Student Demetrio Iannone Admitted to Ph.D. Program in History at CUNY

Demetrio Iannone is a double major in International Affairs and History. He is from Crotone, in the Italian region of Calabria, but he attended high school in the Netherlands, at the United World College Maastricht. Demetrio was recently accepted to CUNY, The City University of New York, for a Ph.D. in History with a full scholarship plus stipend.

Congratulations on your admission to CUNY! What do you intend to focus on during your Ph.D.?
Thank you! I will be working as a research and teaching assistant, collaborating mainly with Professor Richard Wolin. His research centers on the 20th-century history of ideologies, which is a field I’m also interested in. However, there are many professors at CUNY who focus their studies on subjects that I would like to conduct research on.

Demetrio Iannone

Demetrio Iannone

How did you find out about JCU?
When I was studying in the Netherlands, a JCU counselor came to visit and talked to students about the University. My 5-year study experience at United World College Maastricht was truly phenomenal, and it inspired my “international interest.” Before considering JCU, I wanted to study either in the U.S. or the U.K. However, I didn’t want to be too far away from home, so I tried to find a happy medium and that was JCU. I knew that JCU could be a good stepping stone for the U.S. while allowing me to live in my country and be close to my family.

How did you come to choose the History/International Affairs combination?
The choice to study history was a consequence of the environment I grew up in. My father was a lawyer for workers in need of legal assistance in the workplace. Those were the years of the labor movement in Italy. The workers my father represented adhered to the movement with a strong anti-fascist sentiment. I was quite young at the time and understood little of what anti-fascism was. As I grew up, however, I became more and more interested in history and the topic of fascism in particular.

What professors and classes had the strongest impact on you?
History Professors Luca de Caprariis and Vanda Wilcox have both been extremely helpful to me. Professor de Caprariis is extremely intelligent and I learned so much from his courses. Professor Wilcox, with whom I also did a research assistantship, introduced me to the world of archives, which was a truly great experience. It gave me the opportunity to get in contact with many interesting people and led me to understand that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. Professor Gene Ogle was paramount in helping me with my personal statement for the Ph.D. application.

In terms of classes, I especially enjoyed taking Professor Carolina De Luca’s public speaking course. The environment was particularly good, and the skills I learned extremely useful. When Professor De Luca first heard me talk, she told me that she could see me becoming a good professor in the future. I cherished her words, which were always very motivational and inspirational to me.

Professor Andrea Lanzone has also been incredibly helpful throughout my university experience. In my first semester, I already knew I wanted to study abroad in the U.S., and Professor Lanzone was always very supportive of the idea.

During my study abroad experience at the New School for Social Research in New York, I met Professor Federico Finchelstein, who was my third recommender for CUNY, together with JCU professors de Caprariis and Ogle. Professor Finchelstein was also the most well-known expert in the field of Italian Fascism at the New School for Social Research, so his recommendation letter was a truly meaningful addition to my application for CUNY.

I am grateful for all the support I received during my studies. The close contact and generosity you get in an environment like JCU may be difficult to find elsewhere.

You mentioned that Professor De Luca said you would be a good professor. Is that the career you want to pursue after your Ph.D.?
I think that, on average, everyone who earns a Ph.D. wants to teach at a university level. Of course, that’s not the only option. I can see myself working as a professor, but also working in diplomacy could be interesting. I really like translating and I’m interested in animated films as well, so I have many interests that could shape my future career. 

Do you have any advice for other students?
First, I would suggest to those who are considering graduate school. to start thinking about the topic they want to explore and pick one that is unique, yet not too specific.

My second piece of advice is don’t procrastinate. I had to prepare my history thesis well before the due date, because the Ph.D. application required me to send an extract by December 2020. This was a lucky coincidence that taught me the importance of thinking ahead. Imagine how difficult it would have been to go to the archives to collect my materials during COVID.

My final tip is to believe in your potential. I had people telling me that I couldn’t get into a Ph.D. program without a Master’s. I started to believe it too when COVID happened, and the acceptance rates of Columbia and NYU plunged dramatically.

I believe that, in life, you only have two certainties: you are born and you die. We should have faith in the fact that there are things we can’t control and understand that sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. I was rejected by some universities, but that’s ok. It’s important to remember that when one door closes, another one opens.