Calabretta-Sajder Receives American Association of Teachers of Italian's Distinguished Service Award

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Ryan Calabretta-Sajder, assistant professor and section head for Italian at the University of Arkansas, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the American Association of Teachers of Italian's Distinguished Service Award for the college/university level.

A member of the American Association of Teachers of Italian for 13 years, Calabretta-Sajder has been involved in nearly every aspect and activity of the organization. He has held two elected positions and chaired three committees in addition to serving in the often all-encompassing and indispensable role of director of communications since 2014. Calabretta-Sajder has also been a central figure in the planning of AATI's international conferences for the past seven years. 

Calabetta-Sajder is an accomplished teacher and a generous colleague. His publications include a monograph on the films of Ferzan Ozpetek, Divergenze in celluloide: Colore, migrazione e identità nei film gay di Ferzan Özpetek. Milano: Mimesis editore, 2016, as well as three edited volumes:  Italian Americans on Screen: Challenging the Past, Re-Theorizing the Future. (co-edited with Alan Gravano). Lexington Press, May 2020; Pasolini's Lasting Impressions: Death, Eros, and Literary Enterprise in the Opus of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2018; Theorizing the Italian Diaspora. (with Alan Gravano, & Courtney Ruffner Grieneisen). Dallas, Pennsylvania: Italian American Studies Association, 2018.

His teaching has spanned an equally impressive array of undergraduate and graduate offerings from Made in Italy to contemporary Italian film, literature, and Diaspora studies, with focuses on gender, sexuality and migration.

Calabretta-Sajder's service to the field of Italian studies is exemplary, extending far beyond our own association, as he has held several elected national positions such as: secretary/treasurer of the American Association of Supervisors and Coordinators (2017-2019); president, Gamma Kappa Alpha, the Italian Honors Society for College/Universities, as well as advertising editor for Italica (2020-). He is also founding editor of the all new Diasporic Italy: Journal of the Italian American Studies Association. 

Among the many noteworthy affirmations of his nominators, we share the following descriptions:

"Beyond teaching and research, Dr. Calabretta-Sajder is highly regarded in particular for his service to the profession […] He has proven his merit as an extremely able and creative member and leader of our academic community in numerous important volunteer positions[...] , but  Dr. Calabretta-Sajder's service to the AATI has been particularly remarkable. His administrative commitments with our association continue to be significant, substantial and time-consuming. He empowers himself as well as others around him, makes all members feel welcome, recognizes potential in our junior colleagues (and seeks to help them reach their potential), is quick to lend a hand to others in need of help, shares expertise with others, is enthusiastic about work and working with others. In sum, Dr. Calabretta-Sajder's enthusiasm for the work he does for the AATI shines through and infects others around him."

"Dr. Calabretta-Sajder appears to have infinite energy, working on many projects, traveling, teaching, and working tirelessly for the largest association of Italian studies in the world. His enthusiasm for Italian has remained undiminished through the years."

"In Ryan's many official roles with AATI he has been a leader, in the last 7-8 years, spending countless hours engaging in K-12 and college outreach, conducting professional development workshops, doing important networking, setting up our website, administering our website, and assisting in our elections. Whether as an educator, an administrator, or in his many roles with AATI, Ryan brings passion, experience, knowledge, expertise, and positive energy to his work and continues to be a grand human presence."

"Ryan Calabretta-Sajder's leadership talents are on display daily as he strives to maintain the viability of an organization, AATI, that has been vulnerable to the many changes that have negatively impacted the teaching of languages other than English at schools, colleges, and universities in our country over recent years. Calabretta-Sadjer has been willing to put AATI above all else in his life, always sending messages, chairing committees, forming committees, and serving to fill in wherever and whenever he is needed, in addition to his official roles as Director of Communication."

"Indeed, without his work as Director of Communications, the AATI would be missing a critical link to the membership and the community."

"Ryan Calabretta-Sajder is the heart and soul of AATI."

Established at the December 1984 meeting of the AATI in Washington, D.C., the purpose of the Distinguished Service Award is to recognize and further encourage the achievements and contributions of the members of the AATI for distinguished teaching and / or published research in the fields of Italian language, literature, and civilization.

Initially presented every two years, the AATI Distinguished Service Award is now awarded annually. Any AATI member who has made a significant contribution to building the association, to fulfilling of its objectives, and/or to developing the profession can be nominated.

One award is granted for each category annually: 1) K-12 members; and 2) College/University-level.  Among the Committee's considerations for this award will include the following: the number of years one has been a member of AATI; the quantity and quality of service to the organization; presence at AATI conferences; promotion of the Italian Studies throughout North America and Italy; general collegiality; and accomplishments in research and teaching.


Ryan Calabretta-Sajder, assistant professor of Italian
Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures


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