Get to know Renato Ventura

Renato VenturaRenato Ventura was born in Syracuse on the island of Sicily in Italy, overlooking the ocean. He grew up there and became a journalist, a career he continued for eight years. While Americans vacation in Italy to eat, relax and sight-see, Renato vacationed in America, Connecticut to be exact, and met a professor who convinced him to go back to school.

Renato moved permanently to the United States in 1999. Soon after, he earned his Bachelor's degree in English at Trinity College in Hartford CT, spent a year studying abroad in Rome, and earned his Ph.D., also at the University of Connecticut. In 2010, Renato found the University of Dayton.

"I arrived here and honestly, I was a little bit scared. Catholic? Marianist? Should I pray before I go in [for my interview]?" he said, chuckling. "Then, I had the most wonderful day at UD. Every person I met, they were so nice."

After that interview, boarding a plane back to Connecticut, Renato phoned a friend. "I don't know what it is, but I feel completely filled with positive energy," he said. "I knew I was in a good place."

He remembers that weekend interview, and how he joked to Dean Benson that he couldn't find a single thing wrong with the campus, but to perhaps give him a couple of years and the impression could change. Recently, Renato met with Dean Benson for breakfast and told him, "Dean, I've been here three years and I still haven't found anything wrong!"

Since his arrival three years ago, Renato has taught classes from beginner and advanced Italian, to Italian cinema, as well as Italian poets Dante and Bocaccio. He loves to teach and considers himself fortunate to have found the profession, after brief and unpleasant stints as a law student and a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. From his beloved career in Italy as a journalist, Renato sees the move to teaching as a logical transition.

The same curiosity that inspired him in his radio and TV jobs now pushes him through the research he does in a branch of gender studies he calls "the study of masculinity."

"I've always had this curiosity about, 'What is a man? How do we define a man?'" he explained. His most current research examines four Italian writers and two Italian films, trying to understand "how the male identity or masculinity has been negotiated and redefined in the past 40 years."

Renato attends conferences, at least three each year, meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends and colleagues. With their help, his first book will be published in May.

Even outside of the classroom, it seems Renato can never escape his job. He created the UD Italian Club, and enjoys the film events they host each semester. He created an Italian show on the radio which airs every Wednesday, from 7 to 8 p.m., playing Italian music and interviewing his language students in Italian. Renato also hosts an "Italian table" each Wednesday at KU, where he sits with a little Italian flag and his students come and visit with him.

"If they need help with Italian, fine. If not, we can just talk and have lunch," he said.

Renato plays the trumpet, a hobby he anticipates returning to after he receives tenure. He adamantly insists entering the classroom is his greatest form of stress relief — Every time he goes in to teach a class, "I totally forget where I am, what I'm doing, all my problems" When looking for something to unwind with at home at night, he turns to video games. Yet, even while playing Lord of the Rings online, Renato still can't separate the activity from his passion for academia.

"I want, if possible, to create a video game for languages," he said, launching into a description of a video game concept he hopes to build using UD talent that would cater the study of languages to the video game generation. "I don't understand how Microsoft didn't think about it!" he laughed. "I think it would be absolutely successful."

Renato lives only five minutes from campus, in Oakwood. He makes himself fully available to his students at any time of any day. He enjoys frequenting the Oregon District, The Neon downtown, and Yellow Springs when he can get out there. "I'm looking forward to exploring more of Ohio," he said. He thoroughly enjoys his time here, both in the United States and right here on campus.

"The ocean is something that I miss," he said, remembering the view from his childhood window of the Ionian Sea. "But I made a promise to myself that if I ever miss my country, it means that I'm not in the right place, and I will pack up and go back. In 14 years, I have never missed my country. [UD is] a perfect campus," he continued. "Our students are great. And, my colleagues, they are fantastic."