The Megan Laird and Raiberto Comini Italian Language Award was established to recognize and reward students demonstrating the greatest achievement, affinity or promise in mastering the Italian language and culture. It commemorates Professor Megan Laird Comini, who founded the Italian area of the department and inspired students for three decades with her intelligence, wit and boundless enthusiasm. 

Congratulations to the 2020-2021 recipients of the Comini Italian Language Award! Their work demonstrates a strong commitment to learning both the language and culture of Italy.

Alyssa Bleyle: "I am a sophomore (rising junior) at SMU majoring in English (with a creative writing specialization) and Public Policy with minors in Italian and Economics.  I chose to take Italian to fulfill my language requirement because some of my family on my mom’s side came over from Italy. I was really close with my great-grandma, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy shortly before she was born, and I got to hear her and her parents’ stories and experience some of the Italian culture through her before she passed away when I was 12. I lived only five minutes away from her growing up, so I got to hear her stories often, and she did a great job of keeping the Italian culture alive in our family. Studying Italian has helped me to feel closer to her again, and it has helped me to get closer with my grandma, who is trying to keep the stories about Italy and growing up the daughter of Italian immigrants that her mother told alive. Feeling that connection to my great-grandma grow stronger and learning from supportive and helpful professors has increased my desire to continue to learn the Italian language and about the culture, so I decided to minor in Italian. My Italian classes have been some of my favorite classes at SMU, and I am excited to continue my studies in Italian by developing my skills in the language and learning more about the culture that has been so important to me since my childhood."

MacCluskey, Willy: "I am incredibly grateful to the Italian department and the Comini family for awarding me the Italian Language Award. As a freshman, I wanted to pick a language that I would love learning; I could not have picked a better language than Italian to fulfill my goal. Going into my first Italian class last semester, I had no intentions in continuing my journey with the language past my graduation requirements because I never enjoyed taking a language during my previous experiences in high school and middle school. However, Italian has been my favorite class throughout my freshman year. As a result, I am continuing my journey in Italian next year as I aim to complete a minor in Italian Language during my undergraduate career at SMU. In addition to my Italian minor, I attend the Cox School of Business where I intend to earn a degree in finance. I believe that a language minor will be a great supplement with my business degree, and receiving the award furthered my confidence in fulfilling my goals."


Jackson Covert: "Buongiorno! My name is Jackson Covert, and I am a rising junior at SMU majoring in art history and world languages. I only began my journey in Italian this fall, and I have loved every step of the way. Every sound has seemed natural, every word and phrase beautiful. The one thing that has been more fun than the language itself has been our time learning about Italian culture and history, even if we have only seen brief glimpses. I cannot wait to further master the language and discover more cities, histories, and local cuisines in more advanced courses starting in August. And of course, I cannot wait to use my new skills in Italy itself! As an art history student, I intend to spend a summer excavating at an archaeological site to gain practical experience in the field. In fact, if not for Covid I would already be in situ at Marzuolo, Tuscany! On top of that, I intend to apply for a Fulbright free study grant for a laurea magistrale in Italy after I graduate. So now, next summer, and beyond, Italian language and culture are and will be a meaningful part of my education and my life as a whole. I am so excited to find out where exactly they will take me."