Cristina-Grazia Angela Parenta discusses the Liberal Arts in Practice
Beloit native Cristina-Grazia Angela Parente, Field Experience Grant Program Coordinator, returned home last November when she started working for Beloit College. “Growing up, the only thing I wanted to do was leave,” she remembered. “My grandfather actually worked here on the campus, he was an English professor, and so I have a lot of memories of spending a lot of time on campus and going to their house, and all their little parties in the 70s and 80s.”
Parente did leave, however, in order to receive her degree. She attended Macalester College in St. Paul, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Latin American studies. Then she went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for graduate school and received a masters in curriculum and instruction.
So what brought her back? “After Macalester, I went and lived in Mexico for about 6 or 7 years. I worked in a museum there as part of the Science Museum of Minnesota. Finally, I had a son, so he and I were living down in Mexico and decided that I needed family support, and I needed a network, so we opted to come back here about 15, 14 years ago now. First it was the need for family, and then I found a job at the University of Wisconsin extension, and I was able to use my proficiency in Spanish to be able to become a home-visitation specialist as well, so it sort of just led to one opportunity to the next,” she said.
Now Parente heads the Field Experience Grant program which awards students $2,000 through admissions to plan and develop an off-campus learning experience the summer after their first year. “The idea behind that is to really get students engaged in a liberal arts in practice early on,” Parente said. “so that they have practice expanding their network, researching ideas, the whole act of developing a proposal, and a budget, for many students is the first time to really develop a budget, and itemize the line items, and think about learning goals.”
With the Field Experience Grant, students are able to go out and develop ideas and learn without having to be in a classroom. Parente appreciates how the FEG manages “to really get students engaged in a liberal arts in practice early on, so that they have practice expanding their network, researching ideas.” With the FEG students have almost no limits. The idea is that they have $2,000 to go out and experience, or to take the liberal arts in practice. It is no coincidence that this grant is offered through the Liberal Arts in Practice Center.
Parente certainly is an authority on taking Liberal Arts in Practice. She has gained great international experience through her studies at Macalester College, especially after living in Mexico, and this certainly helps her with her work. She also feels that her curiosity helps her every day. Parente says, “I’m curious to hear where they’re coming from, what their experiences are that brought them here, and what those strengths are that they can use to propel themselves forward.”