California State University, Northridge’s Luciana Lagana is not your run-of-the-mill psychology professor. Even in a field of study rife with distinctive personalities, Lagana has set herself apart with a passion for the entertainment business that has won her acclaim and awards across the globe. The native of Italy and 14-year CSUN teacher uses that experience to make her classes and students stand out with her.
“Working in the entertainment industry gives me a very creative outlet,” said Lagana. “When I am at CSUN, I bring to my academic work some of the excitement that I got from being on stage or on the set. I am publishing and serving on more committees now than before I started pursuing acting, [radio] hosting and screenwriting—possibly because these creative endeavors are giving me additional energy to use [at CSUN].”
Some of that energy is displayed in her classroom, which she patterns after her radio experience. The free-flowing sessions involve students talking about the psychological study topics of the day in a talk show format.
“Taking turns, each student who wrote about a clinical case as part of the homework plays the therapist and asks some class members to re-enact the case,” she said. “Each team practices during class breaks, and then we engage in talk-show-style discussions of the mock clinical cases. Once the ‘talk-show’ starts, I call to the front of the room one team at a time.”
This format also fits in with her experience on the Los Angeles improvisational comedy circuit, which she hones weekly at places like the Comedy Store in Hollywood. It’s a unique teaching tool, but because Lagana’s field of expertise covers sexual issues faced by emerging adults, sexual disorders and conflict resolution within intimate relations, it’s a good way for sometimes-shy students to come out of their shells.
In a way, the students have done the same for her.
“My work in my three talk-show-style classes on sexuality and intimate relationships has motivated me to pursue acting and hosting in the first place,” Lagana says. It’s a freedom that she appreciates, and she is thankful that her department chair and dean have been supportive of her outside endeavors.
“I am doing my best to become a good actress and a well-rounded radio and TV host, to share my expertise, feelings and personality with the public and to do whatever I can do to put a smile on people’s faces,” she says. “In these creative endeavors, I always do my best to represent CSUN in a distinguished way.”