The Cultural Italian-American Organization, also known as the CIAO club, welcomes students to learn more about Italian culture in a laid-back environment.
After being inactive due to COVID-19, the club has seen a revival this year with determined students leading the charge.
One of these students is Jessica Stelzer, a junior studying journalism.
Stelzer is the current president of the CIAO club, but being president wasn’t always her plan.
“I was really trying to get more involved with OU, meet new people, try out more leadership opportunities,” she said. “I actually wasn't trying to get a leadership opportunity through CIAO, but I was in Dr. Molly's class with all of them (other club members) and I was just asking about the club and she's like, ‘oh, yeah, we don't have a president. Do you want to be the president?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, sure. That sounds good.’”
Dr. Molly Morrison is the adviser of the club and the head of the Italian department at Ohio University. However, knowing the Italian language is not a requirement to be in the club.
“It's supposed to be very chill, low stress, all about having fun and just learning in a setting that's not being tested,” Stelzer said.
Some of the activities that the CIAO club does at the bimonthly meetings are trivia, making Italian recipes and watching movies.
Despite being a more casual organization, reviving the club comes with its own difficulties.
“It's been both a challenge but also really exciting because we don't have previous leadership to work off of,” Stelzer said. “I don't even know when the club was last revived, before COVID I know at least.”
Thankfully, this has not been something that Stelzer had to do alone.
“Trying to go from scratch has been a little hard,” she said. “Dr. Molly has been a huge help and (other club members) have been a huge help.”
One of these people is Payton Basso, a sophomore studying political science pre-law.
“I started taking Italian my first semester my freshman year and I actually really enjoyed it, and Jessica reached out to me to start the club back up again and I was really interested in it and I love learning about the culture,” she said.
While Basso found interest for the culture in the classroom, for Johnny Susany, a sophomore studying political science and the treasurer of CIAO, it was more about his cultural background.
“I come from an Italian family and growing up with Italian culture was a big part of my life,” he said. “The opportunity to be in a club where that's the focus you share with people and engage with people about it was an exciting opportunity.”
The club allows people to learn something new about a culture that they may have previously misunderstood.
“I think Italy has so much more to offer than just the generic pizza, pasta – it has such a vibrant history of tradition,” Susany said. “There's so much passion in our community, and for Italian Americans that doesn't end there so I think the opportunity to be able to share that passion and that tradition with other people is really cool.”
Even though the CIAO club is finished with meetings for the year, they welcome anyone who is interested in learning more to stop by their meetings, which take place every other Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Gordy Hall, room 113.
“(I hope) that anyone who wants to participate does and that we just keep doing activities that kind of leave people feeling like they're glad that they came and that they learned something new,” Stelzer said.