Morena Svaldi awarded Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching

Morena Svaldi, Senior Lecturer in Italian, is awarded the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching.

Morena Svaldi’s classroom is a place for learning, a place for joy, and a safe place to build a long-lasting community. Generations of Mount Holyoke students have praised Morena as ‘extremely clear,’ ‘extremely respectful,’ ‘always attentive,’ ‘very patient,’ ‘encouraging and supportive’ while, at the same time, always stressing how hard they worked. In the words of another student: ‘the material was difficult at times, but Morena’s teaching style made it easier to learn.’

When she first applied for a part time position two decades ago, during her interview, Morena displayed her usual candor and told the committee how limited her teaching experience actually was. However, the committee (which included Paula Debnar, Ombretta Frau and now-Dartmouth-professor Tania Convertini) liked her demeanor and decided to give her a chance. But before having her meet with the students, they asked Morena to teach a mock-class in which they would play the student parts. They had quite a bit of fun making it as hard as possible, constantly interrupting her, telling her that they had not done their homework, and pretending they were not interested in her teaching. And yet, already during this mock class, Morena displayed an understanding of what they were asking and a professionalism that left them speechless. Her engaging personality, her creativity, and her unique ability to be firm and kind at the same time – qualities that Mount Holyoke students have loved and appreciated ever since – were obvious from the very first day.

A native of Padova, Morena Svaldi is senior Lecturer in Italian and the faculty director of the Language Assistant Program. Morena has been teaching at Mount Holyoke since 2004. For the past two decades, she has received much deserved praise for her talent, her pedagogical vision, and her patience from her colleagues and students alike. Morena conceives teaching as an activity that goes well beyond the classroom space. She is an active and enthusiastic participant in peer discussions on teaching pedagogy both at the campus level (for instance, with the Teaching and Learning Initiatives) as well as at the national and international level. She frequently collaborates with Mount Holyoke’s Art Museum, Greenhouses and Archives, and was instrumental in bringing back and nurturing the Language Living Learning Communities in Chinese, French, German, and Italian.

Additionally, Morena is a regular contributor to American and international conferences with papers on classroom challenges, student retention, blended learning, assessment, writing skills, and teaching in context. She has worked on videoconferencing teaching projects with the University of Bologna, and has been an early adopter of classroom technology with programs such as Eyejot, Audacity, Wikis, Wordwall, Kahoot, and Talkabroad. Her teaching creative power has brought in grants from, among others, the Five College Mellon Initiative, Mount Holyoke’s Racial Equity and Research Action Grants (RERA), and the Italian Government.

Morena’s courses are a perfect mirror of third millennium Italian society and include current events, contemporary literature, Italian design, and Black Italy. For almost two decades, Morena has also been the organizing force behind the annual Five College Italian Seminar Pedagogy Workshop – an initiative affectionally known in the Valley as “Morena’s symposium” – where she brings together Italian faculty from Smith, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Mount Holyoke to exchange winning teaching strategies in the language and literature classrooms.

Morena’s door is always open and her office is a safe place where many students seek refuge. Indeed, many colleagues have asked her for advice on all kinds of matters. Her background in psychology, her empathy and discretion are all part of her magic.

We are thrilled to present Morena Svaldi with the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching. Congratulations, Morena.