Spotlight on Faculty: Marino Forlino, Assistant Professor of Italian


Marino Forlino

This fall, 11 new tenure-track faculty members joined Scripps College, including two at the W.M. Keck Science Department. As part of our ongoing series on Scripps’ faculty, the Office of Marketing and Communications recently sat down with Marino Forlino, who joins Scripps as Assistant Professor of Italian in the Department of Italian Studies, the only program of its kind at the Claremont Colleges.

Forlino graduated magna cum laude from the University of Florence, Italy, in modern foreign languages and literatures and earned his MA and PhD degrees in Italian at Rutgers University. He also speaks, and has taught, German and Arabic, and holds a graduate diploma in American studies from Smith College. He joins Scripps from California State University, Fullerton, where he served as multi-area full time lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

Scripps College: You earned a degree from Smith College, a noted private liberal arts women’s college on the East Coast. Did that experience inform your decision to come to Scripps?

Marino Forlino: There is a vibrancy, liveliness, and sense of community at liberal arts colleges like Scripps—where so many students reside on campus and participate in various activities and events—which is hard to find or duplicate on larger campuses. We can have brilliant conversations that go beyond the four walls of the classroom, our mentoring can be more successful, and intellectual energy can flow in a variety of campus settings, such as events, clubs, and forums for debate and engagement. The type of students at schools like Scripps is another bonus—I am constantly delighted by their diverse interests and desire to learn, and I am humbled to contribute to their learning experience.

SC: Scripps’ Italian Studies program, which includes language classes as well as courses on Italian literature and culture, is a very popular major—not just at Scripps, but also across the 5Cs, as the only program of its kind. What can students expect in your classes?

MF: Alexander von Humboldt said, “You cannot teach a language; you can only create the conditions under which it might be learned.” Language is dynamic, fluid—it’s fun, lively, alive—so learning a language should be like that, too! Unfortunately, I cannot take my students to Italy during my classes, but I try to bring Italy to my students. We study using books, realia, film, popular culture, music, images, and for some other activities we even Skype (time difference permitting). Language is communication, interruption, and debate, so there must be that kind of dynamism in the classroom. Students collaborate on projects in class, so there is a lot of peer learning and group exercises. The learning process must be fun and enjoyable.

SC: Tell us a little about your journey growing up in Italy and ultimately seeking a teacher-scholar career in America?

MF: I grew up in a small town (Palazzo San Gervasio) in Southern Italy, not too far from Matera, in Basilicata. I grew up speaking our local dialect, and it wasn’t until I learned standard Italian in school that I discovered my love for languages. I come from a big family and, being in a large family, you all learn together, help each other—it’s a very stimulating environment, like a classroom. Maybe I gravitated to teaching ultimately because I wanted to re-create that environment. I thrive on diversity and learning from other people, their backgrounds, and experiences; there is a richness in it that is exciting and unique. When I think about it, the more I find it, the more it teaches me! Plus, I love helping students make connections to their lives. In my literature course on the Italian Renaissance—which is taught completely in Italian, and students read the 15th- and 16th-entury texts in its original language—I am continually impressed with the students’ ability to connect to a time and culture very, very far away and apply it to today. I have challenged students who read the philosopher Pico della Mirandola to write about “where in the world they would read Pico, and why,” and their answers have been remarkable, enlightening.

SC: Is there a fact about yourself that is surprising, or that people don’t know about, that you’d like to share?

MF: Besides teaching and doing research, I love writing, and in the past two years I have decided to combine my interest for pedagogy and my passion for creative writing. For example, I’ve written some scripts for language videos that have been circulating on YouTube with almost 200,000 views so far!