Lorenzo Montanari had a career as a political analyst and journalist in Italy, writing on foreign policy topics relating to Latin American and the Middle East. But he wanted to learn about lobbying—a field that is newly emerging in Italy. So Mr. Montanari quit his job and came to Washington in 2009, where he enrolled in the master’s degree in political management program at GW’s Graduate School of Political Management. In the two years since, he has not only become GSPM’s first Italian graduate, but also helped broker an agreement between GW and IULM University in Milan for a collaborative graduate program focusing on political management and communication.
“When I came to GW, I saw there were no partnerships with Italy, though the school has lots of partnerships with much of Latin American,” Mr. Montanari explained. “Lobbying and political marketing is a new field in Italy; a lot of young professionals are looking into this field and working on political campaigns.” Knowing that many Italian students would be interested in the kind of practical graduate education that GSPM specializes in, Mr. Montanari began researching universities in Italy that could become educational partners with GW. IULM University was a natural fit because it focuses exclusively on communication degrees.
Representatives from IULM University came to GW during fall 2009 to discuss plans for a potential program, and GW eventually hired Mr. Montanari to manage it. In April, representatives from both universities signed an agreement outlining the new program, which is modeled after GW’s existing GSPM partnership with the University of Navarra in Spain.
“Higher education needs to respond to the interests of people who want to work in democratic politics,” said Christopher Arterton, a GW professor of political management and the founding dean of GSPM. “We’re a school of applied politics, and we’re working to help other institutions of higher education start similar programs.”
The new Milan program has three components: institutional collaboration, faculty exchange and student exchange. The institutional collaboration component of the agreement will allow the two universities to work together to plan joint seminars and conferences on political management topics, as well as collaborate on developing curricular materials, case studies, articles and other publications.
The faculty exchange portion of the program kicked off during several weeks in May, when four GW professors traveled to Milan to teach intensive two-day seminars on topics like political game strategies, digital political communication, crisis communication and campaign organization to 28 Italian students enrolled in IULM University’s social, political and institutional communication management program.
Roberto Izurieta, a GW assistant research professor of political management who is also involved with GSPM’s Latin America program, was one of the visiting professors. He was impressed by the Italian students’ quick adaptability to the U.S. style of teaching, which tends to be much more interactive than the lecture-style classes that predominate in Europe. “All the questions and comments the students made were at a very high level,” Mr. Izurieta said.
Dr. Arterton, who taught a seminar on political game strategies in Milan, said the students showed “an enormous amount of engagement and excitement” during a simulation of conflict within a political campaign that they participated in during the class.
Next spring, the student exchange component of the program will bring approximately 25 Italian students to GW to take classes and collaborate on research projects with GSPM graduate students and faculty for several weeks. In the future, GSPM students may also travel to Milan to study on IULM University’s campus.
Mr. Montanari, who worked with faculty members both at GW and at IULM University to advocate for the program, said that political management and lobbying are becoming increasingly important in Italy, especially as they relate to European Union matters in the EU capital of Brussels. “In Italy, they recognize that knowing how to advocate for your interests is crucial for democracy,” he said. “In Brussels, everything works through lobbying action and public affairs.”
And although Italy currently has no national lobbying act—lobbyists cannot register and work at the national level as in the United States—regional lobbying regulations exist, and numerous proposals for national lobbying laws are working their way through Italy’s government. Italian students who train in the U.S. through the IUML University-GW partnership will be well-prepared to become lobbyists in Italy when the laws are passed, Mr. Montanari said. “The students really want to learn from practitioners in the field. They’ll learn the American way to work in the field—GW has a specific program of political communication and issue management that is new for Italy, in terms of techniques.”
Mr. Izurieta stressed that the Milan program’s success will lie in its collaborative spirit. “We can’t go there and tell them, ‘This is how you do it—do it as we do,’” he said. “We say, ‘This is how we do it’ and we start a conversation that requires the participation of the students. It’s up to them to know what will be useful, the adjustments they need to make, and what parts of campaigning that we use are relevant to their politics and culture.”