Alumni Spotlight – Giosuè J. Prezioso
We sat down with Giosuè J. Prezioso, a member of our London 2015 alumnus, to discuss his journey and achievements, including being nominated for the Forbes Under 30 list for Education.
Tell us a little about your background? How did your experiences culminate in a career in the art world?
I have always been a rather creative person and personality – but not an artist, alas! I therefore chose ‘Art History’ at university, which was a great compromise, as I could still gravitate around the art world and compensate for the sense of ineptitude I felt when I actually had to do the art. That intuition was honest and worked out well; I studied in New York City, Rome, and then Boston, hybridizing art, art history and theory, as well as teaching. Upon graduation, I was offered a junior academic position in a university, which formally (and firstly) exposed me to the scholarly and educational worlds – and I felt rewarded there, in my element. Simultaneously, I started curating shows, write art critical entries, interview artists in countries such as France, Italy, Poland, Spain… However, I felt I had to invest in my education further, and I applied to Master and PhD programs alike. As my family has no experience in the international educational world, and I had no previous history in neither the art nor the academic spheres, I had a constant, internal monologue (Impostor Syndrome, I would say) that hammered my thoughts down: “you will never do it,” “they will never accept you,” “it is too competitive.” In a matter of weeks, those thoughts disappeared, and I was in the opposite situation: indeed, I was accepted in most programs, and I was about to start a PhD at Cambridge. I had however a dream: Christie’s. I applied with no hope, but then, unexpectedly, they accepted me there too. I therefore started a Master of Science in Art, Law, and Business, which provided those multidisciplinary skills no program in the world had designed with such precision. Indeed, we studied art, alongside law and business with iconic instructors, such as the very auctioneers who fetched the world’s record for an artwork: the Salvator Mundi ($ 450 millions) - they were my instructors! Moreover, we travelled in countries such as Belgium, China, Italy, and South Korea, drawing from the most prestigious art and cultural venues. We really were in the very temple of the world’s art market. I then had a fantastic professional experience at the Antiquities Department, where I handled, catalogued, and then saw at auction, rare lots from ancient Egypt, Athens, Rome… It was lifechanging! However, while I was in the UK, I simultaneously started teaching abroad; that triangle of skills (art, law, and business) luckily became an inspiration for many programs worldwide, where I gradually started teaching as a guest lecturer and then as a full Professor – while pursuing further education with a PhD and a post-graduate specialization at the University of Reading and at Harvard University. My passion (and then monitored quality of teaching and coordinating) took me to diverse audiences worldwide, such as the University of South Florida, the Italian Parliament, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid and to the Canadian University in Cairo, Egypt. At 26, I coordinated the academic department of an American university; at 28 I started teaching for an Italian public university (supposedly becoming the country’s youngest); and at 29 I was eventually appointed Dean of Academic Affairs in Turin, definitely the country’s youngest Dean – hence my nomination on “Forbes 30 Under 30.”
Can you tell us about your role? And what does it involve?
Our institution is among the country’s first international universities (founded in 1975) proposing a competitive academic model, whereby candidates study 2/3 languages and pursue a specialization – i.e., Criminology & Cybersecurity, Fashion & Luxury Management, International Relations & Diplomacy. Our students therefore master foreign languages such as Chinese, Korean, or Arabic and specialize in competitive curricula such as international security and deep/dark web. As a result, my job consists of researching the most up-to-date courses, technologies, and scholarly trends worldwide to update our academics and deliver competitive titles and degrees. Once that is processed, you then need to persuade the Academic Senate that your intuition is correct, and this applies to curricula and academic provisions alike. Moreover, I am in charge of the “Global Outreach” office, which counts partnerships with 40 universities from 20+ countries worldwide (from Argentina to Taiwan) and which provides mobility, as well as academic exchanges. Furthermore, I teach – yes, I believe that a dean should keep teaching to have a better sense of his/her impact and leadership – especially in our university, as we have campuses in Florence, Mantua, and Turin and where, therefore, that impact can involve hundreds and thousands of people across the country. I finally do other human, professional, challenging, rewarding, and inspiring things every job implies.
Why did you decide on this career path?
I was among the few Italian-English bilingual speakers in my hometown; people have therefore referred to me for teaching since I was 15 – and therefore half of my life. While those were amatorial experiences, my “popularity” gradually grew, students multiplied, and I eventually had a full weekly schedule for extra classes, translations, and official interpreting. People funnily started calling me “the Professor,” and in those teaching sessions I realized they left with a certain satisfaction and smile - and so did I. I even have a poetry in the local dialect an ex-student of mine dedicated to me, where he somehow crystallized a ‘prophecy’ that bears some truth: “teaching is your very gift and responsibility and will be your testament.” Well, those people, smiles, ‘prophecy’ and naturality I feel when I start a class even today, made me decide.
Where does your passion for art come from?
As I said, I come from a non-academic family, where art was not in our conversations, trips, or priorities. To be honest, I took my father to a museum for the first time, and that action, now that I see it with the eyes of an adult, was maybe a call I was supposed to do this job. I was naturally attracted to it, like a religion, a calling, a revelation. And it makes me so proud to think I opened this world to my family as well, which may have missed so much otherwise. I remember that my father once came to an art university class I was holding, and he even took notes. As simple as it could be, that memory somehow validated my idea I am a dedicated, passionate art professional.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
First and foremost: I wake up and I do the job that I love and that, I guess, I was born for. This is a selfish satisfaction I have.
When we confer a degree upon a student and you see their parents cry, that is a great human satisfaction - that makes me cry too at times. Also, when students go in the world and become leaders, life or society changers in their way, and they update you via email, “thank you messages” or by texting you, that is also another rewarding aspect of my job. Also, when they come to talk about their problems, future, decisions, family issues, confusion… That is a message of vulnerability and openness we should be grateful for and handle with care, and which is a rewarding human sign of trust.
How do you see the future of Art education?
I do not know how I see it, but I hope it takes the responsibility of rubbing the eyes of young and mature learners alike. Art is not just about beauty, non-sense, concept, intellectual classism, or shapes that can be interpreted – to make it simple and encapsulate in a nutshell, I apologize for this brevity. However, 86% of our museums represent white, western characters; only 5.5% of art operators suffers from a disability and are therefore employed and represented; only 1.67% of academic articles deals with LGBTQI+ topics, issues, and matters. I therefore hope that future art education – including myself as an art educator – will pursue and share more awareness.
How do you plan on making change as the Dean of Academic Affairs in Italy?
When I received my nomination, I insisted on sharing my actual story: an under 30, from a non-nepotistic environment, and deliberately rainbow (both my father and I are gay). This triangle was meant to inspire young people coming from less privileged, hopeful, and self-empowering contexts, as I come from that very place myself, and I know how difficult (yet privileged if compared to other contexts) can be. Indeed, I could never imagine I could fund most of my studies through scholarships; I could never think I could be an openly rainbow educational leader; I could never think I would have succeeded, do the job I like, write these very words I am sharing. I therefore hope that by talking about my intersectional story, I can somehow set a precedent for those people who have dreams as well as that Imposter Syndrome I mentioned in the previous question. Academia can be for talented, committed, young, rainbow, less privileged, non-nepotistic people as well.
If you had to give 3 words to describe yourself, what would they be?
Strong and vulnerable (that ‘and’ counts as the third and most important word).
What artwork could you spend an hour looking at?
It may sound as in unpopular and poorly orthodox answer, but rather than the artwork, I would spend an hour with the author and/or with the book/critic that made the effort to exacerbate its potential and magic.