RLL alum Samantha Dell’Imperio (B.S. Biology, Health, and Society, 2023) who minored in Italian, recently received the Fulbright/Casten Family Foundation Award to complete a one-year Master’s degree in World Food Cultures and Mobility at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) in Pollenzo, Italy, beginning this fall. Within the program, she will complete an internship, write a thesis, and design and conduct a community engagement project.  

“I’m really looking forward to exploring food from a scientific and humanistic perspective,” Samantha said. “Gastronomy is the science and the art of food; how they combine to create a unique field of study.”

For her community engagement project, Samantha plans to travel through Italy’s southern Piedmont region to talk with local farmers and food artisans. Her goal for this project is to produce a bilingual book, in Italian and English, with photography and narratives that highlight the stories of the individuals she interviews.

“I want to show that Slow Food can be compatible with economic and social goals, and to increase appreciation for the producers’ and artisans’ work,” she said. “I also want to explore barriers to Slow Food and how they can be overcome in the US.”

Samantha said her interests in epidemiology and wellness closely connect with the focus of her Master’s program. She said she sees nutrition as a powerful tool to improve public health, and she is interested in promoting health equity through future work in large-scale nutritional programming.

“I always see wellness as the field I want to go into, to help people be happier and healthier,” she said.  “I also want to be open-minded about where my career goes.”

Samantha has enjoyed working on multiple research projects with the Michigan Medicine Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center Health Equity Core for the past two years. In this role, she is grateful to have gained experience in many different parts of the research process, which she believes will serve her well as she gets involved in gastronomy research during her Master’s program.

As a student within LSA’s Honors Program, Samantha also completed an Honors thesis about vaccine perceptions in people with long COVID, studying this relatively new condition from a public health perspective. In the Fall 2022 semester, Samantha created and taught HONORS 135: What’s Next? Vaccines, Long COVID, and Health Care Reform to fellow undergraduates in the Honors program.

“It was a big learning experience, teaching and facilitating discussions and learning even more about my topic, as it is more broad than a thesis,” she said. “It made me so much more comfortable talking about my research.”

This summer, Samantha served as a mentor for the Honors Summer Fellowship program, in which she helped rising seniors spearhead their own independent research projects.

As a student in RLL, Samantha said she really enjoyed the variety of Italian courses she completed, and said all of the classes she took were her favorites. She studied Dante with Leonardo Chiarantini, cross-cultural communication between Italy and Latin America with Prof. Giulia Riccò, political systems and philosophy with Roberto Mosciatti, and Italian comics with Manuela DiFranco.

“Every class pushed me in a different way,” she remarked.

Samantha began studying Italian in seventh grade, as she has a family connection to Italy and many of her family members speak Italian. She continued studying Italian in high school, and then at Syracuse University, before transferring to U-M.

“Italian is such a pretty language and it is part of my heritage, so I wanted to explore that,” she said. 

During the coming year, Samantha looks forward to having many opportunities to utilize her Italian language skills and deepen her cultural knowledge and understanding as well.  

“I think what’s most exciting is seeing how the university culture is different from the US;  seeing how the social values in Italy are taught,” she said.