While there are plenty of books on Italian food and wine, nothing beats experiencing the country firsthand. Thanks to the WSU Carson College of Business and a group of generous donors, a group of WSU students were able to do just that.
This past spring, a group of 21 business students traveled to Italy with Executive Chef Jamie Callison and Director of Development Jeff Pilcher as part of the Food and Wine Tour of Italy, a program designed to immerse students in Italian culture. While in Italy, students lived in their own apartments in Florence, took culinary classes at the Apicius International School of Hospitality, went on walking tours of the nearby towns, and learned more about the food and wine of Italy.
“The students get to be a part of the society, which is more important than just learning about food,” Callison explained. “The true benefit of this trip is cultural immersion.”
As for the donors, their part in this story doesn’t end with a donation. For the last four years, the Carson College of Business has invited donors to travel to Italy with the students. The donors pay $10,000 to participate in the program and $1,000 of that goes directly to a student in the program.
“We wanted to show our donors what our students are doing overseas,” Pilcher explained. “It’s easier to get people to support our students if they’re directly involved with the student.”
What makes this year unique was that for the first time students were accompanied by non-alumni, including musicians, engineers, real estate developers, and winemakers.
The group included Donald Gooden and Joan Gooden, Pat and Diana Piermattei, Dave and Sandy Furano, and longtime WSU supporters Brion Wise and Ronda West. Wise, a WSU alum and member of the Voiland College of Engineering Executive Leadership Board, owns B Wise Vineyards in Sonoma Valley. For the past two years he has invited Callison and eight hospitality students to his vineyard to cater an event for his wine club.
For Wise and West, this trip to Italy was another opportunity to help students.
“I was inspired to go on this trip because I love Italy and thought it would be wonderful to hang out with our friends and with the students,” West said. “Helping a student with their trip cost was an added bonus.”
Wise and West decided to invite their friends to join them and told them all about the program.
“We’ve been to Italy before,” Gooden said. “This time we went solely because we’d be helping and spending time with students.”
During the program, the couples were invited to attend the same courses and tours the students attended. They spent the trip side-by-side with the students, seeing how their donations impacted a student’s experience.
“I loved getting to know the students,” Gooden said. “My student was polite and respectful and told us he couldn’t have come on this trip without us.”
And for Wise, this trip increased their respect for WSU students. Wise takes pride in helping students learn and grow and opens his winery often to young people, even going so far as to take on a WSU hospitality student as an intern this past summer. This trip to Italy just reaffirmed that it’s all worth it, he said.
“I enjoyed seeing the smiles from the students and the fun they were having in the cooking classes,” Wise said. “I really enjoyed seeing how much Italy is going to positively impact their lives.”