Faculty Spotlight: Thomas Vitiello, IES Abroad Nice

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IES Abroad

Nice, France


Professor Thomas Vitiello has been teaching at IES Abroad Nice since the opening of the Center in Fall 2015. He received his B.A. in Political Science from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Grenoble, in France, and his M.S. in European Communication Studies from the University of Amsterdam. Professor Vitiello is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science at both Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey, and Sciences Po in Paris, France. He is a gifted scholar, lecturer, and speaks French, Italian, English, Spanish, and bit of Turkish.


IES Abroad: What courses can IES Abroad students take with you in Nice, France?

study in france

Thomas Vitiello: I currently teach PO 370 French Politics: Power, Actors and Issues in the 5th Republic.

This course was particularly relevant this past year. In fact, I held a discussion about the political consequences of the November 2015 Paris attacks, focusing on the institutional reaction—specifically the emergency state on the whole territory, and the president's address to the French congress. The discussion at the IES Abroad Nice Center was heartily attended and we had a robust question and answer session. I also recorded the presentation as a webinar and made it available to all of the IES Abroad Centers.

More recently, following the March 2016 attacks in Belgium, I recreated a similar discussion for all of our Spring 2016 Nice students.

IES Abroad: What has been the most frequently asked question from students in your French Politics course? What is your response?

TV: Students often ask about the impact of current events on national and international politics. In my opinion, it shows their curiosity and eagerness to understand the ramification of a political event. My answers always entail a contextualization of such event within the broader political discussion of the moment, and within the history of French politics. Although the media makes us feel like political earthquakes are about to happen at any time, politics is more about the slow social, economic, and cultural changes underway within society. Sure, a shock will happen once in a while, but we need to keep our focus on the larger trends that are taking place in front of us.

IES Abroad: With everything going on politically in Europe, why would you advise students that studying abroad is more important now than ever?

study abroad in franceTV: Current political and economic events are a reminder that we live in an increasingly interconnected world. Policies adopted in one country often have consequences that spread to other countries, bilateral and multilateral trade agreements are multiplying, and stakes, such as climate change or terrorism are global issues. Confronted with such a globalized world, the best way to understand and to come forward with solutions is if we, as individuals, spend time abroad learning about other cultures and confronting ourselves with other points of views. It seems to me that whoever wishes to comprehend our complex societies will greatly benefit from study abroad.

In addition, I believe that studying abroad is also a personal journey during which you learn about yourself. I know this was true for myself, studying abroad in Denmark and in the Netherlands helped me understand my own culture better; what I liked about it, but also what I disliked about it. Living abroad enriches you as you learn about another society, but by confrontation with this new environment, you also sharpen the understanding of your own culture and of your own self.

IES Abroad: What do you hope students take away from their study abroad experience in Nice?

nice, franceTV: Nice is a middle-sized city where you can go almost everywhere by walking or biking. I think this feature allows students to connect with an urban environment that in large cities may feel distant and anonymous. As Nice is well-connected to other European countries and to major large cities in the region, foreign students often organize trips to make the best out of their study abroad experience (and they should!), but I really hope that they also take the time to enjoy hanging out in Nice and its surroundings.

IES Abroad: You’ve authored several articles in peer-reviewed journals, chapters of books, and conference papers. What kind of academic research excites you most?

TV: My academic research has almost exclusively relied on data collected through online Voting Advice Applications (VAAs). VAAs are web-based software tools that typically elicit information on users’ policy preferences. They then compare this data to the policy positions of candidates or political parties; on this basis, VAAs issue personalized voting advice to each user. I have been a member of a team of researchers developing and launching such applications in France since 2012 when we launched the VAA “La Boussole présidentielle” for the 2012 French Presidential election, followed by “La Boussole européenne” for the 2014 European elections. France will go through an exciting electoral sequence in the year to come with primary elections in Fall 2016 and with the presidential and parliamentary elections in the Spring 2017. Hence, we are gearing up to launch a new VAA soon, which will then provide data to new insightful research!

IES Abroad: What has been your proudest teaching moment or career achievement?

study in nice TV: My proudest teaching moment was spread over a week last fall; it was the week after the Paris attacks that took place on November 13. Due to the topics I teach at IES Abroad and in Sciences Po Paris (French Politics, Public Opinion, Personalization of Politics, and so on), I spent most of that week’s classes discussing current events with the students. In all my classes, students needed to talk, to ask questions, to verbalize their emotions, but most of all to understand the causes and the consequences of what happened, not only within French society, but also globally.

I lived for four years in Turkey, and I was able to provide elements of answers about what is going on in the Middle East, and more particularly in Syria. Even though I felt emotionally drained after that week, I have never felt as satisfied as after that week of my role of a professor. I love sharing and transmitting knowledge to students, and that week I felt that I had done it for something bigger than my courses.

Interested in taking Professor Vitiello’s course? Apply today to study abroad in Nice, France

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