Italian Studies professor honoured for Teaching Award of Excellence

Diana Iuele-Colilli gets top marks from her students

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Professor Diana Iuele-Colilli is a multifaceted person. In addition being a full-time professor in the Faculty of Arts, she is also the Chair of the Modern Languages and Literatures, an honorary vice consular officer of the Republic of Italy for the Sudbury district, and co-founder of Le Maschere Laurenziane. The theatre troupe, co-founded with her late husband Paul, came to life in 1992. 

The troupe continues to exist to this day, in cooperation with her colleague, Professor Christeen Sansalone. Le Maschere Laurenziane put on their 28th production late in February, Chi trova una nonna trova un Tesoro (“Every Grandmother is a Treasure”). Not that Iuele-Colilli wants any of the attention on herself. For her, the students come first.

“I’m the person that works behind the scenes,” says Professor Iuele-Colilli. “I’m not the person who likes the limelight.” 

This sharing spirit led to her recognition by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) this week. 

“For all that Dr. Iuele-Colilli dedicates to her work, community, and above all, her students, it is fitting that Dr. Iuele-Colilli receives the 2020 Teaching Award of Excellence,” said the organization.

 

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One of Professor Iuele-Colilli’s missions in life is to document the hybrid language of Italiese; as a piece of oral tradition, this hybrid of Italian and English best comes to life when spoken on stage. She likens it to Franglais, which also is primarily transmitted orally.

Italiese is a language that bridges the gap between generations. However, that bridge appears to be fading away with time; Professor Iuele-Colilli believes the language will disappear within 10 years. “As a child of an immigrant, I grew up with this language but I have not passed it on to my kids” she says. “My kids speak standard English, standard French, and standard Italian.” 

Students registered in an Italian course are not obligated to audition for a role in the troupe’s annual production. To ensure learners get some practical, hands-on experience with standard Italian and Italiese, the department offers a course that is dedicated to theatre. This gives even those with no stage time a chance to test their acting chops and become somebody else. This practical approach has proven to be useful in a real world setting for the performers. It is an opportunity for students to learn a new language, pick up some voice production techniques, taking direction, and applying feedback. Some of whom have even gone on to teach.

After the English, Franco-Ontarian, and Indigenous communities, the Italian population is the next largest in the Greater Sudbury area. The plays offer the community the opportunity to hear their own languages writ large on the stage. The first few productions were classics taken from the Italian theatrical cannon, as well as more contemporary playwrights like Dario Fo. For the last 12 years, Le Maschere Laurenziane has drawn upon the creativity of its members to write its own plays from the ground up. These are authentically Italian Canadian plays, featuring realistic depictions of Candian Italian living, while also helping to give Itialiese a fighting chance to thrive.

The opportunities created by Dr. Iuele-Colilli and her team are memorable ones that students reference long after graduation. With over 30 years of teaching at Laurentian, Dr. Iuele-Colilli has certainly created a lot of memories for our graduates, and we as a community celebrate her well-deserved Teaching Award of Excellence from the OUSA.