The Scholars Program
Ignite your curiosity; Pursue your passion

The Scholars Program
for Independent Research

The Scholars Program offers students the chance to maximize their study abroad experience by engaging in an individualized research project under the mentorship of an Umbra Institute professor and utilizing the unique resources of Perugia and the surrounding regions. The goal is to push students to expand their intellectual and personal boundaries to explore, discover, learn, and create new ideas in an international setting. Features of the Scholars Program include enriching coursework and field experiences, enhanced cultural immersion, and collaboration with other highly motivated students.

The Scholars Program is designed for students who want to:

  • Tailor their curriculum to their specific needs and interests;
  • Pursue advanced research with a faculty mentor;
  • Strengthen their analytical and research skills;
  • Increase their ability to work independently;
  • Advance their personal and intellectual growth, confidence, and motivation.

The Scholars Program Coordinator is the student’s primary contact person and works closely with the student and their home school advisers and faculty, discussing the student’s academic requirements and interests to develop a customized program and assign the appropriate faculty mentor. The process begins with a pre-program consultation, which includes an academic assessment, preparation of an approved project, and development of an overall curricular plan. Upon arrival and for the duration of the program, students enjoy ongoing guidance, counseling, and tutoring as needed. Upon completion, they can count on continuing post-program assistance and support for ongoing research, including senior theses.

Meet the Coordinator

Zachary Nowak, Ph.D. (view profile)
Dr. Zachary Nowak is the director of The Umbra Institute and an instructor for the program in Food, Sustainability, & Environment. He advises program participants from pre-departure, throughout their stay, and beyond their Umbra experience. Students should contact him to discuss their research interests and for assistance in choosing the curricular option that best fits their needs.

Program Curriculum

The Scholars program research project course awards a total of 6 credits. Students may choose one or two additional elective courses, plus the mandatory Italian language course (4 credits), for a total of 13-18 credits for the semester. The Scholars Program Coordinator is available to assist students in selecting elective courses that may complement their research focus. A standard semester for a Scholars student will be as follows:

IR 497: Independent Research Project (4 credits)
IR 400: Research Writing & Methodology Workshop (2 credits)
ITAL Italian Language – The Perugia Experience (4 credits)
Elective (3-4 credits)
Optional Elective (3-4 credits)
TOTAL: 13-18 credits


IR 297/397/497: Independent Research

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IR 400: Research Writing and Methodology

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“The Research Scholars program provided me with a unique opportunity as an undergraduate student. Not only was I able to engage in direct ethnographic research—it was in a global setting. Working directly with a faculty member mentor exponentially improved my academic writing skills, while interviewing locals helped me pick up Italian quickly.” 

Gabriella Paiella, Northeastern University


Faculty Mentors

In addition to the Coordinator, each Umbra Scholar is assigned a faculty mentor based on their area of research. Faculty mentors help guide the students through every stage of their research and provide assistance and tutoring as needed. In turn, students are encouraged to be in touch with faculty members at their home institutions in order to ensure the project meets any special academic requirements for transferable credit.

The Umbra Institute is committed to the highest standard of academic excellence. Our close-knit vibrant community of scholars and researchers is comprised of experts who are active scholars in their respective fields and who have a commitment to fostering intellectual growth. Umbra Scholars may be assigned a research advisor from the Umbra faculty or from among the international academic community in Perugia. All professors are dedicated to delivering engaging, challenging, and meaningful coursework coupled with on-site and experiential learning.

Ready to become
the next Umbra Scholar?



Admission Requirements

Admission into the Scholars Program is highly selective.

Students accepted into the program should possess a superior academic record and demonstrate the maturity, motivation, responsibility, and interest in the extended inquiry required for this program. Students wishing to participate in the Umbra Scholars Program must at least have a 3.5 GPA or a GPA of at least 3.0 plus a letter of recommendation and approval from the Program Coordinator.

All students intending to participate in the Umbra Scholars Program must submit a formal inquiry, highlighting their research goals and interests. The program coordinator will then contact prospective scholars as early as possible in order to discuss their curricular interests and plan effectively for their research or language acquisition experience in Perugia.