Kent State Celebrates 50 Years of Education Abroad in Florence, Italy, With Weeklong Series of Events

Supporters have given nearly $4 million to support scholarships for education abroad

Kent State University leadership and donors known as the Renaissance Scholars Society will gather to commemorate 50 years of education abroad in Florence, Italy, during the first week of October. Kent State first brought students to study in Florence in 1972 when a dozen architecture students arrived in the city with their faculty leader for the spring quarter. The interest in this experience grew among students in the architecture program, and within a few short years, nearly 50 students traveled to study in Florence. As more programs, including interior design, fashion, nursing and communications, began to offer classes in Florence, participation grew exponentially. All academic colleges are now represented in the Florence Center courses. In 2019, a record 900 students participated in a Florence education-abroad trip. 

“As educators, we understand the importance of immersive learning and stretching beyond the familiar to broaden perspectives,” said Kent State President Todd Diacon. “Our long-standing program in Florence is an excellent example of the transformative impact education abroad can have on students, and we are proud to be among the top 3% of American universities to send students abroad.”

The partnership between the university and the city of Florence has made this success possible. As a direct result of this relationship, Kent State students have access to unique learning opportunities that further enrich their education-abroad experience. Now, with 200 programs in more than 60 countries, education abroad has become a distinctive component of a Kent State education, all modeled off the success of the Florence program.

Fabrizio Ricciardelli (far right), director of Kent State University Florence, talks with Kent State students taking his course Florence: The Myth of a City. They are gathered on the Piazza del Duomo in front of Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence.
Fabrizio Ricciardelli (far right), director of Kent State University Florence, talks with Kent State students taking his course Florence: The Myth of a City. They are gathered on the Piazza del Duomo in front of Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence.

“We are tremendously thankful for the close relationship we have with the city of Florence,” said Fabrizio Ricciardelli, Ph.D., director of Kent State Florence and president of the Association of American College and University Programs in Italy. “When our students come from the United States to Florence, they receive a warm welcome, not just from our staff but from the entire city as they become integrated into the fabric of Italian life.”

Kent State now offers the Global Education Endowment, which will enable even more Kent State students to study in Florence and other locations abroad with a scholarship in the next several years. Through the support of founding members of the Renaissance Scholars Society, that endowment now boasts more than $4 million to support education-abroad experiences for Kent State students, with a goal to raise $20 million. 

To celebrate the 50th anniversary, the university has planned a weeklong series of events from Oct. 1-5. These events will expose some of the university’s greatest advocates and philanthropic supporters to the immersive power of education abroad in the birthplace of the Renaissance, allowing them to witness firsthand what their philanthropy provides for current Kent State students abroad. Donors will visit some of the city’s most iconic locations for on-site lectures, including the Galleria degli Uffizi, Accademia, Basilica di Santa Croce, Basilica di Santo Spirito, San Marco Museum and others.

The week will culminate in the 50th anniversary gala event, which will be held at the Palazzo Vecchio in the Salone dei Cinquecento on Thursday, Oct. 5, and be attended by Kent State donors; Kent State staff, including Diacon; leaders from partner universities worldwide; and Florence dignitaries. During the event, guests will enjoy dinner by chef Vito Mollica, Michelin-starred executive chef of Atto di Vito Mollica, and entertainment provided by Manu Lalli’s Venti Lucenti and Orchestra della Toscana.

About Kent State University

Kent State University is the highest-ranked public university in northern Ohio on the Top Public Schools and Best National Universities lists by U.S. News & World Report. Kent State also holds the esteemed distinction of being one of only five institutions in Ohio to be recognized as an R1 top-tier research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. With eight campuses spanning Northeast Ohio, a College of Podiatric Medicine, a Twinsburg Academic Center and academic sites in locations around the globe – such as New York City; Florence, Italy; and Curitiba, Brazil – Kent State is one of Ohio’s leading public universities and a major educational, economic and cultural resource far beyond the Northeast Ohio region it has served since 1910. Kent State is a national leader in award-winning student support services to graduate students. The student body comprises more than 33,500 students, including more than 2,000 international students from 101 countries, and the worldwide alumni family exceeds 273,500. The addition of new learning environments from the sciences to the arts and the development of exciting new academic programs characterize Kent State’s focus on transformational educational experiences.

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Top Photo Caption:
Kristin Stasiowski (far right), assistant dean of international programs and education abroad for the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State University, leads a group of Kent State students as they discover the art, architecture and history of Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy.

Media Contact:
Bethany Sava,, 330-672-0428

Kent State Florence Contact:
Francesca Passeri,

POSTED: Friday, September 29, 2023 08:55 AM
Updated: Friday, September 29, 2023 09:53 AM
Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement