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Welcome to a New Semester! Insights from Director Dr. Zach Nowak

Welcome to a new semester at the Umbra Institute in Perugia! As we embrace the start of this academic period, we have the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Zachary Nowak, our Director, who shared his insights and aspirations for this semester.


A Journey to the Umbra Institute
Originally from Rochester NY, Zach began his journey with Umbra in 2005 as a student services assistant. “It involved”, he specified “everything from chaperoning co-curricular field trips to helping professors with technology in the classroom.” His rich background, including some time in grad school in Boston (where he studied environmental geography) has deeply influenced his approach at Umbra.


First Impressions of Perugia: Seeing Through Students’ Eyes

Reflecting on the new semester, Zach said, “It’s such a gift to ‘see’ Perugia for the first time again through the students’ eyes.” As he talked about students marveling at the city’s panoramas, he added, “I fell in love with this city a long time ago and love it when others feel the same way.”


Diversified Academic Offerings at Umbra Institute

Regarding our academic programs, Zach underscored our unique approach: “We offer really specific programs in food/sustainability/environment (the FSE) and multicultural psych (MPP)”, but also provide a wide range of other courses, including, but not limited to Photography, Roman History, Ren Art…” He emphasized the importance of both depth and breadth in learning, offering students a chance to “dive deep or get a good infarinatura (an Italian word for a thorough dusting of flour) in Italian culture.”


Hopes for a Transformative Semester in Perugia

Finally, Zach shares his hopes for the students: “I hope they take something meaningful away from their courses and get to know people from different backgrounds.” He stresses the importance of the small, yet significant moments—”sitting around a table, just talking about life.” He adds, “I hope they look out the window on the train: like life, it moves fast, and it’s important to look around or you might miss it”.

Welcome to Perugia!
So, to our new students, welcome to the Umbra family! You’re joining a community where learning goes beyond the classroom, into the streets of Perugia and the hearts of its people. Here’s to a semester of discovery, connection, and unforgettable memories!


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