Canada Games Teaching Spotlight: Connecting Italy-Canada relations course to upcoming Games

Teresa Russo, a part-time course instructor of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Brock University is enthusiastic about the many opportunities for students to engage with the community, regional councillors and other stakeholders during the Canada Summer Games next year in Niagara.

Russo, the supervisor of Archival Research of Italian-Canadian Immigration and Culture, has been teaching at Brock since 2017 and is integrating the Games into the Italian program course on Italian immigration to Canada and Italian Canadian history, culture and literature with a focus on the contributions of Italian-Canadians in the sports industry. She is organizing a symposium with Professor Carmela Colella to connect Brock students with Italian-Canadian athletes and members of the sports industry. 

What is your Canada Games-related course title, code and description?

ITAL/CANA 2P98 – Italians in Canada and Italy-Canada Relations

This second-year humanities course focuses on the history of Italian immigration in Canada and considers the cultural and economic relations between Italy and Canada including World War II internment experience. Italian contribution to the arts in Canada and Italian-Canadian literature are also studied. This Fall Term, the theme of the course will focus on Italian-Canadian athletes and the sports industry to coincide with the 2021 Canada Games. I

Integrated into the course is an experiential learning component. Students will research the contributions of Italian-Canadian athletes, coaches, managers, trainers, medical personnel, referees and others in the Canada Games and other national and international sporting events from the 1900s to the present during various waves of immigration to Canada in a learning module of this course. Students will research local and online archives and will produce academic posters on the topic of Italian-Canadian athletes and the sports industry. Their research will conclude with a presentation at an in-class undergraduate conference. The students will then be invited to a symposium to share their research with the Brock community as well as engage in conversation with invited speakers from the Italian-Canadian sports industry.

A selection of the academic posters presented at the in-class conference will be published in the 2020 issue of the biannual online exhibits, Archival Research of Italian-Canadian Immigration and Culture (ICNS, Guelph University, created by Russo and Sandra Parmegiani, Director of the Italian Heritage Project).

Describe how you’ve integrated Canada Games related material into your course?

Canada Games will be leveraged to achieve the learning outcomes of researching the archives and preparing an annotated bibliography and public writing piece on the course theme of Italian-Canadian athletes and the sports industry. Students will be able to use recognition theory to highlight the contributions of Italians in the sports industry and will be able to consider issues of ethnicity and multiculturalism for Italian-Canadian athletes and other members in the sports sector, a topic not often found in publications. By engaging with and creating academic posters, students will contribute to a niche area of research, where there is little research or scholarship since scholars usually consider business and cultural production in the area of contributions at the provincial and national level in Canadian studies courses.

The local sporting event is the catalyst for rediscovering and learning about the Italian-Canadian members of the sports industry such as athletes, managers, coaches, trainers, referees, owners and medical assistants, as well as past Brock athletes who have pursued careers in the world of sports. The Canada Games alumni list for both winter and summer sports contain profiles of past game participants and the course will look at compiling a list which will be shared as an OER record with CPI and Archival Research of Italian-Canadian Immigration and Culture. Students in this course will further engage in a community petition to have local sports figures recognized on the Walls of Fame in the various local arenas and community centres.

Why do you think Canada Games presents such a good opportunity for students at Brock?

The Canada Games provide an opportunity for students to engage with the community in a unique manner. It can be immediate, for example, volunteering during the games and receiving practical training while honing oral communication, professional and organizational skills. But the event can also create a scholarly experience within an experiential format.

The impact for students enrolled in ITAL/CANA 2P98 is that they will participate in an innovative manner to develop such skills as data collection and analysis and developing oral and written communications competence, vital for professional development. They will develop these skills as they conduct research on a timely topic that will connect them to current activities in their community. The students will further experience a presentation from a community member in the sports industry in a livestream presentation, connecting students with community leaders. This presentation will culminate in a larger platform as an on-campus symposium in 2021.

Do you have any suggestions for ways your colleagues can use the Games as a way to enhance teaching and learning opportunities in their courses?

When learning is connected to current topics in the news, recent global affairs or events in one’s own community, it becomes relevant and engaging for students; they can see the immediate significance of classroom discussions and the application of class materials to future endeavours. Often, the humanities remain at a theoretical level, and now with the Canada Games in the University’s backyard, educators have an opportunity to bring the theoretical and practical together in an inimitable manner.

ITAL 2P98 in particular has the opportunity to create a service-learning experience with the archival project and invite speakers that connect directly with a national event that further accents a Canadian cultural experience. The Canada Games provide a unique occasion in 2021 for the humanities to create experiential learning activities for students, engaging with Canadian history and specific practices in the sports industry. Educators can make further connections with the community by means of special course events in which students interact with community leaders bringing the Games to Niagara and with athletes themselves.

Once the Games are finished, how do you plan to continue using this new idea in your course?

The module on Italian-Canadians in the sports industry will remain an integral part of the course. Students will continue to engage with the discovery of sports figures and those who positively contributed to the growth of their discipline. In addition, the framework of a student petition and service learning activities will be used to create more community-based projects coinciding with future academic posters for this course.

Any additional ideas/comments you would like to share?

The addition of sports figures represents a commitment to renew the course, work to challenge views of Italian-Canadian culture to a variety of fields, and link objectives to Niagara, while enhancing the experiential component of the course. The publication and symposium will engage students, alumni, community members and researchers as well as connect participants with non-academic partners.

For more information about the ITAL/CANA 2P98-Italians in Canada and Italy-Canada Relations, contact Colella at or Russo at

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