The lure of a blackboard and chalk were too much for Lidia Radi to resist even as a small child in Albania.

“My little sister would be my student and I would be the teacher,” she says. “Even when I was little, this would be my favorite game to play. And when I started teaching, I realized how much I loved it and wanted to make it my life’s vocation.”

Seven years have passed since Radi received the call on Valentine’s Day inviting her to teach at the University of Richmond.

“It’s the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received on Valentine’s Day,” says Radi, an associate professor of two Romance languages—French and Italian. She also teaches Renaissance studies at the University.

But before all of that, Radi worked as an interpreter and translator for the local tribunal in Verona, Italy, where most of her family lives today. She took that job in order to finance a strong case of wanderlust. As an interpreter, she translated court and police interviews with accused murderers and other alleged criminals. The experience was eye-opening for her in terms of what motivates people to commit certain crimes. It was also hard to do long term.

“That taught me a lot,” Radi says. “That is why I actually started wondering even more about ethics.”

She completed a dual doctorate in Italian and French Renaissance literature at Rutgers University and Université Stendhal in Grenoble, France. Her initial studies focused on political and religious propaganda during the reign of Francis I, the French Renaissance monarch. But steadily her research agenda evolved into new directions, including the virtue of literature in the Renaissance.

At Richmond, Radi has developed that exploration into a living-learning community that hopes to create and expand educational opportunities beyond the classroom.

“I have been extremely lucky compared to many of my colleagues at other universities because not only have I been able to develop courses in my areas of interest, but I was given the unique opportunity to develop new programs,” says Radi, who also directs the Italian studies program. “I think this is the biggest strength of this University. If you have a good, strong idea, and you work hard to develop it, it will become reality.”

Radi’s living-learning community for first-year women — Moore International — explores women, virtues, and temptations across world literatures. Outside of the fall course she teaches, the group attends and discusses performances of most of the texts they study.

“In order to achieve the goal of furthering analytical skills in students, the learning has to go beyond the classroom,” Radi says. “And the best way to do that is to create an intellectual environment in the residence halls.”

Her biggest priority for students is to develop a love for learning, for reading, for traveling as soon as possible. This is a foundational step in the lifelong path to self-knowledge, Radi says. She points out how frustrating it can be when she meets students who are more concerned with the grade received than learning and appreciating the subject matter. But she’s quick to add that her contact with students remains her favorite part of the job.

“I learn a lot from them,” Radi says. “I don’t think students realize how much our in class conversations and exchange of ideas inform my human spirit. It’s a deeply enriching experience.”