The Italian Studies Council is a philanthropic group whose goal is to bridge higher learning in Italian Studies with the possibilities and needs of the community locally and abroad. The Council aims to support Italian Studies at Chapman and raise students’ awareness regarding the potential applications of their studies in various areas of cultural, artistic, and business entrepreneurship.
For information contact: Vicky Carabini or Federico Pacchioni.
Vicky Carabini (chair)
Federico Pacchioni (ex ufficio)
Emanuela Panebianco, Director of Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West
Valeria Rumori, Director of Italian Institute of Culture in Los Angeles
Simone Schiavinato, Director of L’Italo-Americano
Daniele Struppa, Chancellor of Chapman University
Joseph Baird is a native of San Francisco and life-long Californian. He has a diverse background in building and running businesses here as well as in Europe. His grandparents came from Piemonte in 1921 after Nonno Senestraro served in WWI in the Alps. Joe is active in his family’s area of Val d’Ossola restoring homes and helping young farmers as well as entrepreneurs. He also serves as an advisor to Italian technology start-ups through LA-based Bridges to Italy.
Elisabetta Bilardi was born in Alghero, Sardinia. Her passion for world literature led her to focus on American literature during her university studies. A born traveler, she moved first to Rome, where she worked for R.A.I, then to Britain and finally to Orange County. Here, she has worked as the event coordinator for the Italian Cultural Institute and then in the motorcycle business for Newport Italian, Vespa, Piaggio, and more recently with Dainese. In recent years she has collaborated on many important events such as: the Andrea Boccelli gala fundraiser in Beverly Hills, the Festa Della Repubblica in downtown Los Angeles for The Italian Consulate, and the Italian Opera Festival at Soka University.
Vicky Carabini serves as the Chair of Chapman Italian Studies Council. Since 2007, she has been the ambassador to Capestrano, Italy, sister city of San Juan Capistrano. She holds dual citizenship with Italy and owns a home in Tuscany where she produces olive oil. Currently she is a board member of the Italian Arts Council, the History Mission Preservation Board, and the Orange County Area Coordinator for the National Italian American Foundation. Her new venture is assisting in coordination of the Orange County’s page in the newspaper L’Italo-Americano.
Frank DeBenedetto has been a resident of California since 1973, where he’s been involved in real estate development and the investment field. His grandparents immigrated from Italy in 1921. His grandfather was a WWI veteran for Italy, having fought on both Austrian and French front lines. After his first visit to Italy ten years ago with his family and 80-year old father, Frank has renewed his passion for his Italian heritage.
Erta Matson is a real local! She was born in Orange and graduated with a teaching degree from UC Irvine and teaches for the Newport Mesa Unified School District. Her father was with the United States Air Force stationed in Italy and there met and married her mother. Throughout her life her family has been committed to maintaining strong relational and cultural ties with their Italian heritage and bridged the family's geographical gap with summer travel to Italy. Erta is a member of the Renaissance Lodge Sons of Italy and has dual citizenship with Italy.
Kristan O’Donnell graduated from the University of Southern California and resides in Santa Barbara. Kristan has been active supporter of Mission San Juan Capistrano gala committees, also gala committee member of the Shea Therapeutic Riding Center. As a Dame in the Order of Malta, Kristan has served as coordinator of the Serra Pantry (local food pantry serving the surrounding community). Kristan’s heritage is Italian with her maternal grandparents from Abruzzi and her paternal grandparents born in Rome. She also serves on the Vatican Museum’s Patron’s California board.
Federico Pacchioni is Associate Professor and the Sebastian Paul and Marybelle Musco Chair in Italian Studies at Chapman University where he coordinates the Italian language and culture program and teaches various interdisciplinary courses in the Honors Program and Film Studies. Before joining Chapman University, Dr. Pacchioni held positions at Indiana University Bloomington, the University of Connecticut-Storrs, at the Scuola Italiana of Middlebury College. He is the author of three books and numerous articles on Italian literature, film and theater.
Emanuela Panebianco is the Executive Director of Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West, a government licensed organization that fosters bilateral trade between Italy and the Western United States. IACCW supports Italian companies gain market access and create brand value. It also promotes their integration of young professionals through its internship program. Prior to joining the Chamber, Emanuela worked with domestic and international executive teams in key marketing and development leadership roles in addition to coaching entrepreneurs on how to execute on their missions.
Paul Romano was born in Brooklyn, New York at the end of WW II. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Patrons of Italian Culture for more than 20 years and as its President the last six. During this 20 year period he has instituted collaborations with the curators of the Getty Museums & Villa, LACMA, and other Fine Art museums nationwide to explore and promote Italian art & culture. In the fall of each year he leads many of his Board members on ‘retreats’ to other cities across the U.S. and Canada that have significant Italian communities and explores opportunities to communicate and share valuable resources. He also acts as liaison to the Office of the Consul General of Italy and the Istituto di Cultura Italiano in Los Angeles, and is an active and supporting member of many of California’s leading Italian American organizations. He oversees the awarding of the PIC’s annual ‘Casola Prize’ scholarships to worthy college and graduate students of Italian descent.
Valeria Rumori has been the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles since January 2015. Before joining the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Directorate General for Cultural Affairs, in 1992, she worked for the Ministry of Education, University and Research. She was appointed Cultural Attaché and then Interim Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco from 2003 to 2009. She served as Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Marseilles, France, from 2009 to 2012. She was the head of the International University Cooperation division, and coordinator of the US-Italy cultural relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Directorate General for Cultural Promotion, from 2012 to 2014.
Simone Schiavinato, originally from Padova, serves as the Director of the oldest Italian-American newspaper in the United States, L’Italo-Americano. His passion for the Italian culture led him to take on the challenge of re-inventing the century old publication, transforming it into one of the most respectable sources for all things Italian in the U.S. both on the web and in print. Through a network of passionate writers Simone succeeded in establishing a publication featuring in-depth and comprehensive coverage of contemporary Italian culture and lifestyles - arts, travel and culinary trends - and most of all enriching the Italian-American community with relevant and dynamic content.
Celeste Signorino serves as the Vice Chair of Italian Studies Council. Since 2002, Celeste has been discovering her passion for Italy with frequent visits including a year living in Florence where she studied Italian, cooking and Early Renaissance Art History. Celeste has extensive experience in fundraising, strategic planning, marketing communications and campaigns. She currently leads Advancement at Tarbut V'Torah and previously worked for Discovery Cube Los Angeles, Orange County Business Council and OCTANe Foundation for Innovation. Prior to her non-profit experience, Celeste led the Public Affairs department at Conexant, and she started her career doing PR for Neiman Marcus. Celeste earned a bachelor's degree in International Business from George Washington University.
Daniele Struppa has served as the Chancellor for Chapman University since 2007 overseeing for the core operations of the university, including all academic matters. Prior to coming to Chapman University, Dr. Struppa had a distinguished career as a Professor of Mathematics, and occupied positions at the University of Milano (Italy), at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa (Italy), at the University of Calabria (Italy) and, since 1987, at George Mason University. He is the author of more than 100 refereed publications, including six books, and he is the editor of several volumes. On March 24, 2014, the Board of Trustees of Chapman University named him “Presidential Designate,” thus selecting him as the person to succeed President James Doti at his retirement. On September 1, 2016, Dr. Struppa will become Chapman’s 13th President.