizens.
Her expert methodology puts students front and center. That means active student participation through small group work, peer-to-peer instruction and student-led group discussions that push students to achieve excellence. And her instruction is innovative. Using social media and other web technologies, she brings the outside world in, putting students in virtual contact with native speakers and cultural experiences. She also takes students to the source, teaching onsite in Italy in the UNH study abroad program she directs. Department chair Stephen Trzaskoma notes, "Professor Boylan has consistently been the one who has taught the rest of us more than a thing or two about how to do it right."
Though she's described by colleagues as humble, there are times when even Professor Boylan must admit she's doing it right. Note what she calls a small but significant moment in her classroom: a recent discussion about verb tenses and historical figures resulted in a riotous digression rich with learning about the movie "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." Professor Boylan recalls: "Everybody in class was laughing and participating and learning new vocabulary, and the students barely realized they were doing it all in Italian. It was a very satisfying moment."
At such times, Professor Boylan might just sit back and feel satisfied for creating a safe environment in which students can enjoy learning so much that they forget themselves.