Through Adversity comes opportunity in Italy
Kirk Duclaux: September, 25, 2020
As the poet Robert Burns lamented, 'the best-laid plans of mice and men, often go awry'. This year, 2020 is a near 12-month exercise in that no matter how hard you organize for the future, often things just do not turn out according to plan. This was the case with the recent IAS Master of Arts in Global Affairs (GAMA) class on Illicit Trafficking, which was scheduled to take place, in part, in Italy. Site visits were organized. Lectures were planned. Hotel rooms were booked. Trains and buses to locations from Naples to Milan were reserved. And then the plow that turned over all our 'normal' came through - COVID-19. All non-essential travel was halted and many of the venues the students were to visit closed and Italy went into lockdown to stem the tide of the virus. This step was essential, but how could the GAMA class proceed?
In lieu of actually studying in Italy, the GAMA students and their profs had to pivot. As the pandemic in Italy slowly began to subside and as the country began to make the herculean effort to get back to 'normal', the OU in Arezzo campus team jumped into action. They combined their incredibly varied skillbase to create a series of live interviews and videos that managed to showcase the original venues that were planned for the GAMA students. Culturally-based walking tours around Livorno, Florence and Rome helped set the scene for a series of live and pre-recorded interviews with local experts in those cities on themes having to do with illicit trafficking, including crimes against art in times of war; trafficking in the world of the port authorities; and the devastating and gut-wrenching world of human trafficking. All the material was uploaded and scheduled for the students and profs to participate in a way that was interactive and visually engaging. The hope was that it would make their disappointment in not being able to come to Italy less painful. Thankfully, the new format made for lively discussions and fascinating insights that dealt with themes that underlined the unique role Italy plays in the world of organized crime. Even though the GAMA students could not come to Italy, they received a vast array of digital material and live insight into Illicit Trafficking in Italy.
Unfortunately, the second wave of COVID is upon Italy once again and, like the rest of the western world, OU in Arezzo is locked down. But that does not stop OUA staff from planning for the future. The best-laid plans of mice and men might often go awry, this is true. However, through adversity comes the opportunity to reflect on the past and importantly, to grow in different directions that in 'normal' times might not have been possible.