A Look Into Inter-Cultural Influence Wins Scholarship Competition

Student explores Africa's Effect on Italian Fashion

Many people consider Italy as the center of Western fashion and design. One student’s project, which explored the influence that African culture has on Italian design, was selected as the winner in the first-ever Kent State Florence Scholarship Competition this past spring (see earlier story). Kimberly Debnam’s project, The Influence of Africa(ns) on Italian Culture, was selected from among eleven competing student project entries by the competition’s panel of judges. Kimberly, a Managerial Marketing major in the College of Business Administration, was presented with her first place award – a $1000 scholarship – during a special awards ceremony on Thursday, May 11, near the close of the spring semester at the Palazzo Vettori, the home of Kent State education abroad program in Florence Italy.

Kimberly noted the inspiration for her unique look at how different cultures interconnect and influence each other in her project proposal: “Many people have the idea that America is a melting pot of cultures, but I refuse to accept that the United States is the only country that has allowed itself to be heavily influenced by other countries and cultures. Given my background I began to wonder if Africans had an impact on Italy similar to that of the Americas.”

Besides Kimberly’s first place finish, projects submitted by two other students received honorable mention in the competition. Abigail Konyak, a Communication Studies major in the College of Communications, pursued a project titled Behind the Scenes Up Front, in which she established a student-run Instagram account to record the experiences of students currently studying in Florence and then used those experiences to encourage other students to pursue a study abroad experience. “The idea is to show a day in the life of each cohort to more understand and appreciate the amazing work that the students do while abroad,” Abigail explains.

Nicolette Fisher found inspiration for her project Emergency Procedures for Incidents of Terrorism in the concerns that many students express about the threat of terrorism while studying abroad. Ultimately, Nicolette’s project will result in a training manual with emergency procedures for students and faculty involved with study abroad programs. “The first edition of my training will focus specifically on Kent State’s Florence program, and if successful, will expand to other Kent State abroad programs,” Nicolette noted in her project proposal.

Eleven students initially submitted their project proposals on April 18. A few weeks later on May 11, the students each made formal presentations of their projects to the competition’s judges. Following the presentations, the students’ work was exhibited in the Library Lounge of the Palazzo Vettori through the end of the semester.

The key step in the competition was the students’ presentation of their projects to a jury consisting of Director Fabrizio Ricciardelli and Florence professors Fabio Corsini, Nicoletta Peluffo, Simone Anselmi, Paola Giaconia and Pat Kinsella. Participants prepared presentations consisting of 9 timed slides for a total presentation time of 3 minutes. Such a format was chosen to require students to condense large and complex ideas into a concise mode of communication. “Aside from being an obvious and daunting challenge,” says Andy Wyatt, Administrative Assistant in Florence and the chief architect of the competition. “(The presentations) gave them experience with a very useful professional skill.”

“The contest was initially conceived as a way to encourage our students to take an extra step in utilizing their time in Florence,” continues Andy. “Our incredible faculty and staff work constantly to expose the students to topics and ideas pertaining to their studies and we wanted to give them a way to create a final product based on topic that can be of both personal and professional use. After an initial proposal, participants worked throughout the semester to bring their work to completion with the potential to win the $1,000 scholarship prize."

POSTED: Friday, July 7, 2017 - 12:25pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - 2:07pm