• Picture of Colosseum and Forum in Rome with text "Virtual Program!"

    Virtual Capstone in Southern Italy


This program encourages students to explore the art, cuisine, culture, environment, science and technology of Italy and Sicily. 

Taught fully online, this program enables students to have an enhanced learning experience through virtual visits and conversations with locals in Italy and Sicily. This unique platform brings the world to UNI students in an affordable and sustainable way.

No travel is required for participation in this program. 

Course Leaders

Chad Heinzel, Professor

Department: Earth & Environmental Sciences
Phone: 319-273-6168
Campus Address: LAT 116

Chad has traveled to Sicily and southern Italy over 20 years, conducting research and leading undergraduate to graduate student field schools. He loves sharing his passion for the region with students.

One of Chad's favorite quotes: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Chad was probably one of my favorite professors I've had at UNI thus far. Very knowledgeable, helpful, and genuinely seems to enjoy what he's doing and teaching us about everything. - Taylor, Capstone in Southern Italy, summer 2019 


CAP 3140: Environment, Technology, and Society (2 credit hours) 

Emphasis on relationships and interactions of physical, biological, technological, and cultural components of environment. Study of selected interdisciplinary problems. Elaborates on student's previous university experience and develops environmental literacy.

Students can expect the following learning objectives to be fulfilled through the course. You will:  

1. Gain a global/Italian perspective on our planet’s sustainability from three different perspectives large cities (e.g. Rome), rural cities (Trapani, Western Sicily) and small island life (Lipari, Sicily).

2. Experience Italian culture through art, cooking, history, science, religion, political struggles and successes.

3. Relate these Italian experiences to your own educational background, life and developing future. 

4. Develop an understanding of the connectedness and complexities between humans and their environments.

5. Realize human behavior may have positive and negative implications upon our shared environments and cultures.

6. Gain appreciation of the Earth’s diverse environments, technologies, and societies.

7. Appreciate the value of all academic disciplines as vital components to preparing and living in a changing world.

8. Expand your knowledge and appreciation of political, ethical and empathetic attitudes necessary to develop and sustain a thriving civilization.

9. Understand that there are serious problems facing our civilization’s shared environments and cultures. There are workable solutions that will require well-educated engaged citizens willing to work across cultural, geographic, ideological and religious differences. 

To view the tentative course syllabus, click HERE. Synchronous class meetings will be held Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 9 to 9:50 am. Meetings with international partners/live tours may be held outside of these time frames, depending on speakers' schedules. 

The Study Abroad Center will enroll participants in the capstone course. Please contact the program's course leader for more information on coursework requirements.


  • In order to receive Capstone credit, program participants must have completed 60 credits hours prior to the program s course start date (i.e. be of Junior standing). Students who participate in capstone programs without meeting the credit hour prerequisite will receive elective credit. In this instance, students should consult with their academic advisor(s) regarding how the elective credit fits into their specific plans of study.
  • Students planning to participate in the spring commencement ceremony in May can enroll in this summer term program, however, their degree will not be conferred until the end of the summer term and is contingent on the successful completion of the program and all required coursework.
  • Students attending colleges and universities other than UNI are welcome to participate in this program. If you are not currently a UNI student, but would like to participate in this program, please contact the UNI Study Abroad Center prior to starting your program application.
  • Capstone courses cannot be repeated. If you have previously taken this capstone course, please contact the UNI Study Abroad Center prior to starting your program application.


This is a four week accelerated version of UNI’s Environmental, Technology and Society Capstone, taught over the May 2021 session. The course is to run asynchronously as well as synchronously. There will be approximately 6.25 hours of content delivered each week with another 5 to 7 hours of work on your end reading, writing, synthesizing. Synchronous class meetings will be held Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 9 to 9:50 am. Meetings with international partners/live tours may be held outside of these time frames, depending on speakers' schedules. 

This program offers an enhanced learning experience through virtual visits and conversations with locals and experts  in Italy and Sicily. 

Week 1: Italian Society (History, Environment, Mafia, Religion, Innovation)

Introduction to Italy and Sicily - Chad Heinzel, Ph.D. over 20 years of exploring southern Italy

Students will contribute by presenting their findings of selected artists or pieces of art to the class. A discussion will summarize Italy’s past, present and future in context of our own lives and civilization.

Virtual tours/speakers abroad:

  • The Cosa Nostra - by Sant’ Anna - Guest Lecture from Sorrento, Italy Professor on the Mafia’s origin.
  • Guided tours from Dr. Heinzel of three of Italy’s greatest treasures St. Peters Basilica, Vatican Museum and The Uffizi.

Week 2: Environment (The Mediterranean, Volcanic hazards, Earthquakes)

Introduction by Dr. Heinzel

Survival role-playing game, Was life in the Iron Age better or worse than the present? What lies beyond survival?

Discussion relating the environmental effects on our lives and ecosystems

Virtual tours/speakers abroad:

  • Stromboli and Mt. Etna Volcanoes, Ecosystems and Cultures - by a Sicilian Volcanologist Rosario Calcagno
  • Pompeii Virtual Tour and Q/A - by Sant’Anna Archaeologist Ilaria Tartaglia
  • Archaeological Museum of Naples Virtual Tour and Q/A - by Sant’Anna Archaeologist Ilaria Tartaglia

Week 3: Technology (Leonardo Da Vinci to Nicola Puma)

Introduction by Dr. Heinzel

Virtual tours/speakers abroad: Guest presentation then Q and A - Nicola Puma, Environmental/Electrical Engineer, Energy, Sicilian life

Week 4: Sustainability (Moving toward our best future) 

Introduction - Chad Heinzel

Virtual Cooking class with Dr. Heinzel - How to make a classic western Sicilian meal: Fresh pasta, Pasta alla Trapanese (pesto), Arancini and Gelato while discussing Italian Wine, Food, Food Sovereignty soil and sustainability. Students will be provided a grocery list then encouraged to a cook this meal for roommates and/or family in real time with Dr. Heinzel. 



Program Costs

Virtual Capstone in Southern Italy

Estimated Program Cost:


* estimated total cost of participation, actual amount depends on type of housing accommodation selected, actual airfare purchase price, personal spending habits, and other factors

Click Below to View Detailed Budget Sheet:

Cost of studying on-campus*

*per semester, estimated, will vary per person

Tuition & Fees:


Room & Board:




Personal Expenses:






Source: https://admissions.uni.edu/costs

Dates & Deadlines


App Deadline: 
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Program Dates: 
Monday, May 10, 2021 to Friday, June 4, 2021

The Study Abroad Center reserves the right to determine participants' eligibility to Study Abroad. Students must meet all of the following in order to be eligible to Study Abroad:

  • Have a cumulative 2.5 GPA or higher at the time of application and maintain this cumulative GPA prior to departure and throughout the study abroad process
    • If your cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, submit the following to the Study Abroad Center (103 East Bartlett):
    • Letters of reference from two academic contacts (e.g. academic advisor and former or current professor) supporting your pursuit of study abroad. If you are attending a faculty-led study abroad program, one of the letters must be from a course leader. However, if the program has two course leaders, only one of the letters can be from one of the course leaders.
  • Must be over the age of 18 years old
  • Must meet the course prerequisites (participation in the program is dependent upon meeting these)
  • Must be in good standing with the University
  • UNI's partner institutions may require additional eligibility requirements to be met, these vary from institution to institution. Please consult with the Study Abroad Center staff to discuss these additional requirements if applicable.
  • Applicants traveling to a region of a country or a country with an overall Travel Advisory Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) or 4 (Do Not Travel) will not be eligible.
  • All study abroad applicants must pass the Study Abroad Applicant Assessment with a score of 70% or greater.
  • Applicants may be selected for an in-person interview before being accepted. Selection for an interview does not guarantee acceptance into the program. You will be contacted directly by the Study Abroad Center if selected for an interview.