SUDBURY -- Ahead of expected cuts and potential layoffs at Sudbury's Laurentian University, one small program is advocating for its survival.

Students and faculty of the school's Italian Studies program have been on edge since the post-secondary institution declared insolvency last month, citing more than $300 million in debt.

"I don't know how it's going to affect us," said Diana Iuele Colilli, chair of the department of modern languages and literatures. "We are just being very proactive because we are small and any small program is going to be vulnerable."

With only 158 registered students, Iuele Colilli said she worries about what lies ahead, but is trying to remain positive, keeping busy by reaching out to the community to support the program.

"So we're just trying to be proactive," she said from her home, where she's been teaching for nearly a year. "We've gotten our community involved, the Italian community involved, to help us rally and let the administration know how important the Italian program is to the community, and vice versa."

Iuele Colilli is one of the program's two professors. She's hoping a recent streamlining effort -- changes made before the news of the school's bankruptcy -- might spare it from the chopping block.

"We can deliver this BA with just two people," said Iuele Colilli. "No extra manpower of any kind, so why would you want to get rid of something like this that's so streamlined? Maybe we could be the model for other departments at the university. I know we've been told that, that we could be the model."

Iuele Colilli's teaching partner in the program is Christine Sansalone. Noting her growing anxiety over the situation at hand, Sansalone fears arts programs may come before those in the science sector.

"We feel that, yes, because we are an arts program it might be easier to just cut our programs, the programs in the arts," she said. "That's a feeling that many of us share unfortunately, and hopefully we're wrong."

Like a second family

Danielle Drescher is a second-year student of the program, who said it quickly became a second family to her.

"In this case for the Italian program, we have such a connection with the Italian community around the university and you get to make so many ties with not only the community outside of Laurentian, but with anybody inside the program or who has graduated from the program," she said.

Drescher, who has been studying remotely from southern Ontario this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the current status of affairs at Laurentian University is a top-of-mind issue for students.

"At the beginning of our classes, a lot of the time it's like, have we heard an update about this? Do we know any more? Because everyone is scared about losing a program that means so much."

Due to its small size, Drescher said the program has become like a family, something she said she fears she won't find again if it ends up being cancelled.

"After being in a program like this where I know every person's name when I walk into class, when I know every teacher and know I could go to them about something in this class, another class or in life, it will be very hard for me to transition into something where I don't feel that," she said.

A student-led petition has been created online, advocating for the preservation of the program.

Laurentian University denied CTV News' request for comment in relation to this story.