When Giovanna Cucciniello sends students abroad, she makes sure that they learn how to shop for and prepare food, and that they absorb the food culture of the countries where they are studying — just as much, she says "as they pay attention to classes and field trips."
Born and brought up in the New Haven area, Giovanna has spent her career in education, including teaching ESL in New Haven public schools, teaching at Quinnipiac, and being part of Yale University's Teachers Institute where she developed curriculum on representations of American culture. For five years, she was the education coordinator of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services. "There," she says, "I learned about food cultures from Afghani, Somali, Eritrean, Liberian, Iraqi, Colombian, and Cuban refugees."
From 2007 to 2014, Giovanna lived in Rome, where she obtained a master's degree in the history and culture of Italian gastronomic traditions, and worked as the assistant director of the IES (Institute for the International Education of Students) Abroad Rome Center. She developed workshops and classes for undergraduates on the cultural histories of Italian food and wine, and organized food-related activities and opportunities for interpretative analysis.
Currently the institutional relations manager for Temple University's Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses Program, Giovanna travels widely, leaving her less time for formal teaching. But, she says, "My passion for educating eaters has taken other forms." She lectures about Italy and Italian food to community groups, as well as on issues such as the Mediterranean diet, food production and distribution, and Italy’s role in the global food economy. She has organized campus events dedicated to Roman food and foodways, and has connected to the local Slow Food Philly group, Temple’s community garden, and other area food producers working to make high quality food products affordable, even for students.
Giovanna credits her interest in international education to her study of world languages at Sacred Heart. "My French classes with Madame Sabine Ruthman and Madame Elaine Lamboley '60, and a week in Paris and Nice, enabled me to imagine a world outside my suburban backyard," she says. Her love for and interest in food come from her family. "I was raised in a household where vegetables were grown in our backyard and canned for the winter, and where we prepared homemade breads, fresh pasta, and specialty dishes." She enjoys food from many cultures. "I go for Indian, Japanese, Korean, Thai — and the pizza! — when I'm in New Haven," she says. Still, her favorite food to cook and eat is southern Italian. "It's my comfort food, and connects me with my heritage the most."
Giovanna says that she also learned the importance of cultural understanding at Sacred Heart. "With today's mobility and technology," she says, "we are increasingly likely to come in contact with people of different backgrounds. Exploring the food of other cultures is a great way to start a discussion."