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Junior Faculty Spotlight: Daniela D’Eugenio

Posted by on Monday, July 20, 2020 in Commentary.

Each year, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Daniela D’EugenioFrench & Italiantalks about some of the most useful lessons she has learned from the Fellowship.

As a Senior Lecturer of Italian in the Department of French and Italian and affiliated faculty for the Certificate in Second Language Studies, I have found the Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows (JFTF) program tremendously enriching during the 2019-2020 academic year. Although I had been in close contact with the CFT in previous years, I had never participated in a structured series of events to reflect on teaching practices, instructional choices, and assessment tools. Undoubtedly, the JFTF program has been one of my most rewarding experiences since the beginning of my appointment at Vanderbilt.

A “Made-in-Italy” Course

During the JFTF program, I worked on redesigning a course that I had proposed adding to the Italian program curriculum one year before and tailored the original syllabus to my own interests. This course explored different examples of the Made-in-Italy label and engaged in cultural, historical, and economic analyses of Italian brands and products in Italy and the US. It was designed to include a variety of topics from local and global perspectives that any member of my program could potentially teach, including fashion brands, design products, architectural styles, and popular music. 

Redesigning the Course

Throughout the JFTF biweekly meetings with my cohort, I restructured my Made-in-Italy course by focusing on my existing expertise on fashion and design and used the backward design approach to refine course objectives, assessment options, readings, activities, and projects. My main goal was to tap into my students’ interests, knowledge, and creativity through engagement with and reflection on Made-in-Italy fashion and design, all of which culminating in the course’s final project. Keeping in mind the CFT “Students as Producers” motto, I structured this project as a hands-on experience involving the creation of a fashion or design brand.

An Experiential Final Project

For the final project, I proposed different media that my students could use to present their fashion or design brand and invited them to pay attention to these media’s contexts of use and audience. I was excited to give my students the opportunity to select the medium they wished to use, for instance a webpage to present to a potential business partner, a podcast to launch during a radio program, a digital storytelling video for a hypothetical competition, a comic book for children, or a traditional academic paper. Through any of these options, the students creatively provide a detailed description, investigation, and presentation of the following aspects concerning the brand: its name, logo, mission statement, products, advertisement campaign, business-related functions, and local and/or international appeal. To prepare my students for this final project, I provided my syllabus with a list of readings on different topics, from fashion as art to sustainable fashion and design practices, from marketing to psychological strategies of communication.

A Scaffolded Approach

As a result of a stimulating conversation at one of the cohort’s meetings, I decided to scaffold the project in five different assignments during the semester designed to progressively allow students to develop their brand’s different components. For five consecutive two-day workshops, students collaborate on a specific aspect of their final project. On day one, they participate in a small-group jigsaw activity, in which they work on this aspect within their groups and then share their own choices with other groups. On day two, all groups present their brand’s aspect to the class.

Looking Ahead

The JFTF program has taught me the benefit of sharing my knowledge, as well as my ideas and plans with instructors who work in fields different than mine. Although this is something that I had been practicing before, I definitely realized its value in a more meaningful way throughout the program. I look forward to cultivating conversations about both my language and literature classes with current and future colleagues. I will miss being part of a cohort of such prepared, enthusiastic, and passionate teachers and researchers, and I am sure I will refer to the JFTF as a model of instruction and networking for many years to come.  

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