Category: Uncategorized

Don’t Miss ‘Empowering Women in STEM’!

April 24th, 6:00 p.m. at Villa Sassetti, Via Bolognese, 120, 50139 Firenze

Abstract: The dialogue “Empowering Women in STEM” is a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and locally engaged initiative, designed to promote diversity and female presence in the STEM fields in Italy and Europe. The movement to increase female presence in the STEM fields has grown over the past several decades. However, the issue still remains and is underestimated. The stereotypes in today’s society make it hard for minorities to prove their qualification for jobs, having to agree to lower pay and even face sexual harassment at the workplace. Breaking stereotypes and holding truthful conversations is crucial in the process of raising awareness in society. The goal of “Empowering women in STEM” Dialogue in Florence is to step away from stereotypical images of the scientist, initiate a diverse and inclusive discussion, and share ways of getting involved in the movement. Respect and inclusion are the keys to fighting the problem of female underrepresentation in STEM.



18:05 – 18:10 – Alice and Yana open the event

18:10 – 18:30 – Caroline Dahl – An overview on the issue

18:30 – 19:15 – Curated panel discussion

19:15 – 19:45 – Q&A panel discussion

19:45 – 20:00 – Concluding remarks



Caroline Dahl – ​Clinical Innovation Fellow, PhD, CTO, Ortrud


Caroline Dahl is CTO and co-founder at Ortrud Medical, a Swedish company that makes an intelligent tourniquet for intravenous access. In her work she applies engineering principles to biology. Her background is in synthetic biology as part of the University of Edinburgh iGEM team at MIT, systems biology and biophysics at the University of Oxford, and executable biology as software engineer at Microsoft Research. Today she is a Clinical Innovation Fellow at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and assists technological innovation based on her background in wet, soft and hardware. To promote and create environments that support work and knowledge exchange, she is on the board of Stockholm Makerspace, co-organises the Sthlm Hardware meetup, and founded the Geek Girl Startup group for Swedish women tech entrepreneurs. She mentors Uppsala and Stockholm medtech teams, and teaches electrical power generation to ten-year-olds. In addition, she is an active member of Tekla, MakerTjej and MakerSheroes networks – great initiatives that show female tech presence and leadership by teaching.

Patrizia Guaitani– Executive Infrastructure Architect and Manager of Storage and Software Defined Infrastructure, IBM Systems and Technology Group IBM Italy Women In Technology


​Guaitani ​leads a team of technical experts in traditional storage and next generation data center environments with her work on IBM’s software defined environment strategy. She is the leader of skill development for IBM’s Systems Team in support of new strategic initiatives, such as the use of Cognitive Computing, Hybrid Cloud, Analytics, and Artificial Intelligence. During the last eighteen years at IBM, Patrizia has held other technical roles in leading the design and implementation of IBM’s innovative technical solutions for banking and insurance. Prior to working for IBM, Guaitani spent fourteen years with ST Microelectronics. This year, Patrizia was nominated by IBM General Motors as a Women In Technology Leader.

Svetlana Videnova Product Definition Analyst, Amadeus

Bulgaria / France / UK
​Born in Bulgaria and raised in France since the age of 13, Svetlana Videnova speaks both languages, and English, fluently. She completed a degree in Computer Science in Toulouse at European Institute of Technology, followed by a year at California State University of San Marcos to study Intercultural Communication in order to expand her academic knowledge beyond programming languages. Whilst studying, Svetlana undertook numerous work internships to gain practical experience as both a developer and a Project Manager. At the end of her studies, Svetlana accepted a role as Technical Account Manager at the French Fintech start-up Mangopay, a role which brought her to London to help with the expansion of the company. With her international background and passion for discovering diverse cultures and mindsets, she moved into the technically complex travel industry as Product Definition Analyst at Amadeus, a major European IT Provider for the global travel and tourism industry.

CHNDY: The Middle East, As Shown By A Middle Eastern Artist

On April 3, La Pietra Dialogues invited Mohamed Al Kindi, known professionally as Chndy, to host a students-only discussion on the filmmaker, photographer, and visual artist’s past and current projects.  Students gathered in Villa Sassetti to listen to Chndy’s insights on art, creativity, and identity. In addition, videos and photography were viewed and reflected upon during the question and answer portion.

Read below for photographs taken from the artist’s website, along with more information about the dialogue.
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Performance by Bachar Mar-Khalifé at the Middle East Film Festival: Tuesday April 4 @ 8 PM at Cinema La Compagnia


At 8 years old, Bachar Mar-Khalifé and his family fled their civil war torn country in Lebanon to France. In France, Mar-Khalifé developed his musical skills as an instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. He graduated from the Conservatoire de Paris and has released three albums since. His debut album, “Oil Slick,” (2010) took ten years to complete, while his latest album, “Ya Balad,” (2015) took him 10 days to complete. In “Ya Balad” (“Oh, Country”), he responds to the Lebanese Civil War and his country’s remnants of destruction and political turmoil. He reflects on his family’s need to flee their country, and the current state of Lebanon.

In this album, the multi-instrumentalist experiments with different sounds and instrumentals that make it impossible to put his music into a specific genre. His music merges jazz, indie, folk, rock, electronic, and classical to create a unique sound. Through his music, he is able to draw forth feelings of peace, fear, confusion, and desperation. In this very personal album, Mar-Khalifé sings in Arabic but, is able to convey strong emotional and political messages regardless of this language barrier.

His album sparked controversy for containing underlying sexual messages and other messages that were believed to go against God, and was even censored in Lebanon. His song, “Kyrie Eleison” (meaning “God have mercy” in Greek) was highly controversial and Lebanese authorities stated that he would not be allowed to promote his album in Lebanon unless this song was deleted from the album.

Mar-Khalifé has spoken up about this issue on Facebook, releasing a statement in Arabic, French and English on April 13, 2016: “I sang KYRIE Eleison, and more powerfully as ever, exactly as I sang it in Beirut and as I will sing it wherever I want to scream at the political and religious institutions who want to govern our lives as if we are still living in the Middle Ages. I scream for my humanity against the processes that repress the spirit. I scream against the cultural and intellectual poverty imposed by a model of society where money is the sole reference. I scream for my being, refusing to be submitted to anyone or anything. I doubt, I seek, I question, I sing, I surrender, I do not surrender, I let it go, I continue, I sing, I like, I drink, I dance, I do wrong, I live.”

The inner conflict that Mar-Khalifé undergoes regarding his national, religious, and political identity can resonate with those who feel repressed in any aspect of their identity.

Mar-Khalifé will be performing this album on April 4th at Cinema La Compagnia (Via Cavour, 50r) at 9 PM for the Middle East Film Festival. His album is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud. Take a listen and join us for this exciting event!

Middle East Now Festival 2017

The Middle East Now Film Festival (MEN) will be returning this week, April 4th to 9th, for its 7th annual celebration of Middle Eastern and North African cinema, art, and culture this April. Taking place at the new Compagnia Theater in downtown Florence, the festival will investigate the theme of the Urban Middle East.

This year’s festival looks at the city as a metaphor for life. Cities are inherently cultural hubs, where people from all backgrounds and experiences come to create and share with others. MEN uses the city as a vehicle to understand in a fuller sense what constitutes the contemporary Middle East.

MEN will be bringing in documentary, narrative, and animated films from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE and Yemen.

Outside of film, artists of all types including, musicians, chefs, and other contributors of culture will look at the varying breadth of what constitutes the urban Middle East. This diverse collection of art will help facilitate a dialogue on the contemporary Urban Middle Eastern identity.

In addition to the festival screenings and prizes, MEN will also have an array of special events. This includes a screening of “The Last Man in Aleppo”, a Sundance award winning documentary about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, a special feature on Female Directors in the Middle East, photography by Tasneem Alsultan, and cooking classes in contemporary Iranian Food from Philip Juma of Juma Kitchen.

Saudi Tales Of Love by Tasneem Alsultan

We look forward to seeing you April 4th – 9th! NYU Florence students will be jurying the “NYU Best Short Film” prize and presenting the award at the closing ceremony on April 9th, come show your support!

If you would like more information about the festival contact Kira (, who is interning at the festival this semester.

A Brief Introduction to the Syrian Civil War and the Kurdish Female Fighters Battling ISIS

During the Kurdish Liberation Movement of the 1970s and 1980s, female Peshmerga (a Kurdish word meaning “facing death”) guerrillas in Iraqi Kurdistan established a reputation as fierce fighters. The women of the YPJ (an acronym which translates to “Women’s Protection Units”) are continuing in the tradition of Kurdish female fighters as they challenge ISIS in Syria. The YPJ is the female brigade of the armed forces of the Syrian region of Kurdistan. Formed in 2012, the YPJ has amassed an army of over 10,000 volunteer troops and has become vital in the fight against ISIS. The women of the YPJ recognize that ISIS targets women and fight for their own freedom first, then for the freedom of their people and their land, according to one of the fighters who spoke with Patrick Cockburn at the Independent. They know that, if they are captured, they will be raped and murdered, so the soldiers fight with the awareness that losing is not an option. They say that ISIS fears them, because the men believe that if they are killed by a woman in battle then they are disgraced and will not go to heaven. Although they use this fear to their advantage, the Kurdish female fighters believe their womanhood is not the only thing that ISIS should be afraid of. In recent months, the battle between ISIS and the YPJ has gotten incredibly tense. The “Wrath of Eupherates Operation”, an initiative led by Rojda Felat of the YPJ to remove ISIS from its self declared capital Raqqa began at the end of 2016, and Felat vows that the mission will be over by the end of the year. In January, Felat told, an online platform for news, context and insight about Kurdish Matters, “We assure that 2017 is the year of ISIS’ annihilation…The people of Raqqa should be ready, as the sun of freedom will be shining soon in their skies.”

Ellyn Toscano Presents Villa La Pietra’s ReSignifications Project in Palermo

Photo Palermo
On Stage from left Palermo Deputy Mayor for Culture Andrea Cusumano, University of Palermo Professor Alessandra Di Maio, Mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando, Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, Ellyn Toscano and Awam Amkpa

Ellyn Toscano, NYU Florence Executive Director and Founder and Director of La Pietra Dialogues, participated in the colloquium Archipelago Nero with Nobel Prize winning writer Wole Soyinka and NYU Professor Awam Amkpa in Palermo over the weekend. As guests of the Mayor of Palermo and University of Palermo Professor Alessandra Di Maio, Toscano and Amkpa spoke about the ground breaking ‘ReSignifications: Imagining the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories‘ multi-media art exhibition and artistic dialogue, held in Florence at Villa La Pietra and The Bardini Museum in 2015.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 11.03.30

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NYU Florence Poll Results

Last Thursday, November 10th 2016, Kennedy Hill and I polled some of the NYU Florence student body regarding the results of the 2016 Election. We received 54 responses, which is about a sixth of the entire student body. These results are not reflective of the entire student body sentiment at NYU Florence. Instead, they serve as a way to gauge the general themes of the NYU Florence student body’s political opinions.

Here are the questions we asked:

Did you vote?

Did you think Trump would win?

Are you satisfied with the election results (President, Senate, House)

Are there people in your political or personal sphere who accurately predicted the results?

Are you more pessimistic or optimistic about politics post election?

Are you more likely to be politically engaged post election?

Are you more likely to participate in protest post election?

Results are as follows:

55.6% voted in the General Election

37% didn’t vote in the General Election

7.4% not US citizens

87% of students did not think Trump would win.

88.9% of people are UNSATISFIED with the Presidential, House, and Senate results

59.3% did not have people in their personal or political sphere who predicted Trumps win .

61.1% are more pessimistic, 29.6% neither , 9.3% optimistic

74.1% likely to be more politically engaged

55.6% more likely to protest post election

What these results reflect is relatively unsurprising. We represent general trends of our generation, the millennial generation, as a whole. About half of eligible voters between the age of 18 and 32 (the approximate millennial age range) voted in the General Election. The overwhelming majority of students both myself and Kennedy have encountered over our three years at NYU are socially and politically left, including those studying here in Florence. We were overwhelmingly surprised by Trump’s victory, and feel generally unhappy with the results of the General Election. Again, this falls in line with overall millennial sentiment. If only millennials had voted in the election, Clinton would have won by a landslide. We are more pessimistic about politics than before the election, and yet are more likely to be politically active and engage in protest.

Millennials are the generation who will feel the effects of the policies of the Trump White House for decades to come. Prior to the election, we were a generation with record levels of political apathy.  It seems that this election may be the catalyst which inspires and Millennials.