Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Linda Gobbo


Today, American study abroad programs are increasingly shifting their focus to students’ community engagement efforts, one approach of which is service learning (Stone, 2008). Service learning principles and approach, however, are not always quickly and easily transported into other cultures. As an American pedagogical export, service learning in the study abroad context has the potential to overlook essential factors such as reciprocity, sustainability, and evaluation of student, faculty, and community partner experiences. This type of learning remains unexplored territory in many countries including Italy (Tosi, 2000). As the only American study abroad program of its kind in Perugia, Italy, The Umbra Institute provided an ideal case study to research the integration of service learning into a local Italian community. The following research explores how The Umbra Institute service learning program entitled La Famiglia Italiana Project (The Italian Family Project) can best meet the needs and expectations of American college students and Italian family community partners while preserving partner reciprocity and program sustainability.

The findings are comprised of results from four research groups. Group 1 consists of past Italian family participant phone and in-person interviews; Group 2 includes data from past Umbra Institute student participant electronic evaluations; Group 3 contains current student and Italian family participant in-person interviews; Group 4 consists of in-person interviews with The Umbra Institute faculty and staff member responsible for the La Famiglia Italiana Project. The research reveals that initial program expectations were higher for students than Italian families; the language was less of a hindrance for families than for students; students preferred more guidance before and during the program, while families preferred more guidance before or during the first meeting; and nearly all participants would recommend the program and identified educational value regardless of perceived challenges or unmet expectations.


Civic and Community Engagement | Educational Sociology | International and Comparative Education | Service Learning


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