Crowd standing around a Roman fountain

Rome Empower Program

Located near the center of Rome and Vatican City, the Bernardi Campus serves as a base for St. Thomas students as they study various courses from organic chemistry to philosophy. The Bernardi Campus helps students immerse themselves in the rich history of Rome while staying on track to graduate on time from St. Thomas.

Designed for first-semester sophomores, the Rome Empower Program perfectly blends classroom with real world. Site visits, weekend excursions and cultural events immerse you in a new culture and broaden your perspective on the world, bringing relevance to the classroom and allowing you to think across disciplines.

Accepted priority deadline applicants automatically receive a $2,000 Empower Study Abroad scholarship from The College of Arts and Sciences to offset additional expenses like airfare and meals.

Get a glimpse of a day in the life of the Rome Empower Program. 

Interested in learning more? Attend a Fall 2023 Rome Empower Info Session.


  • Sophomore standing or higher at the time of the program
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5
  • Good disciplinary standing 
  • Complete the online application and interview with faculty Program Directors 

Application Process

  • Access to the online application for the Rome Empower Program will be granted to you following attendance at a Rome Empower Information Session or advising appointment with the Office of Study Abroad Rome Program Manager. Access to the application will not be granted prior to attendance at one of these sessions. 
  • The Rome Empower Program Fall 2023 priority deadline is December 1, 2022. 
  • Applications submitted after the prioity deadline will be considered on rolling admission, space-available basis until March 15, 2023.

Selection Process

  • Application review by the Office of Study Abroad and the faculty Program Directors
  • Interviews with faculty Program Directors 
  • Students notified of official admission decision and next steps 

The program is limited to 35 students.
Note to Accepted Students:  All students accepted into the Rome Empower Program are required to attend all scheduled pre-departure meetings and orientation sessions. These meetings will take place during the Spring semester, dates will be sent with approval notifications.

Courses Offered 
Students select four courses from the course offerings. Each course fulfills a St. Thomas requirement, is 4-credits, and is taught in English. Courses will take place at the AIFS Global Study Center located near the Piazza Navona. The Chemistry lab will be taught at La Sapienza University. The English course and Chemistry course/lab will be taught by the University of St. Thomas faculty Program Directors. All other courses will be taught by local faculty in Rome.

Fall 2023 Courses: 

  • Art History 310: Roman Art and Archaeology
    • The course examines the main motives and themes related with study, analysis and appreciation of ancient Roman art and archaeology. You will study the Idea of Classic, so largely part of the western culture, analyze Greek art and its relation with Roman art, and investigate subjects such as continuity, discontinuity, inspiration from antiquity and misunderstanding of antiquity. The city of Rome with its wealth of historical, artistic and architectural heritage provides an open air classroom and the best instruments for this art itinerary. Much of the course is taught on site. 

    • Can fulfill either the Fine Arts requirement or the Integrations in the Humanities requirement but not both.
  • ENGL 203: Contemporary Italian Migrant Narratives
    • This class will introduce students to a vitally important subject in present day Italy: how (im)migrant artists are redefining Italian culture and bringing to the forefront important questions about power, belonging, and national identity. Students will read writers, such as Cristina Ali Farah, Pap Khouma, and Igiaba Scego and watch films by Phaim Bhuiyan, Amin Nour, Laila Petrone, and Dagmawi Yimer. Students will also learn about organizations such as Italiani senza cittadinanza that will introduce us to an Italy that often remains in the shadows.    

    • Core requirements met: Writing Intensive; Integrations in the Humanities 

  • Chemistry 201:Organic Chemistry 1
    • No core fulfillment, but a course required or recommended for many natural science majors/pre-health professions.
  • History 111
    • This course examines significant political, socio-economic, religious, and cultural developments of the ancient Near East, ancient and medieval India, Graeco-Roman civilization, and ancient and medieval China, ancient Japan, Islamic civilization, ancient African and American societies, and medieval Europe and the Renaissance. As beliefs and socio-political concepts and practices of various civilizations formulated and developed during this period still exert a weight influence upon our modern world, this course aims to provide a foundation for our understanding of the highly interdependent and interrelated contemporary world. 

    • Fulfills the Historic Analysis requirement.
  • Philosophy 245: Philosophy of Arts and Beauty
    • Art and beauty give meaning to many people’s lives and have been considered common goods by many thinkers including those in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (CIT). Many (e.g. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Hans Urs von Balthasar) in that tradition have also argued that experiences of beauty provide reasons to hold that God exists and that truth is knowable. There also seem to be connections between experiencing beauty and being formed in virtue.  In this course, we will consider what philosophers, especially in the CIT, have said about art, beauty, and related aesthetic qualities, and how, on that basis, we can think about these things philosophically ourselves. We will think about what it takes for something to be beautiful, what it takes for something to be considered an artwork, what the role of beauty and art are in a flourishing life, what other aesthetic qualities there are besides beauty, and what art and beauty have to do with God. To accomplish all of this, we will throughout the class examine examples of artwork and other beautiful objects, including a number of films, paintings, musical works, and scenes from nature and architecture, especially objects having to do with the Catholic tradition.

    • Can fulfill either the third course for the Philosophy and Theology requirement or the Integrations in the Humanities requirement but not both. 
  • Theology 223: Belief: Christ in Rome
    • This course will explore how Christians lived and continue to live their faith in Rome yesterday and today through exploring the history, theology, art and spirituality from the first centuries of the Church of Rome to the present day. Participants will explore the history and spirituality of the church of Rome from its foundation through its legalization under Constantine and the emergence of the papacy. Rome has been a center of Christianity for nearly two thousand years. The monuments, art and architecture of the city reveal some important dimensions of how Christians lived in various ages. Participants will discover how the theology of martyrdom shaped the lives of early believers and how the Apostles Peter and Paul became pivotal in shaping the emerging governance of the early Church. We will study how the early Christians worshipped together in house churches, explore the significance of some exemplary male and female saints, reflect on the commitment of the early Christians to serving the poor, and consider how all this impacts Christianity today.

    • Can fulfill either the third course for the Philosophy and Theology requirement or the Integrations in the Humanities requirement but not both. 

Additionally, a 2-credit (ITAL 199Y: Conversational Italian) introductory Italian language course is required for all students. 



Students will live at the St. Thomas Bernardi Residence. Bernardi is well-situated in the Prati neighborhood of Rome on the west bank of the Tiber River and across from the Borghese Gardens. Students will have convenient access to restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, banks, and shops. The residence is just blocks away from a metro station and various nearby bus routes.
Amenities at Bernardi include: single, double and triple rooms, a shared dining room and kitchen, library, lounge, computer lab, self-service laundry, chapel, and rooftop terrace with views of St. Peter’s and the Piazza del Popolo.
The St. Thomas faculty Program Directors and the Bernardi Director live on-site and provide 24-hour student support.

Seven breakfasts and one dinner per week are included in the program fee. Students will have access to kitchen facilities and nearby grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes.

Accepted students will be required to attend all pre-departure meetings as well as the large-group semester orientation during the Spring semester prior to their departure. Dates of these meetings will be included in the official acceptance correspondence. 

Fall 2023 Program Dates
Sunday, September 10: Arrival, Move in to Bernardi 
Monday, September 11 - Sunday, September 17: Orientation, intensive Italian course period, Chemistry course begins 
Monday, September 18: First day of classes  
Friday, October 27-Wednesday, November 1: Fall Break, no classes 
Thursday, December 7: Departure, Move out of Bernardi

Fall 2023 Program Directors 

Dr. Kanishka Chowdhury

Dr. Tom Ippoliti

Thanos Zyngas, Bernardi Director
Visit the Rome Campus Website for information.

As the Fall 2023 Rome Empower program will be under 90 days in length, students will not need to obtain an Italian student visa.

Once in Rome, students are required by the Italian government to hold the I.N.A. Assitalia, the Italian national hospitalization insurance. This insurance is included in the program fee and is obtained during the orientation in Rome.
As part of the program fee, students will be enrolled in a Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) insurance plan for the duration of their program dates. Generally, CISI insurance will provide comprehensive accident/sickness, medical evacuation, repatriation, 24-7-365 worldwide assistance and a comprehensive security evacuation plan while students are abroad. Students will receive more information on the insurance plan prior to departure, including a digital/printable insurance card and a detailed policy document.

Although insurance coverage is provided in the program fee, students are required to keep their existing U.S. health insurance plans in full force during the duration of the study abroad program. 

Costs are comparable to the St. Thomas comprehensive semester fee for tuition, room and board plus the off-campus study fee. Program fees include tuition, room, partial board, site visits, and excursions within Italy. 

Students are able to use their financial aid packages in Rome as they would on the main campus in St. Paul. Additionally, all students admitted in the priority application period will automatically receive a $2,000 Empower Study Abroad scholarship from the College of Arts and Sciences. For specific questions, students should reach out to the Office of Study Abroad and the Financial Aid Office.

Program cost for each fall term will be posted by no later than April 1st each spring.