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Alumni Profiles

Cliff began learning Italian at age 16 and wanted to become fluent.

While studying abroad at age 20, Cliff decided he wanted to have children. Today, he has three kids and three grandchildren.

Overseas Study Program

Bologna, Italy

DO IT, and if you can, make it a full year...apply for the program and let some special part of the world change you.”

Cliff J. Vanell

Program & term: Bologna, Italy - Academic Year 1974-75

Cliff's major: Political Science (Pre-Law)

Cliff's current position (2011): Director, Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings

Reason you chose to study abroad: I wanted to become fluent in Italian, which I had started to learn from an old dictionary when I was 16 and bored, without a car, and needed something to do.  I have always loved classical and renaissance art, so this was a natural match.  Besides, my mother always considered foreign travel a must for a good education. She is the original “she who must not be named” when it comes to her ability to influence people. I have her to thank.

Why did you choose Bologna? The description of Bologna as a city relatively untouched by tourism, but itself the center of the northern Italy and thus a hub to travel to all of the more readily appreciated destinations, such as Florence and Rome.

Best memory: Running home from my bus stop to my apartment one night because I was practically delirious with happiness because of where I was and who I was becoming. That memory has never faded.. 

Biggest Surprise: Deciding I wanted to have kids watching a father playing with his young children in Piazza San Petronio on a foggy winter’s morning.  I was 20. I have three grown children and three grandchildren with more to come, I am sure.

How did your study abroad program affect you personally? I should have known better than to climb Assinelli tower before finishing my education.  There is a curse, you see.  I credit my messy six year hiatus between my undergraduate and graduate school to this one guilty pleasure.  Not that those messy years didn’t have their own amusements…

[Also,] I knew a girl who was thinking about going on the World Campus afloat program at the same time I had decided to go to Bologna. She didn’t see how see could afford it, it wasn’t something that people from when she was from (a very small town) did, blah, blah…  I told her she had to go, that she would find a way.  She went and had the time of her life.  I later married that girl and we have been together for 33 years.  A couple of years ago we stood together on the dock in Nova Scotia watching our daughter board a ship for a summer program afloat, with ports of call from Iceland to Paris, by way of Russia.

What, if any, cultural practices have you retained from your time abroad? My home is essentially a mockup of the Pitti Palace with the bronze statues and reproductions I have painted of various DaVinci’s, Michelangelo’s, Rafaello’s… and my backyard, is a Roman garden, complete with the frescos from the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, and a Roman mosaic…  Nope, can’t think of anything.

Did study abroad affect your career path? I climbed Assinelli and ended up a copper miner.  Actually, I ended up a control room supervisor in the furnace and acid plant.  The mines was my “’nam” experience (for those of you who are too young to remember, serving in Vietnam was tough and it molded people.)  In my case, the physical hardship and responsibility for others that the job demanded is what helped give me the leadership skills that serve me today.  So, I guess I have Assinelli to thank.

Explain the impact study abroad has in the workplace: Well, lets see, all the hearing rooms are furnished with Italian/Greco-Roman art, our agency seal is based on a neo-classical image of “Libertas,” and the website I set up for the Central Panel Directors Conference (directors of agencies from 25 states) has a backdrop of a Roman mosaic… Again, can’t think of a thing.  I do tend to use classical allusions a lot, my favorite being Caesar’s “festina lente,” (make haste slowly) when I testify at Senate hearings.  I do acknowledge that quoting Caesar to the Senate is somewhat awkward, considering that messy business a couple of millennia back, but it’s the bad boy in me (Go C-dog!)

What have been the long-term benefits of study abroad?  I am 56 now, but the memories that I gained when I was 20 are as fresh as then.  To those considering foreign travel, I say, DO IT!  You will not regret it.  It is an investment in youth that will give you pleasure until the day you die.

What advice would you have for a student considering study abroad? DO IT, and if you can, make it a full year, DO IT. Carpe diem minimum credula postero.  By the way “carpe” does not mean “seize.”  It means “pluck” as in plucking fruit from a tree.  So, better translated, “take the delights that the world can offer you NOW, do not rely on the future.”  Apply for the program, and let some special part of the world change you.  Give the place as much time as you can…

Oh, and climb Assinelli.  It was worth it.