Today UA Regents Professor Soren is living that life – and many others. This renowned Classical archaeologist is the founder and director of the Orvieto International Institute in Orvieto, Italy, a 45-minute train ride north of Rome. This is the UA’s largest and most popular overseas study program.
Orvieto is an ancient hill town surrounded by Etruscan and Roman ruins, including Chianciano Terme in southern Tuscany, where Soren has directed an archaeological excavation since 1994.
Over the years, he has made friends with many locals and government officials.
When the town of Orvieto began renovating a 14th-century building next to its famous cathedral, one of those friends immediately called Soren. The town could make the facility available as an educational research center – and provide computers, desks and other equipment. Was he interested?
“Our idea was to do an American-Italian project – a true collaboration of experts,” Soren said. His Italian counterpart is noted Etruscan and Roman archaeologist and scholar Dr. Claudio Bizzarri, who is affiliated with the University of Macerata.
The Orvieto center opened in the summer of 2002 with 15 students. Interest and enrollment grew. They added a fall semester, then spring. Today the fully accredited program serves about 100 undergraduate and graduate students of all ages and majors throughout the year – including fall and spring semesters, a summer session and two dig seasons. The curriculum varies, including classes in Ancient Greek, Latin, Italian, Etruscan and Roman art and archaeology, medieval arts and literature, studio drawing and political science.
Soren said this international center grew from hard work – networking with colleagues from throughout his career, writing grants, helping students and recruiting faculty. He said he engages truly excellent, inspirational teachers who like to spend time with their students.
“It worked out so well,” Soren said. “The secret to this is to get good people, invest in them and trust them. We are blessed with such beautiful people.”
Known stateside as Arizona in Orvieto, this UA Classics Department program is jointly administered with the city of Orvieto and the Orvieto Civic Foundation.
Soren joined the UA Classics Department in 1982. A distinguised scholar, he has published numerous books and articles on Etruscan and Roman archaeology. A passionate professor, he has received many teaching awards. He also is an expert on the history of Hollywood cinema, a producer and narrator of documentary films and was instrumental in getting the American Vaudeville Museum to donate its entire collection to the UA. Soren is one of 25 international fellows in the British Royal Institute of International Affairs.