California State University, Long Beach
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Italian Studies Credential a First in Southern California

CSULB’s new single subject credential in Italian Studies is a first for Southern California and the culmination of a 28-year struggle for Clorinda Donato.

She recalls that as a UCLA graduate student in 1979, she was dragged to her first meeting about an initiative launched by the Italian consulate to increase the number of public schools teaching Italian. She received her Ph.D. in romance languages, literature and linguistics in 1987 and became a member of the Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures Department in 1988.

“Today, offering credentials like these has become one of the big issues in language education,” she said. “It’s been a long story and has taken many steps to reach this point. I am personally grateful to the George and Reva Graziadio Foundation for investing in Italian program development on the CSULB campus. It has helped us reach our goal.”

Donato believes the credential, which was approved in November by the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing, is a landmark moment for Italian education.

“This is the first time any Southern California campus has offered a credential in Italian,” she said. “One exists at San Francisco State but, for the first time, we have the possibility of credentialing teachers in Italian in Southern California.”

Before the CSULB credential, area schools were caught in an academic Catch-22. “Schools may have wished to offer Italian but, without credentialed teachers, they couldn’t offer the language,” she said. “Where can they obtain such teachers if not close to home at CSULB?”

Donato argues that if a university offers a B.A. program in an area that could be credentialed, it is that university’s moral obligation to its students to provide that credential and CSULB has done that. 

“Most students don’t understand there are B.A. degrees that cannot be turned into a teaching option because there is no credential program in place at the university where they earned the degree,” she explained. “We get desperate calls all the time from students who are earning B.A. degrees in languages at other institutions only to discover that their university doesn’t offer the credential. What do they do? They come to CSULB.”

Donato believes the new credential sends the message that RGRLL faculty take care of their curriculum and make sure it is current, relevant and meets all standards. “And those standards are very difficult to meet,” she said. “We are moving into a more assessment-driven university world, where we need to show objectives and outcomes. Students will need to provide portfolios to demonstrate their progress from one year to the next in all areas of language acquisition. Languages Other Than English Credential Coordinator, Jean-Jacques Jura, is working with Jennifer Lamkins in the College of Education to implement electronic portfolios that keep track of student speaking progress through the sequential storage of audio files. There are exciting and labor-intensive years ahead of us.”

Donato became a Chevalier of the French Order of the Palmes Académiques in 2005 and received the Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Activity Award in 1998-99. She served as RGRLL chair from 1992-98 and speaks English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. Together with Claire Martin, Spanish, she currently co-chairs the RGRLL department. Her publications include The Encyclopédie in an Age of Révolution in 1992 and Une Encyclopédie à vocation européene: le Dictionnaire universel raisonné des connaissances humaines de F. -B. De Felice (1770–1780) in 2004. Her next co-edited volume, Discourses in Tolerance and Intolerance in the 18th Century, is due in 2008 from Toronto University Press.  

Donato is anxious for the new credential program to begin. “We have students with B.A. degrees in Italian who have been waiting to enroll for years,” she said. “Now they are happy because they know they can finish with a credential in Italian. The impact is immediate.”