Rooney Scholar Visits for Celebration

Robert Morris University (RMU) just welcomed another visiting scholar for the Fall semester.

Dr. Catherine Ramsey-Portolano joined RMU and Luca Guardabascio, this Fall’s Rooney scholar, to help celebrate the 150 years of Italy’s Unification.

She is the department chair and an associate professor of Italian studies at the American University of Rome, an affiliation to RMU for the study abroad program.

Ramsey-Portolano stayed in RMU from Oct. 24 to Nov. 4, and gave lectures to RMU faculty and staff members, along with students.

“Many professors welcomed me into their classes,” said Ramsey-Portolano, who spoke to students in several classrooms. Among these classes, was the Honors Research Method one, in which she used her thesis on an Italian female writer to lecture the students on research.

“I’ve talked about Italian Literature and culture,” she explained regarding the main topic of her lectures. “I hope that has increased students’ awareness of Italy.”

She added that students who attended her presentations were interested in her experience in Italy, which she shared with them.

Ramsey-Portolano, a native of the United States, went to Italy as a study abroad student when she was 20 years old, and was entering her last year in college.

“I loved it so much, I decided to stay longer,” said Ramsey-Portolano.

It was actually Ramsey-Portolano’s second time in Italy. She visited it for a summer program, in which she stayed in Urbino, a small in the Central part of the country. This six-weeks sojourn led to her decision to return to Italy and reside there for a year.

After getting her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, Ramsey-Portolano enrolled in a university in Italy, Libera Universita Maria SS. Assunta, to continue her studies and receive her degree in Italian Literature.

Ramsey-Portolano has been living in Italy for 20 years now.

“I worked in several universities in Rome as an adjunct professor,” said Ramsey-Portolano.

Ramsey-Portolano also worked in two universities in the United States. While getting her Doctorate from the University of Chicago, she taught at both the aforementioned university and Loyola University Chicago.

Ramsey-Portolano became a full-time professor when she joined the American University of Rome.

Ramsey-Portolano is married with two sons, named Thomas and James, aged seven and five respectively.

“I speak English to them, so they are growing up knowing Italian and English,” said Ramsey-Portolano. “It’s important for them to be aware of their heritage.”

“It’s been a very warm welcome,” stated Ramsey-Portolano, who is visiting RMU for the first time.

Before leaving for Italy on Nov. 4, she held an informational meeting about The American University in Rome hoping to get more students, and teach some of them.