Student Spotlight: Francesca Borrione

Francesca Borrione is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate focusing on film, literature, and adaptations depicting violence against women and her secondary focus is on Italian-Americans. Francesca is from Perugia, Italy and came to URI after meeting Dr. Peter Covino in Calabria while teaching Italian to study abroad students.

Before beginning her career at URI, Francesca studied communication and American film history, receiving a masters degree, and continuing on to a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Perugia. The education department was a multidisciplinary setting that taught the pedagogical perspectives of different fields, such as literature and history. Interested in how films transform the viewer, her dissertation had three parts which looked at the spectator and their relation to films, decades in US history, and films featuring the workplace. Francesca still felt as though she was missing something after this experience and decided to pursue her Ph.D. in English to gain a stronger grounding in the theory, moving from discussing films to discuss other topics to discussing films and literature as topics in and of themselves.

In addition to her scholarly work, Francesca is a published author. Writing primarily in Italian, she has three novels. Her most recent novel, La stagione di arida di Minerva Jones or The Arid Season of Minerva Jones, is a dark coming of age story based on the poem “Minerva Jones” by Edgar Lee Masters in the Spoon River Anthology. This novel was also a finalist for the Città di Castello Literature Prize in 2009, though it took her several years to find a publisher.

Francesca is also active in service to the department. She is currently the department representative for Graduate Assistants United, the union for graduate employees at URI, and a department liaison, attending weekly department meetings, meeting with prospective students, and overseeing the department’s graduate student elections. Francesca also just finished serving a two-year term as a peer mentor in ENG 999, Methods of Teaching Literature.

Francesca’s background in pedagogy and teacher training made her an ideal peer mentor for ENG 999. This program has a faculty mentor, Dr. Jennifer Jones for the last three years, and four peer mentors who have completed the course. Each year two peer mentors are chosen through an application process based on past performance and teaching philosophy to serve in the position for two years. These peer mentors work closely with the faculty mentor to develop a workshop at the end of the spring semester, an intensive two-day training session right before the beginning of classes in the fall, and seminars for the fall semester. Additionally, peer mentors help trainees, English graduate students in their first semester of teaching literature, develop syllabi and coordinate peer observations. Eternally humble, Francesca said that she wanted to become a TA trainer because the program worked for her as a trainee and she wanted to continue the process of learning. She also came into the position with experience with “how to teach the teachers” and experience with didactics and lifelong learning. She also saw the position as “a nice way to keep updated on things I don’t necessarily study anymore.”

Although her role as a peer mentor has come to an end, Francesca continues to be actively involved; the English department is lucky to have her.

Catherine Winters is a 4th year PhD candidate focusing on contemporary American narrative under the advisement of Dr. Mary Cappello. She is also lucky to be Francesca’s roommate.

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