Today, Dr. Francesco Cesareo is the President of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts which has earned acclaim as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by the Princeton Review. A first generation Italian-American, Francesco is the first son of Giovanni and Italia Cesareo originally from Salerno and Avellino. Although they couldn’t have it for themselves, his parents were determined to see that their oldest son would have the best education possible. After graduating summa cum laude from Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston, New York, he earned a master’s degree and then a doctorate degree in Late Medieval/ Modern European History from Fordham University. Dr. Cesareo is the author of two books and numerous articles and he is often called upon to speak to various groups.
An ardent promoter of the lifelong value of the liberal arts, President Cesareo recognized that the richness of Rome was an ideal setting for learning. He wanted to share the same experiences he enjoyed when he was a student there. However, it had to be unique and better. A summer abroad just wouldn’t be sufficient. The Assumption College Rome Campus, therefore, was designed to bring students to “The Eternal City” not for just a summer but rather for an entire college semester. During that time students would be engaged in a first-class learning experience while immersing themselves in the Italian language and culture. The new campus would bring students from the stately Assumption College campus within the fabled ‘Seven hills of Worcester’ to the majestic ‘Seven hills of Rome’ for an unforgettable academic and personal experience that would surely last a lifetime.
‘Villino Dufault’, the formal name for the Rome Campus, is located in the heart of the city and is just a 20 minute walk to St. Peter’s Square. The Villino Dufault was comfortably remodeled to provide classroom space, a student dormitory, and ample room for dining as well as recreational activities. The quarters also lent itself to true community spirit where friendly and helpful interaction between faculty and students could develop a community bond. Even the cook involves herself in the experience by teaching students about communal meals and its special place in the Italian way of life. Then too there are also those special times reserved just for fun and relaxation. Students can enjoy bike rides through the city or even just a short walk to the best gelato in the area, or for that matter rubbing shoulders in a crowded nearby café for a cup of Italian espresso coffee.
In keeping with Dr. Cesareo’s vision, the program embraces three important objectives. It provides students with a rich academic and cultural learning experience in the best sense of a liberal arts education; it offers a close look at the Vatican –the seat and central governance of the Catholic Church; and it acquaints students more closely with the traditions of the Augustinians of the Assumption who founded the College in 1904 and who have grown as a congregation to more than 700 priests and brothers around the world.
The old adage of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” lends itself nicely in motivating students to learn the Italian language in an authentic environment as quickly as they can. Classes in the Italian language are taught by Italiaidea, one of the most famous Italian language schools in Italy. Because they are primarily college students, however, they must also choose appropriate courses to study from a wide variety of liberal arts areas. A variety of liberal arts courses are provided each semester. This allows students to continue tp progress toward their degree while getting the most from study in Rome. These courses include but are not limited to architecture, art, comparative literature, history, theology, and philosophy to mention just a few of the potential offerings all taught by either full-time Assumption College faculty from Worcester or faculty hired in Rome for the program.
As a Catholic college, Assumption students take the opportunity to attend weekly Mass at the neighboring Superior General House of the Assumptionists or at any number of the splendid historic churches they could visit on any given day.
Indeed, the Rome Campus goes far beyond the classroom at Villino Dufault by using the city and country as a living classroom. The semester is filled with organized visits to museums and significant sites within the city and the surrounding countryside. Students and faculty also schedule longer excursions to locales such as Florence, Urbino, Assisi, and Naples. Students may also visit the ruins of Pompeii, and the Colosseum. Students stand where history was made, and where decisions and discussions helped shape our world today. In so doing, they experience first hand the architecture, art, and culture that have inspired countless generations. As might be expected, more frequent visits are made to St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican.
The Vatican is a walled enclave within the city of Rome which contains its own special points of treasured interest for the students. These include St. Peter’s Bascilica, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. Students are also free to stroll leisurely through the Gardens of Vatican City. In fact an immediate benefit to be noticed is that while tourists appear overwhelmed at the beauty which surrounds them and rush to take in as much as they can in the short period that they are there, the Assumptionist students have the advantage of much more time to truly absorb the sights and sounds of “The Eternal City”.
For Dr. Francesco Cesareo, the Assumption College Rome Program is close to the heart. Now, in its 3rd year of operation, the Rome campus has exceeded the College’s expectations while providing students with a strong study abroad program that uniquely positions Assumption College in the competitive New England higher education marketplace.