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Nives Valli

Faculty Profile

Nives Valli

Italian and service-learning instructor

The JFRC is proud of its world-class faculty which interact and engage with the students. We are featuring a member of the Italian department, Nives Valli who has served at the Rome Center for more than a decade.

Nives Valli in the classroom with her students

 

Nives Valli has spent most of her life as a language student and a language teacher at the service of others. Fluent in English and Japanese, she has taught Italian for more than 20 years, in Italy and abroad. Valli was born on the island of Sardinia and graduated from Rome’s La Sapienza in 1996 with a degree in foreign languages and literature, where she presented a thesis on Jesuits in China and Japan in the 16th and 17th century, examining the question of cultural alterity. She holds several certificates as an Italian foreign language instructor.

JFRC service-learning 

Teaching Italian for more than 10 years at the JFRC, Nives Valli has taught all levels of language learning including an upper-level Italian course entitled, “Composition & Conversation” which includes a service-learning component. Service learning is a practical pedagogy that combines community-based service with academic class reflection and is deeply connected to LUC’s mission of working to expand knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice, and faith.

In “Composition and Conversation”, students improve their Italian-language skills by engaging with culture and society. The students enrolled in this course use both their Italian and English skills to help non-profit organizations, such as the Joel Naufama Refugee Center (JNRC) and Emergency, where she also volunteers her time. They work in this placement-based service learning assignment by assisting in the supply room or working at an information point. 

Students perform service learning at Emergency

One of Professor Valli's students provides support at the Emergency Christmas market

Volunteer work at the JNRC

Valli has collaborated at the JNRC since 2021. She teaches Italian language courses and civic education workshops, in addition to coordinating and developing the Italian language program, mentoring, and supporting teaching staff. She designs the courses to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, working to develop their linguistic skills so that they can work and study in Italy.

 “I strongly believe,” she says, referring to her refugee students, “that after all they have been through, they deserve to have high quality of Italian classes, not different from those you can find in schools specialized in teaching Italian. In my opinion, we are all connected, and we are here to help each other and for that reason I’ve always wanted to use all my training and experience as an Italian language teacher to help refugees learn Italian and build a new life here.”

Human rights’ speaker at orientation

This September, one of Valli’s students from the JNRC was chosen to speak to the student body at orientation. The LGBTQIA+ advocate from Sub-Sahara Africa told the JFRC community of his escape from home country due to his activist work. Eventually he arrived in Rome, but his journey included being sold into slavery and taking a migrant boat to a camp in Catania.

“We are all connected, and we are here to help each other and for that reason I’ve always wanted to use all my training and experience as an Italian language teacher to help refugees learn Italian and build a new life here.” Nives Valli

 

The current cultural mediator and activist for refugee and migrant rights then came to Rome where he started online Italian-language classes with Valli during the pandemic in 2020. Despite the racism he has experienced in Italy, he has persisted and continues to “love his neighbor,” he emphasized.

 

Beyond the classroom

When “you go to Rome, you do as the Romans do. But only the good things they do”, he said with a laugh. In fact, part of Valli’s courses include civic education. For example, she teaches them about trash and recycling in Italy, etiquette in public spaces, typical behaviors in public spaces, such as museums and public transport.

“There are good people in Italy” too, he said during his lecture, pointing to Valli, who was clearly moved listening to her impact. He is thankful for the opportunity to learn Italian and how Valli’s courses are designed to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, aiding them in integration in a new country.

Valli describes how she is fulfilled by teaching Italian to refugees: It “fills my soul,” she says, “but it’s not easy when they share their experience, I can feel their pain, their anger and I feel powerless sometimes and I wish I could do more for them”.

“We have a team of psychologists that can help them and a job placement service, lawyers as well, so we are organized to meet all their needs. I find most rewarding when they don’t need me anymore and come back, just to say hi after having found a job and a place to live and they just wanted to let me know that they are fine now, and they are building a new life in Italy”.

 

Language learning as a cross-cultural encounter

Valli says her teaching style has evolved along with her experience in the classroom. “For me it is a learning experience,” she says, “and I am constantly amazed by what I learn from my students.”

 “I strongly believe that foreign language learning involves learning about foreign cultures and is the bridge for cross-cultural encounters. In many ways teaching and learning a foreign language enables us to foster exchange, communication, and respect among different cultures”.

 

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Nives Valli has spent most of her life as a language student and a language teacher at the service of others. Fluent in English and Japanese, she has taught Italian for more than 20 years, in Italy and abroad. Valli was born on the island of Sardinia and graduated from Rome’s La Sapienza in 1996 with a degree in foreign languages and literature, where she presented a thesis on Jesuits in China and Japan in the 16th and 17th century, examining the question of cultural alterity. She holds several certificates as an Italian foreign language instructor.

JFRC service-learning 

Teaching Italian for more than 10 years at the JFRC, Nives Valli has taught all levels of language learning including an upper-level Italian course entitled, “Composition & Conversation” which includes a service-learning component. Service learning is a practical pedagogy that combines community-based service with academic class reflection and is deeply connected to LUC’s mission of working to expand knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice, and faith.

In “Composition and Conversation”, students improve their Italian-language skills by engaging with culture and society. The students enrolled in this course use both their Italian and English skills to help non-profit organizations, such as the Joel Naufama Refugee Center (JNRC) and Emergency, where she also volunteers her time. They work in this placement-based service learning assignment by assisting in the supply room or working at an information point. 

Students perform service learning at Emergency

One of Professor Valli's students provides support at the Emergency Christmas market

Volunteer work at the JNRC

Valli has collaborated at the JNRC since 2021. She teaches Italian language courses and civic education workshops, in addition to coordinating and developing the Italian language program, mentoring, and supporting teaching staff. She designs the courses to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, working to develop their linguistic skills so that they can work and study in Italy.

 “I strongly believe,” she says, referring to her refugee students, “that after all they have been through, they deserve to have high quality of Italian classes, not different from those you can find in schools specialized in teaching Italian. In my opinion, we are all connected, and we are here to help each other and for that reason I’ve always wanted to use all my training and experience as an Italian language teacher to help refugees learn Italian and build a new life here.”

Human rights’ speaker at orientation

This September, one of Valli’s students from the JNRC was chosen to speak to the student body at orientation. The LGBTQIA+ advocate from Sub-Sahara Africa told the JFRC community of his escape from home country due to his activist work. Eventually he arrived in Rome, but his journey included being sold into slavery and taking a migrant boat to a camp in Catania.

 

The current cultural mediator and activist for refugee and migrant rights then came to Rome where he started online Italian-language classes with Valli during the pandemic in 2020. Despite the racism he has experienced in Italy, he has persisted and continues to “love his neighbor,” he emphasized.

 

Beyond the classroom

When “you go to Rome, you do as the Romans do. But only the good things they do”, he said with a laugh. In fact, part of Valli’s courses include civic education. For example, she teaches them about trash and recycling in Italy, etiquette in public spaces, typical behaviors in public spaces, such as museums and public transport.

“There are good people in Italy” too, he said during his lecture, pointing to Valli, who was clearly moved listening to her impact. He is thankful for the opportunity to learn Italian and how Valli’s courses are designed to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, aiding them in integration in a new country.

Valli describes how she is fulfilled by teaching Italian to refugees: It “fills my soul,” she says, “but it’s not easy when they share their experience, I can feel their pain, their anger and I feel powerless sometimes and I wish I could do more for them”.

“We have a team of psychologists that can help them and a job placement service, lawyers as well, so we are organized to meet all their needs. I find most rewarding when they don’t need me anymore and come back, just to say hi after having found a job and a place to live and they just wanted to let me know that they are fine now, and they are building a new life in Italy”.

 

Language learning as a cross-cultural encounter

Valli says her teaching style has evolved along with her experience in the classroom. “For me it is a learning experience,” she says, “and I am constantly amazed by what I learn from my students.”

 “I strongly believe that foreign language learning involves learning about foreign cultures and is the bridge for cross-cultural encounters. In many ways teaching and learning a foreign language enables us to foster exchange, communication, and respect among different cultures”.