PROVIDENCE (GenEd)—University of Rhode Island professor, Dr. Catherine Sama, was awarded the Educator of the Year Award by The Genocide Education Project’s Rhode Island Branch. GenEd Rhode Island branch Co-chairs Pauline Getzoyan and Esther Kalajian presented the award on April 24 during the Armenian Genocide commemoration at the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Monument at North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island.
Dr. Sama, a professor of Italian and Film Media, began teaching the course “Italian Literature in Translation” in 2008, focusing on the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. The course includes an examination of Italian-Armenian author Antonia Arslan’s book, Skylark Farm, based on Arslan’s family experience in the Armenian Genocide. The second part of the class is about Jewish-Italian writer, Primo Levi’s book, Survival in Auschwitz.
“It’s one thing to learn about genocide from a book, or from the whiteboard in a classroom, but it’s another thing entirely to talk to someone whose life has been affected by it,’’ said student Shay Spacco. “If more students, especially in high school, got an opportunity like this, instruction about genocide would seem less like a lesson before a test, and more like a horrible reality that is part of human history, which should be important to everyone.”
Student Briana Clift said, “I find myself educating others about the guest speakers we’ve had and the books we’ve read during this course.”
As part of the course, Dr. Sama invited Antonia Arslan to URI as a visiting scholar. Arslan met with students, gave two public lectures, and held one of the first public screenings in the United States of the film The Lark Farm, based on her book.
Sama says she teaches the course to “make these horrific historical events and their aftermath real, present and personal to students, and to encourage students to see connections to current events and take a stand in helping to prevent genocide from continuing to occur.”
The GenEd Rhode Island Educator of the Year Award includes a $500 stipend to support the educator’s genocide education work. The stipend was made possible by contributions from the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Committee of Rhode Island and the Armenian Cultural Association of Rhode Island.