Naturally drawn to Italian Studies

Alaine Johnson

Alaine Johnson '10, Assistant Director of Curriculum Development

Major: Italian, Anthropology minor

Study Abroad: Intensive Italian and Cultural Studies, Summer at Siena School for the Liberal Arts

Advanced Degrees: M.S.Ed. in Reading/Writing/Literacy, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

Employer: Ascend Learning

As an international student from Jamaica, deciding to attend Mount Holyoke necessarily meant a paradigm shift and a significant expansion of my worldview. Because I was open to this change and truly hoped to experience the world more fully, studying Italian and studying abroad in Italy were natural next steps. I found I was also able to define and engage my academic interests through my coursework in Italian.

I was interested in the complex intersections between language, culture, immigration, history and gender, and while I was able to explore those intersections in some of my other courses, I ultimately found a home in the Italian Studies department, where my advisor Ombretta Frau encouraged intellectual curiosity and made space for students’ authentic voices. In one particular course, Sorelle di Penna, Sibilla Aleramo’s compelling work resonated with me as a feminist, writer and woman of color. The opportunity to immerse myself completely in another language, in another culture, in literature that was socially and politically significant, and to center my own experiences within that, was truly powerful.

When I graduated from Mount Holyoke, I knew I wanted to “do good work” while continuing to experience different versions of the world. That led me to the classroom—as a language teacher of minority and immigrant students in a high needs context, then eventually to a master’s in literacy at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, where I did research on home literacies, culture, and assimilation in Caribbean immigrant populations. I received the master’s program award for excellence in research when I graduated in 2016, and in addition, my research has led to several conference presentations and will form the basis for future doctoral work.

I currently serve as an assistant director of curriculum development at a charter school network in New York. In this new role, I work closely with the curriculum team to design and implement a rigorous humanities curriculum built around core liberal arts values. Throughout my career, my love of language and literature, and my interest in cultural and linguistic diversity have been central to my work—due in large part to my rich experiences as a student in the Italian Studies department.