Anna Vin­cenzi is a new history pro­fessor and Italian citizen. Kallie Dal­rymple | Col­legian

It’s been three months since the Vin­cenzis moved to Hillsdale and their home has been a revolving door ever since.  Hos­pi­tality is the Vin­cenzi family spe­ciality. On a typical evening, that means lime cheesecake and fresh pasta are on the table for their guests.

Dr. Anna Vin­cenzi, a new assistant pro­fessor of history, will teach Western and American Her­itage, alongside her courses on 19th and 20th century European history. Her husband, Lorenzo Vin­cenzi, hopes to teach an Italian lan­guage course in the spring. 

Junior Juan Vargas, a history major enrolled in 19th century European history, said he emailed the new pro­fessor before the start of the semester to get an early start on his reading assign­ments.

“I emailed Dr. Vin­cenzi, and said, ‘Hey I’m in Hillsdale by myself and I would like to get started on my readings,” Vargas said. “Dr. Vin­cenzi emailed me back… and she said, ‘you’re here by yourself, you should come over for dinner. And we set a date.”

“It’s like you get that great first impression that you’re not with just one more pro­fessor, you’re with someone who cares about you and wants to see you do good,” he con­tinued. “That’s the feeling I got from her.” 

Vin­cenzi didn’t orig­i­nally plan to study history. 

“My high school history classes weren’t very engaging, and, para­dox­i­cally, studying history was the only pos­si­bility that I had not con­sidered as I thought about what to do in college,” she said. 

Little did she know that six years later, she’d be pre­senting her dis­ser­tation on the American Rev­o­lution and its effects on Europe. Though Vin­cenzi spent nearly 23 years in Italy, it only took one semester in the United States to con­vince her to leave her hometown in Carpi, Italy, and move her entire life — and family — to the Midwest. 

“A friend and I decided to go some­where else for the semester, and we had the chance to meet a pro­fessor from Notre Dame because he was in Italy for a con­ference. We asked, ‘Can we just come and be in class? We would like to do that even if we don’t receive credit for it.’”

After applying and being accepted into the PhD program in History at the Uni­versity of Notre Dame, Vin­cenzi and her college sweet­heart, Lorenzo, moved from Milan, where they were studying together, to the United States. As a fellow aca­demic, Lorenzo said it was Anna’s intel­lectual ability that caught his attention. 

At first, both of them were pas­sionate about lit­er­ature, Lorenzo said, but later the two joined a history class. 

“We both liked it, but she clearly loved it since she decided to follow it as a career,” he said.  

“In college, I wasn’t the best student,” Lorenzo said, laughing. “First of all, she was nice because she helped me study, which I didn’t love to do at the time. But it wasn’t just studying in order to have good grades, she was also really inter­ested in what she was doing. That’s what struck me the most.”

Through her semester abroad, Vin­cenzi realized the value in studying in the United States. The lecture style in Italy is less intimate, and Vin­cenzi noticed that many classes at Notre Dame invited stu­dents into the dis­cussion, some­thing she hopes to model in her classes at Hillsdale. 

“In Italy, the pro­fessor talks all the time. A rela­tionship between the stu­dents and the pro­fessor isn’t encouraged at all, and he doesn’t encourage stu­dents to par­tic­ipate in the lecture,” she said.

While atten­dance is mandatory at most schools in the United States, Vin­cenzi said Italian stu­dents are not required to go to any of their classes. That’s why she left. 

The American method changed Vincenzi’s per­spective on teaching, and she now pro­vides minimal his­torical context prior to assigning readings so stu­dents can first read, then learn through classroom dis­cussion. To engage stu­dents, Vin­cenzi will also include reading from Emile Zola’s “Germina” and watching “Les Mis­er­ables” and “The Leopard”before the semester ends. 

“Her per­spective is unique,” Vargas said. “There are a lot of themes in his­torical events that we who are not European or not Italian would see with one per­spective. She has a dif­ferent one, and it’s great to hear, because it gives you a better under­standing of how things actually work. It’s not like you’re reading about some­thing in a book. No. She’s been there.” 

Vin­cenzi did her dis­ser­tation on archives in Venice, Rome, Flo­rence, and Naples, and attributed this research with giving her the pos­si­bility of spending time in many beau­tiful places.

In some ways, Vin­cenzi said, Hillsdale reminds her of these places, as well as her home. Living in a neigh­borhood of pro­fessors and their children, her two young kids — Alessandro and Con­stanza — have the freedom to play in the streets. When growing up, Vin­cenzi said she and her sisters always played on the streets. 

“After our house, the coun­tryside started,” said Vin­cenzi. “So, on our street we were out on our bikes and playing with the neighbors all the time.” 

Hillsdale also has a “plaza,” or a downtown square, which reminds her of the beau­tiful and crowded cities along the Amalfi coast and in Venice, she added. One can hardly drive through these small Italian cities because of the amount of foot traffic. Vin­cenzi recalled her hon­eymoon trip in Praiano. Upon arriving at their bed and breakfast, the owner came rushing down the stairs to carry her bags all the way up to their room.

“One could ask: why would you ever do some­thing as stupid as building a town like that, in that really imprac­ti­cable position?” Vin­cenzi said. “And you could ask this of many of the towns in the Amalfi Coast, or of Venice.…And yet, thou­sands of people through the cen­turies have lived there, taken care of their city, and made it one of the most beau­tiful things you’ll ever see. Con­ve­nience can’t explain this. I’m sure there were easier ways to establish a suc­cessful com­mercial outpost than draining a laguna and placing thou­sands of wooden stakes and plat­forms as they did in Venice. But the human heart needs that kind of beauty.”