Tuscany Campus Staff
Dr. Kevin Murphy
A native of Liverpool and a resident of Prato since 1995, Kevin Murphy has been Dean of the University of New Haven’s Tuscany Campus in Prato since its founding in 2012. He brings over 20 years of experience in international education as an instructor and director. He has taught courses and seminars in Italian Art History at many universities in the United States (such as Syracuse, Florida State, Gonzaga, Kent State), and for many years was Director of the Art History department at the British Institute of Florence. Before taking up his position in Prato, Kevin was Academic Dean and Campus Director of the CEA Global Education Programs in Rome and Florence (his collaboration with the University of New Haven began at CEA, as New Haven is the University of Record for all of CEA’s study abroad programs worldwide).
Kevin is active in the field of international education, and has presented sessions and workshops at conferences in Europe and the U.S., focused particularly on aspects of intercultural competence, experiential learning, and the relationship between international study and careers. He is a member of the National Society for Experiential Education, from which he received his Experiential Education Academy Certificate of Completion in 2012. He was formerly Chair of SAFSA (Study Abroad and Foreign Students Advisers), a professional section of the EAIE (European Association for International Education). He has also chaired and presented panels at the annual Conference of the Forum on Education Abroad.
In 1997, he earned his Ph.D. at the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London, U.K., and has published on Italian Renaissance art and patronage. Kevin also teaches the course ‘Art & Science in Renaissance Italy’ at the Tuscany Campus. In his free time, Kevin enjoys traveling, reading, football, and golf.
Dr. Valentina Seffer
Valentina Seffer grew up in the south of Italy in Palermo, Sicily.
She holds a B.A. in Foreign Languages and Teaching of Italian as a Second Language from the University of Palermo and an M.A. in Linguistics and International Communication (concentration: teaching Italian for foreigners) from the Foreigners University of Siena. Valentina completed her Ph.D. in Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. She also holds the DITALS Certificate, Level 2, for the teaching of Italian at all levels, issued by the University of Siena, as well as the CELTA certificate to teach English as a foreign and second language, issued by the University of Cambridge.
Throughout her years of work and study, Valentina has acquired valuable experience in the areas of academic research, language teaching, administration, and organization of events working in different academic environments, both in Italy and in Australia.
As Assistant Dean, Valentina supports the Dean in all aspects of the program, particularly academics and works closely with faculty in supporting and following up with students who may be at risk (as identified by instructors). Valentina also teaches the First Year Experience program (FYE) for first-year students aimed at helping them to adjust to a new academic and learning environment and offers Italian language tutoring classes.
In her spare time, Valentina likes to travel to spend time with friends and family scattered around Italy and Europe. She also likes to learn foreign languages and keeps saying she will, eventually, start learning piano.
Stefano Giusti was born and raised in Prato. He decided to move to the U.S. some years ago, where he became fluent in English. He spent nine years in Providence, Rhode Island, working in home improvement, before returning to Italy with his family.
He spent his immediate years after coming back to Prato repairing guitars, a lifelong passion. He joined the University of New Haven Tuscany team in 2013, where his primary role is to respond to calls made to the Emergency Phone by all students, during all times when the campus offices are closed, at nights and on weekends.
He enjoys his job and takes it very seriously, as he understands how important it is for students far from home to be able to call someone when they unexpectedly need help.
Maria Luisa Nencini was born and grew up in Prato.
After graduating at the high school, she spent 6 months in England to improve her English, then she started to work in the commercial field for an International shipping company.
Then she worked in the textile sector, first at a wool mill for two years as the contact person for the American customers and then at a Textile Agency as the person in charge to follow the orders for the English market.
Student Affairs Coordinator
Lauren Pugh was born in Lynchburg, Virginia and spent her middle and high school years in Wisconsin. During her undergraduate, she spent a year studying in Bologna, Italy, where she fell in love with the Italian language and culture.
After graduating in 2008 with a degree in Italian Studies and a minor in Learning Abroad, Lauren returned to Italy as the Resident Assistant for an American university program in Sesto Fiorentino. Since 2011, Lauren has called the town of Prato her home. Before joining the University of New Haven Tuscany Campus team, she taught English at two local Italian high schools, and worked in at an international university in nearby Florence as a Student Life Advisor. Lauren is currently finishing her Master’s degree through the University of Florence in Comparative European and American Languages and Literatures.
As Student Affairs Coordinator at the University of New Haven in Prato, Lauren is in charge of organizing student activities, volunteer opportunities, and excursions, managing communications with students, and overseeing the school’s social media presence. Having walked in their shoes, Lauren understands what it is like to be an American transplant in Italy, and enjoys sharing her insight into the local culture and territory with fellow study abroad students.
Lauren enjoys traveling, reading, and taking her dogs for walks along the Bisenzio river. She is big sci-fi fan and one of her favorite local events is the annual Lucca Comics festival.
Lara Pugi was born in Florence, spent her childhood in the Chianti area, and now lives in Prato.
During her time at the University of Florence, Lara worked in the marketing office of a clothing designer and manufacturer. After completing her degree in Media and Journalism, she continued to work in the communication and marketing fields, gaining experience in international firms that ranged from the pharmaceutical industry to the nonprofit sector.
Lara has worked at the Tuscany Campus since its founding in 2012. As Program Coordinator, her responsibilities include overseeing the meal plan, the local immigration process, local press and media relations, and assisting staff and students with classroom facilities and resources. As a resident of Prato, she’s also an excellent resource for any information you may need on local shops, restaurants, and services.
Lara has traveled throughout Europe as well as visited the United States. In her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis and hiking and is especially interested in cinema, music, and literature.
Alessandro Risaliti was born and raised in Prato. After graduating from high school as a textile technician, he spent a month studying at the University of San Diego, perfecting his English.
As a representative of the textile industry for which Prato is famous, Alessandro has traveled and worked in several international locations throughout Europe, as well as overseas in places such as Canada and Hong Kong. Alessandro has worked at the Tuscany Campus since 2012. He manages all campus technology, facilities development, and petty cash. He also organizes the school’s jogging club and supervises the campus hikes.
In his spare time, Alessandro enjoys jogging, hiking, riding motorcycles, scuba diving, skiing, and collecting luxury watches.
Tour Guide & Housing Manager
From Prato, Silvia graduated cum laude (with honor) in modern languages from the University of Florence with a specialization in British literature and the Grand Tour. After many years of working in the family textile agency as export manager, in 2002 she became a professional tour guide for the Provinces of Prato and Florence. In the same year, she began organizing educational conferences and historical tours for the Monash University center in Prato.
She is an active translator and research assistant for writers and scholars. Since 2012, she has also been active in the creation and development of the Tuscany Campus. Her responsibilities include faculty and student housing, excursions and activities, as well as programming and on-site teaching for special group visits to Prato. She loves the sea, traveling, reading, walking, food, and wine.
Residential Life Director
Vania Ruzzi was born and raised in Pistoia, a small city 15 minutes away from Prato. She is completing her degree in Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of Florence. She studies English, Spanish, and Portuguese. She spent six months in San Francisco, California, tutoring children. She has also spent a lot of time in Scotland.
As Residential Life Director, Vania manages all aspects regarding the students’ Residential Life: housing, rooming, coordination and supervising of Ras, maintenance, health and safety, dorm meetings, and more. She handles any issue or concern regarding student conduct with the campus residences. Vania is also available to the students for any sort of problem that may arise during their stay in the residence while abroad, from roommate disagreements to dealing with culture shock and missing home. Finally, she also coordinates the VIP Teaching Program.
She has worked as a private teacher and has previously worked in the field of Study Abroad. Vania loves writing, music, and traveling. She likes visiting new places and finding out how people live in other countries. She thinks different cultures and languages are two of the most fascinating things about being human and that being different is an underestimated richness. Her favorite city in Europe is Lisbon, but she would love to go back to Ireland and spend some time there. Also, living by the sea makes her happy. One of her goals is to publish a good book and finally see her dream come true: do the “Route 66”!