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An unexpected partnership between the University of Cagliari (“UniCa”) and The John Marshall Law School of Chicago


Originally published on (p.29)

By Tommaso Lecca

One corner of Italy that is largely unknown to many people is the beautiful island of Sardinia. In fact, some maps of Italy (such as one on a popular pizza box you have probably seen) entirely forget to include the island Sardinia, which is the second largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily.

In 1998, Professor William B.T. Mock of The John Marshall Law School joined a visiting professor program at the University of Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. His experience quickly resulted in a sister school agreement between The John Marshall Law School and the University of Cagliari Faculty of Law. In the years since the agreement was established, many Italian law students came to study in Chicago and students from The John Marshall Law School went to Sardinia. There have been numerous exchanges of professors and scholars researching cutting-edge legal topics. In 2012, The John Marshall Law School and the University of Cagliari held the first Mare Nostrum Academic Conference in Cagliari to explore legal issues in the Mediterranean.

The successful collaborations with Cagliari have produced other events in Italy. The John Marshall Law School hosted a Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona in 2014, an event so successful that it will return in May 2016 for the next Global Legal Skills. These events are attended by a lawyers and law students from around the world, all gathered in Italy. Professor Mark Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School is the founder and a conference chair of the conference in Verona, and Professor Mock serves on the program committee for the conference.

The connection between John Marshall and Italy is strong. One need only hear the comments of Italian law students who have come to Chicago to pursue academic research at The John Marshall Law School.

Eliana Garau from Cagliari, remembering her time spent researching at The John Marshall Law School in 2014, said: “I didn’t expect such a change in my life before leaving. I thought only three months in Chicago wouldn’t have an impact on my life, either in personal or professional terms. But my time in Chicago offered me the opportunity to maximize my research work and I learned how to conform to changes. This experience definitely intensified my enterprise spirit. Meeting new people and acquainting yourself with a different condition can really make the difference in your personal and professional life!”

Another Sardinian young professional, Gianluca Podda, stated on his experience: “I was at JMLS during the fall semester 2013, where I worked on my master thesis, which aimed to compare the regulatory market systems in the United States and the European Union. My experience at JMLS was priceless, both for the practical approach that offers an American Law School and for the networking activities that weekly took place at school and with groups like the Justinian Society of Lawyers. The importance of networking is totally underestimated in Italian universities, where this word “networking” is never heard. Also the relations with the JMLS’s professors has been very precious and are part of my best memories of Chicago.”

In 2013 Francesco Sabiu joined the visiting student program, which left him good memories for several reasons: “Because I’ve always felt comfortable with living in Chicago, both for welcoming received by The John Marshall Law School, and for the (unexpected) hospitality by American people. Over that period I conducted my dissertation research thanks to an international level database, which is not provided by Italian universities. Moreover I gained an international experience that has made my resume more attractive in labor market. The United States exceeded my expectations: I had never run across such a dynamic and creative professional vibe.” Francesco Parodo, another previous student who attended the Law School during the same months, confirms his faculty mate’s words: “My time in Chicago was definitely awesome. Everybody at the John Marshall law school was kind and hospitable. The all experience is very important from a professional point of view.”

Even if the town where these students come from is incomparable to Chicago in population and geopolitical influence, interesting features characterize Cagliari. Its urban territory of about 430,000 people constitutes the smallest Italian metropolitan city (administration halfway level between municipality and region). The location gives such importance to this town; Cagliari is the Sardinian capital. The island, situated in the heart of western Mediterranean Sea, is famous for its amazing beaches, interior wild landscapes, archeological wonders, and the remarkable quality of its food and wine. The beauty and uniqueness of this land captured illustrious intellectuals such as the English novelist Lawrence who wrote the book Sea and Sardinia, inspired by his journey from Cagliari to Nuoro in 1921. The famous Genoese songwriter Fabrizio De André, who chose the wild Sardinian nature as his adoptive land, in a dramatic quotation suggested God to give humanity a place like Sardinia as Paradise. The island gave birthplace to the 1926 Nobel Prize for Literature Grazia Deledda, who set in Sardinia her masterpieces. Despite a strong popular identity and local language different and discerned from Italian, the island played a key-role in the unification process that brought to the Italian independence and unification during the nineteenth century. When the Kingdom of Sardinia became part of Dukedom Savoy territory, the royal privilege was transmitted to the Savoy family, making successors become King. It’s undisputed among historians that without this title Vittorio Emanuele II would not have had the strategic authority to undertake the Italian countries unification process during the Risorgimento.

While discussing Sardinia, it is impossible to neglect the actual economical situation. The crisis has led to the high unemployment rate (18.2% at the moment) forcing young Sardinians to look for jobs in the “Continente” (as Sardinians refer to the rest of Italy) and, in many cases, even abroad.

Allowing young Sardinians to have educational experiences abroad is important not only for sending and hosting institutions that will benefit of a more international vibe; students and young graduates too will for sure deepen their competences and will more easily reach professional goals.

The relationship is sure to continue and to strengthen between Cagliari and Chicago. This year, Professor Mark Wojcik was awarded a one-month research grant at the University of Cagliari where he will study Italy’s compliance with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Professor Mock, asked about the future of Cagliari-Chicago cooperation, simply answered that it was “Dynamic! A talented group of professors, students, and professionals was put together thanks to this relationship. The fact that year after year we always have students who come to Chicago joining our visiting program, it means that everyone who took part in this experience shared his good memories with other students from Cagliari!”


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