IWP collaborates with John Cabot University at first annual Italy Writes competition in Rome
By Lauren Katalinich
Introducing John Cabot University, an American university located in the heart of Rome. Now enter professors from the prestigious International Writing Program (IWP), the University of Iowa’s unique residency program for international writers. The occasion for their meeting? The first annual Italy Writes Creative Writing competition for Italian high school students.
On June 20 at John Cabot University in Rome, professors from the University of Iowa’s IWP served on a panel of judges and listened as six talented finalists, chosen from a pool of over 130 entries from across Italy, read excerpts of their work. Inspired by the popularity of its successful Italy Reads program, John Cabot University launched the creative writing competition to encourage Italian high school students to develop their writing talents in English. The competition is only open to participants whose primary language of instruction is not English. Awards were given to the best pieces of creative writing in the fiction and nonfiction genres and the winners were announced by award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates.
John Cabot University  is an American university that offers degrees and study abroad programs to English-speaking students from all over the world, including the University of Iowa. In fact, there were six UI students studying abroad there this summer and eight this past spring. Every year, University of Iowa students enroll at John Cabot for coursework in a wide variety of disciplines, and the International Writers Program's involvement in Italy Writes was the result of a mutual desire by both schools to enrich the ties between them.
Autumn Tallman, a study abroad advisor and program coordinator at the UI, says she hopes Iowa can continue to collaborate in new capacities with American universities abroad in the future.
“I’m a huge fan of American universities abroad because of the local connections and cultural exposure they can offer our study abroad students," Tallman said. "When our relationship with a partner abroad becomes multifaceted and includes UI faculty engagement as well as student participation, the link is strengthened and personalized by a deeper understanding of the unique opportunities each institution can offer the other.”
It turns out such future collaboration may just be in the cards. The Italy Writes program capitalized on an increasingly important teaching tool for second-language acquisition today: the production by students of original, creative work - and other schools are taking note.
Since the successful debut of Italy Writes, Vice President and Dean Mary Merva of John Cabot University reports that several other American universities abroad have expressed interest in similar competitions, including the American University of Paris, St. Louis University in Madrid, the American University of Sharjah, the American College of Greece, and the American University in Kosovo.
The American College of Thessaloniki in Greece, a UI study abroad partner, is also among them.
“Now that we have had a successful run of the competition, we will provide this information to the other overseas American universities when we meet this coming spring at the American University in Kosovo,” said Merva.
The IWP participants had an extremely positive experience participating in the event and it is possible that IWP will be involved in future competitions. Hugh Ferrer, associate director of IWP and one of the judges in Rome, applauded the multiple benefits of the program for its participants.
"The magic of a program like Italy Writes is that it recognizes the win-win inherent in certain academic approaches," Ferrer said. "Students, by expressing themselves creatively, come to care about the target language, and in the process compose work, either for class and independently, that has strong stand-alone merit creatively. Italy Writes celebrates that these high school students have not only learned English; they are able, in inglese, to do beautiful things."
Hopefully this event will be one of many in the future that will feature the collaboration of some of Iowa’s finest programs with those of American universities abroad.