The Rome Empower Program

About the Program

Let Your Wanderlust Empower You: The Rome Empower Program*
The Rome Empower Program is a signature St. Thomas study abroad opportunity that prepares you to excel in a changing, global marketplace. In this program, the classroom intersects with the real-world. Site visits, weekend excursions and cultural events immerse you in a new culture and broaden your perspective of the world, bringing relevance to the classroom and allowing you to think across disciplines.

Designed for first semester sophomores, the Rome Empower Program ensures that you stay on track for graduation while you study abroad. Since this is a St. Thomas program, there's no question that credits will transfer.

  • Choose four courses from an expanded list of classes. Participants will also take a 2-credit Italian language course.
  • Program students live together with a St. Thomas faculty directors and an on-site resident director in the St. Thomas Bernardi residence. 
  • All accepted priority deadline applicants receive a $2,000 Bernardi Rome award to help offset additional expenses, such as airfare and meals.

*Formally Rome CORE Semester


  • Sophomore standing or higher at the time of the program
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5
  • Good disciplinary standing, and
  • Complete a formal application and selection interview with Faculty Director and Office of Study Abroad Staff

Application Process

Attend a Rome Empower Information Session.  Sessions will be on:

    • Thursday, October 11, 12-1 p.m., MHC204
    • Tuesday, October 30, 12-1 p.m., MHC204
    • Small Group Sessions: MHC 212
      Thursday, November 8, 12-1 OSA Conference room
      Tuesday, November 13 12 – 1 OSA Conference room
      Friday, November 16 1 – 2 OSA resource library
      Tuesday, November 27 12 – 1 OSA resource library
      Friday, November 30 2-3 OSA resource library
      Thursday December 6 12-1 OSA Resource library
      Tuesday December 11 12-1 OSA Resource library
  1. 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 apointment at the Office of Study Abroad. Access to the application will not be granted prior to these sessions. 
  2. The Rome Empower Program priority deadline is December 15, 2018.
  3. Applications submitted after the prioity deadline will be considered on rolling admission, space-available basis until March 15, 2019.

Selection Process

  • Application review by faculty director
  • Selected students are granted a personal interview
  • Final students will be selected after the interview

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. These courses each fulfill a St. Thomas requirement, are 4-credits and are taught in English.
Course offerings: 

  • ARTH 310 (fine arts)
  • CHEM 201 (lab science) 
  • ENGL 203 (literature & writing, second-level)
  • HIST 111 (historical studies)
  • PHIL 214 (moral & philosophical reasoning, second-level)
  • THEO 251 (faith & the Catholic tradition, second-level) 

Additionally, a 2-credit introductory Italian language course is also required. Italian courses can be facilitated based on student need.

Courses will take place on the Richmond University Rome campus located near the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona. ENGL 203 will be taught by Dr. Salvatore Pane, English. CHEM 201 will be taught by Dr. William Ojala. All other courses will be taught by faculty in Rome.

Students will live on the St. Thomas Rome campus in the 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 and grocery stores, banks and shops. The residence is just blocks away from the metro station and nearby bus routes.
Amenities include: single, double and triple dormitories, dining hall, student kitchen, library, lounge, computer lab, self-service laundry, chapel and rooftop terraces with views of St. Peter’s and the Piazza del Popolo.
The St. Thomas faculty and resident director live on-site and provide 24-hour student support.

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

Students will be required to attend all pre-departure meetings as well as the large-group semester orientation during the Spring 2019 semester.
Pre-Departure Meetings
Group meeting #1: Tuesday, March 5, 12:00-1:00pm in MHC 201
Group meeting #2: Tuesday, April 9, 12:00-1:00pm in MHC 201

Italian Visa Session
Tuesday, March 19, 12:00-1:00pm in MHC 204

Spring 2019 Orientation
Saturday, April 13, 2019
8:45am – 1:00pm
OEC Auditorium

Fall 2019 Program Dates
September 7 Move-In Date
September 8-15 Orientation
September 16 Official first day of classes at Richmond
October 26-November 3 Fall Break
December 12 Last day of exams
December 13 Move-Out/Departure Date


Dr. Salvatore Pane, Academic Director Fall 2019

Prof. Salvatore Pane is an Assistant Professor in the English Department and the author of three books. He teaches everything at St. Thomas from graduate-level creative writing to general education courses that study video games or comic books as literature. Previously, he’s co-led student trips to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to speak with atomic bomb survivors and to conduct archival research in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. For the 2019 Rome Empower Program, he will offer a travel writing course that will steer students toward exploring the rich history of the Italian peninsula. He’s also very excited to see Italian soccer live while in Rome.  

Dr. William Ojala, Assistant Academic Director, Fall 2019

Dr. Bill Ojala is an associate professor in the Chemistry Department who specializes in organic chemistry, particularly the chemistry of the organic solid state.  His teaching responsibilities have included the CHEM201-CHEM202—Organic Chemistry I and II course sequence as well as CHEM296—Topics:  Organic Chemical Crystallography and CHEM340—Organic Spectroscopy.  Although he always enjoyed the chemistry courses he took on his way to becoming a chemistry professor, he still considers the one-semester course in humanities he took as a high school student to be one of the finest courses he has ever taken and probably the one that has made the most lasting impression on him. Since then, he has maintained an active interest in history and has enjoyed visiting the places and seeing the art and architecture he first met in that class almost 50 years ago. He visited Rome for the first time on a side trip during a chemistry conference in 2005, and he now looks forward to teaching his students organic chemistry there while sharing with them a full semester’s worth of museums, churches, art galleries, and ancient monuments.


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

U.S. citizens are required to obtain a visa if their stay in Italy will exceed 90 days. St. Thomas will provide guidance to all students on the program in obtaining a visa (which is actually a stamp in your passport granting permission to remain in the country for a specified period of time). Upon acceptance to the program, St. Thomas will provide you with instructions on how to apply for your visa.
Students should not plan any international travel plans during the period 90-days prior to departure for Rome since your passport needs to be submitted with your visa application.  Any international travel plans (particularly summer vacation travel prior to the Fall semester in Rome) may jeopardize your ability to obtain an Italian visa.

All students participating in St. Thomas Study Abroad programs are required to verify that they hold health and hospitalization insurance that will cover them while abroad.
Once in Rome you 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 your program fee you will be enrolled in a Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) insurance plan for your time abroad. Generally, your CISI insurance will provide comprehensive accident/sickness, medical evacuation, repatriation, 24-7-365 worldwide assistance and a comprehensive security evacuation plan while you are abroad on your program. You will receive more information on the insurance plan prior to departure.

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, site visits and excursions within Italy. 

NOTE: Fees for the Fall 2019 program are based on the St. Thomas comprehensive semester fee for tuition, room and board plus the off-campus study fee. The St. Thomas fee will be announced for the 2019-2020 academic year in February or March 2019. The program fee and budget sheets will be updated once those are announced.