Take Five with Maria Ann Roglieri ’88

Maria Ann Roglieri ’88 is professor of literatures, languages and cultures at St. Thomas Aquinas College. She teaches global literature and writing as well as Italian and Spanish language and culture courses. She also leads trips to Europe for students and alumni.

Roglieri is a violinist, and writes a lot about Dante and music. She also writes guidebooks for the gluten-free community; her most recent is The Gluten-Free Skinny: Your Gluten-Free Guide to Weight Loss. She also writes for, and is on the editorial board of, The Hudson Independent.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

The first day, my very pretty younger sister helped move me into Carman and a bunch of guys were instantly attracted to her. I quickly became known as “Ann’s sister” and people came up to me to ask for her phone number. So I banned her from campus for a while.

I was so excited to be living in New York City for the first time. A Jersey girl, raised in the suburbs, I started wearing all black every day to seem cosmopolitan. I was finally a New Yorker!

But seriously, as a musician, I wanted to frequent The West End and all of the musical venues in Lincoln Center. So every night I either went to hear music, or to play music (l joined three orchestras and a chamber group). By day, I took Music Hum and was a classical DJ on WKCR. I’d say that right from the get-go I absolutely maxed out on music, which was a real thrill for me and continued straight through the end of college. I even went abroad junior year and studied opera at an Italian university.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

There was a guy down the hall (you know who you are!) who came into our room every day to blast “Rebel Yell” on my stereo. That was the way we woke up. The 10th floor of Carman was a fun place to live, and everyone was friendly. There was a collective energy — even an intensity — focused on partying (and studying). I made some very close friends, including my suitemates. Also, I started dating a senior, so I spent a lot of time in Furnald, as well. I remember The Furnald Swing — so much fun!

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

One of the reasons I really wanted to go to the College was for the Core. I remember spending so much time in Butler Library reading the tons of books that we had to read, discovering literary masterpieces and experiencing them with no secondary sources. These books made me question everything in my life and really shaped my worldview. My professors engaged all of us in deep discussions that were inspiring.

I still have my notes from my Core classes, and I actually use them today! I have been a college professor for 26 years and I have the privilege of teaching the “Great Books” to a new generation. To say the Core changed my life would be an understatement — it shaped, even directed, my life. I literally got hooked on Dante and have now spent my life studying The Divine Comedy, teaching it and writing about it.

As students we didn’t consider how much time and effort it takes to put together such comprehensive classes. As a professor, I totally get it. And I’m very grateful to my professors for their dedication to the humanities.

The Core class I remember most was Art Humanities because the content was so new to me. I remember being required to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and analyze a particular painting by Raphael. That was a really exciting moment. Last fall, I took my own college students to the Met, and our tour guide stopped right in front of that same painting, sat the students down and spent 20 minutes discussing it. Things had really come full circle for me and I was so glad to see the excitement on my students’ faces — the same kind of excitement I had had decades before in front of that painting.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

The whole campus is so pretty, it’s hard to pick a favorite spot. I lived in Hartley and Wallach and loved the courtyard in front of them. Whenever I go to campus, I like to just sit there and reflect on my Columbia experience. I also always enjoyed walking on College Walk in winter with the lights in the trees.

Just beyond campus, I loved The Hungarian Pastry Shop — that was an all-time favorite. The whole vibe in there: good intellectual discussion paired with good coffee and pastries.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I guess I’m supposed to say something like “Less partying, more studying.” But really, I loved the intensity of both. I honestly can’t think of anything I would do over — I enjoyed it all. I do wish I could have had a few more years there. On graduation day, I felt like there was still so much I wanted to do!