Practicing Email Etiquette

In the age of social media, the lines between professional and informal, colloquial writing are blurred, which makes writing professional emails a worrisome topic for some students. With the semester winding down, you likely have some pressing, last-minute questions about a final exam, research paper, or project, requiring you to send an email to your professor. At this point in the year, you might have a great relationship with your professor from engaging with them in class or speaking with them during office hours. On the other hand, you might feel like you haven’t fostered a good relationship with them over the course of the semester. I never really sent emails to my teachers in high school, so I was largely unfamiliar with how to write formal emails when I came to college. Whatever the case, it’s important to know how to best represent yourself via emails not only in an academic setting but in the professional world.

1. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. This may seem like an obvious one, but adhering to the conventions of standard English is important. You can even install a free service like Grammarly, which proofreads your emails for you and even makes suggestions for improvement. Proofreading your own emails can also help you catch a lot of these mistakes, so make sure you look it over before pressing “send.”

2. Include a salutation and signature. While emailing, be sure to include a greeting at the top of the email – “Hi [insert name here],” “Good morning [insert name here].” This is a friendly way to begin your email and also establishes that you view your relationship with your professor as a respectable, professional one. Make sure you spell your professor’s name correctly. At the end, include a signature or sign-off – “Best, [name],” “Sincerely, [name],” etc.

3. Make the subject line clear and informativeInstead of emailing your professor something vague (“help!”), make your subject line clear. If you have a question about the final exam, something like “Final Exam Question” will suffice. Including an efficient subject line will help your professor answer your question.

4. Keep your email informative. Don’t use your email as the chance to rant. Professors do not want to read paragraphs on paragraphs of how you’re struggling with your semester, failing all your classes, or just broke up with your significant other. Your email should not only be professional but also relevant to the concern you need to address – choose your words wisely.

5. Determine if your question would be better addressed during office hours. Professors have office hours for a reason. If your question concerns a personal problem or would require a lengthy response, it might be best to address it during office hours instead of over email. I can’t speak for all professors, but some may be more likely to help you if you make the effort to visit them during office hours and talk to them face-to-face.

6. Ask yourself – is this something I can look up on my own? This is arguably the most important tip on the list. As a college student, you should be resourceful, and your professor will often provide you with the resources you need to succeed – including the syllabus. Your syllabus should have information on test/assignment dates, a breakdown of the grading scale, and professor’s office hours. Be sure to check these resources before reaching out to your professor, as your question might be one you can easily answer on your own.

Crafting professional emails is an important skill that is relevant to both your academic and professional career, so be sure to learn patterns of proper email etiquette.

39 Days and Counting

Remember when we were graduating high school and we were bombarded with the dreaded question:  “So, what do you plan to do when you graduate?” It felt like everyone asked this same question – your guidance counselor, the uncle you see twice a year for holidays, the cashier at the grocery store – and they only asked out of interest, but it never seemed to end.

And now it’s almost here; graduation day is only 39 days away. So here comes the question again, only this time it feels harder to answer. There’s nothing wrong with someone being interested in your future, but it can feel frustrating to not have a certain response, especially when there are so many choices to make following college graduation.

Post-grad opportunities are endless. I know friends who are gearing up to move across the world to China, or who plan to travel and live off their savings for a year. I also know friends who just put in their deposits for law or graduate school. I know peers who already have a job lined up for the indefinite future. And I know people who aren’t sure, who hope to take a stab at the job market, work on paying off their student loans, just see what life after college is like. 

There is no wrong choice to make for your future upon graduating. Right now, it might seem like everyone has their plans together, that they know exactly what they’re doing – but they don’t. It’s okay to be uncertain and even feel scared about what will happen after you walk across that stage, move your tassel to the left, and become a Siena College alumni.

It’s okay not to have a definite answer to, “So, what do you plan to do when you graduate?” These choices don’t always happen overnight, and it’s important to remember, as we edge closer to graduation day, to enjoy the time we have left at Siena.

Siena Holds 6th Annual Hip-Hop Week

From Monday March 18th to Friday March 22nd, 2019, Siena celebrated its sixth annual Hip-Hop Week, a week-long celebration of the social and cultural impacts of the music genre. The week is coordinated by the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center and Dr. Todd Snyder, associate professor of English, as well as the professor of a popular, upper-level writing class, “Rhetoric(s) of Hip-Hop.”

Hip-Hop Week kicked off on Monday with a visit from hip-hop pioneer, Biz Markie. Born Marcel Theo Hall but better known by his stage name, Markie has been working in the music industry for over thirty years and is well-known for his unique musical style, beatboxing skills, and DJ performances, as well as a brief dabbling in an acting career. When he took the stage in the Sarazen Student Union on Monday, he performed his hit single from 1989, “Just a Friend” and the audience sang loudly along to the familiar song. 

In Dr. Snyder’s introduction, he proudly shared that Siena is “the only college in the United States of America that has an annual Hip-Hop Week.” The event has become a staple not only in the Siena community but in the larger Capital Region, as Markie’s visit drew an impressive crowd of students, faculty, and community members. Dr. Snyder then lead a Q&A with Markie, asking about his initial interests in the hip-hop genre, as well as some of his personal influences with music. Markie was an engaging speaker, and his entertainer personality shown through in his responses; he would beatbox throughout his answers and crack jokes with the audience.

The events of the week also featured Hip-Hop Karaoke on Wednesday night, where students could win prizes by performing and dressing as their favorite artists, as well as a Hip-Hop Trivia Night on Thursday. This Friday March 22nd, Hip-Hop Week will conclude with “Expozé: Evolution of Hip-Hop” at 7:30pm, presented by Siena College’s Black & Latino Student Union. The event is a talent showcase that will feature a number of performances by Siena’s dance clubs. Tickets cost $3 for Siena students & faculty and $5 for outside guests, and all proceeds will be donated to the Coalition for Homeless Youth. 

Hip-Hop Week is sponsored by the Black & Latino Student Union, the Diversity Action Committee, Damietta-Cross Cultural Center, the English Department, Greyfriar Living Literature Series, Community Living, and Student Activities & Leadership Development.

If you’re interested in reading more about Markie’s visit, I covered his performance and keynote lecture in the 3/29 issue of The Promethean, which can be read here.

Greyfriar Author Speaks with English Class

Each year, the English Department hosts the Greyfriar Living Literature Series in which they invite a distinguished literary writer to hold a workshop, discuss writing, and read from their work. This year’s Greyfriar author was Anand Prahlad, a published poet, memoirist, and professor. Prahlad visited my African American Literature class on Tuesday March 5th in the afternoon before his lecture and shared some of his insights on writing with our class. 

As part of our assignment for the day, my professor, Dr. Wilhite, assigned selected passages from Prahlad’s 2017 memoir, The Secret Life of a Black Aspie. His memoir discusses his experience with autism spectrum disorder and describes the way he sees the world. Prahlad kicks off his memoir with a bold statement: “Before I start telling you about my life, though, I should share with you a secret: I don’t remember most of it.” He admitted to our class that it was a line he wasn’t sure if he should keep in the memoir, but decide that there is an important, distinguished relationship between memory and life writing. “Everyone remembers differently,” Prahlad said.

Dr. Wilhite started off the class by having us read one of Prahlad’s poems, “Grind,” from his collection of poetry, As Good As Mango. The poem, written with extensive enjambment and impressionism, narrates an observer watching young black boys skateboarding in Harlem. Students discussed some of their observations from the poem, including Prahlad’s use of bright and positive imagery with darkness. Prahlad listened to student’s comments, then explained his own intentions with the poem, specifically how it was meant to capture a sense of percussive choreography. It was a great opportunity to hear an author speak about his own work. 

The class then transitioned into talking about the selected passages from Prahlad’s memoir. Students were able to ask Prahlad questions, and many of their inquiries centered around his writing style as someone diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. “My relationship to memory is kind of rooted in sensory experiences,” he explained. Prahlad shared an anecdote about a time he was asked to describe the autistic experience in order to best understand how to work with someone with autism. “Imagine everything is alive,” he said. “Everything is an aura. Everything is vibrating.”

Hearing Prahlad speak about his memoir and poetry was a valuable opportunity as an aspiring writer and an English major. I was unfortunately unable to attend his reading and Q&A due to a class conflict, but I was fortunate to have the chance to hear him discuss his own work. If you’re interested in learning more about Prahlad and his publications, you can check out his website at https://prahladauthor.com.

Making the Most Out of the Career Fair

The Career, Internship, and Graduate School Fair is one of the biggest annual events of the spring semester, expecting over 125 employers to be in attendance. Regardless of your class year, it’s a valuable event to attend because it gives you an opportunity to spruce up your resume, dress professionally, and engage with prospective career interests.

The weeks leading up to the fair provide a lot of useful resources and information regarding how to best prepare yourself for the fair. Each year, Dress for Success Albany hosts an annual clothing sale open to students, faculty, and staff. The sale offers gently used business, professional clothing at a discounted price. It’s a great opportunity to buy discounted business pants, blazers, shirts, shoes, and purses. I have attended the Dress for Success sale since my freshman year at Siena and every year, I am able to find high quality business wear for less than retail price. The sale will be happening March 8th from 12-2pm (open to students, faculty, and staff only) and on March 9th 10am-2pm (open to the public) in Foy Hall. I would definitely recommend stopping by the sale to find some business clothing to wear to the Career Fair! 

The Carer Center is also sponsoring a Resume Critique Hour on Monday, March 11th from 12-2pm in Foy Hall Lobby. Students will be able to receive feedback on their resumes and connect with employers prior to the fair. Another great and entertaining event is the Dress for Success Fashion show, taking place on Wednesday, March 13th at 9pm in the SSU. The fashion show highlights what to wear and, more specifically, what not to wear in the professional world. If you’ve never been to the Career Fair and are nervous about what to expect, consider attending the “Make Yourself Stand Out at the Career Fair Employer Presentation” on Monday, March 18th from 12:30-1:30pm in the library, room L-26. This event will provide some helpful tips on professionalism and networking, as well as help alleviate any nerves about attending the fair.

The 2019 Career Fair is a great opportunity to network with employers, polish your resume, and practice professionalism. The best piece of advice I can give is to go into the fair with an open mind – don’t limit yourself to speak to employers only in your field. It can be nerve-wracking to approach people you’ve never spoken to before, especially in a professional setting, but part of entering the job market is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. No matter what class year or major you are, all students can find some sort of value in the event.

RSVP for the Carer Fair online at saintsconnect.edu! The 2019 Spring Career, Internship, and Graduate School Fair will be taking place on Tuesday March 19th from 3-6pm in the MAC.

SoLA Symposium Highlights Faculty Research

This past Friday, I attended the School of Liberal Arts Faculty Research Symposium. Held in the Maloney Great Room, the first session of the symposium showcased the Modern Languages & Classics, Political Science, History, and English departments. The event featured professors who have recently returned from sabbatical, giving them a platform to share their work with faculty, students, and the Siena community. Each presenter spoke for 15-20 minutes with a PowerPoint, then took questions from the audience. 

Dr. Lisette Balabarca-Fataccioli of the Modern Languages & Classics department started off the symposium with her presentation, “The Female Other: Muslim Women in Early Modern Spain.” Her research extensively analyzes 16th century Spanish texts in which, in order to convert to a new religion, daughter characters break the bond with their fathers. Dr. Balabarca-Fataccioli provided historical context for her research project, explaining that in the 16th and 16th centuries, Muslims in Spain were forced to convert to Christianity. She also mentioned she will have an opportunity to present more of her research later this year at a symposium in Toronto

Dr. Laurie Naranch of the Political Science department shared her research on “The Power of Relational Narratives in Philosophy, Politics, and Practice.” She discussed some of the work she completed during her sabbatical, including working on book chapters, being published in a symposium, and revising an article, “The Narratable Self: Adriana Cavarero with Sojourner Truth.” As someone who hasn’t taken a political science class before at Siena, it was interesting to hear about her research.

Dr. Pojmann responds to audience questions

The next presenter, Dr. Wendy Pojmann of the History department, titled her presentation “Espresso: The Art & Soul of Italy.” Dr. Pojmann is currently in the process of publishing a book that she wrote while on sabbatical and read an excerpt from her work during the presentation. According to Dr. Pojmann, her book attempts to explain the historical groundings of espresso, specifically in relation to its unifying qualities, globalization, and monetization. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Pojmann’s project and travels, check out her Instagram page at @wendysespressolife.

English professor Dr. Keith Wilhite delivered the final presentation of the symposium, “Recession-Era Suburbs: Race, History, and the Housing Crisis.” During his sabbatical, he developed two chapters from his new book, the manuscript of which is titled Contested Terrain: The Suburbs, U.S. Literature, and the Ends of Regionalism. Dr. Wilhite discussed the paradox of postwar suburban development, emphasizing the increased focus on privatism in suburbia. He also gave a brief overview of some of the texts he will be working with in his book, including Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris. 

The event was a great opportunity to learn about the research professors conduct while away on sabbatical. As students, we rarely see all the work they do outside of the classroom. I have had both Dr. Pojmann and Dr. Wilhite as professors while at Siena, and it was interesting to hear about their research projects, as well as learn about Dr. Balabarca’s and Dr. Naranch’s areas of focus. There will be a second symposium session held on March 15, featuring the Sociology, English, Education, and Religious Studies departments. The second session will be held in room L26 of the Standish Library from 3:30-5:30pm.

Keep an eye out for extensive coverage of the first SoLA symposium by staff writer Madison Lemke in the 2/15 issue of The Promethean!

MLK Keynote Tim Wise Visits Siena

This past Wednesday Jan. 30, 2019, author and activist Tim Wise delivered a lecture at Siena as the speaker of the 32nd Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. This year’s lecture was held in the MAC to accommodate the large audience. I’m terrible with numbers, but there were easily over 200 students, faculty, and people from the local community at the event.

Wise had a very commanding presence as a speaker, constantly keeping the attention on him and using his humor to connect with the audience. He commented at the beginning of his presentation that he has been delivering speeches nationwide for almost thirty years, and his impressive rhetorical abilities shone through. 

Wise spoke on how King’s memory has ultimately been sanitized and stripped of “revolutionary content” in America’s historical memory, explaining that people only remember the parts of King’s philosophy that make them comfortable. “See, everybody will tell you that they marched with Dr. King,” Wise said. “If everybody who says that they marched with Dr. King had actually marched with Dr. King, we wouldn’t be having to have this conversation about racism in 2019.”

The MLK keynote centered on the idea of a dangerous historical memory. Wise tied this notion to the 2016 election, immigration conflicts, and police brutality, honing in on the idea that past history is constantly repeating itself due to America’s faulty historical memory. “We keep trying to reinvent the wheel instead of understanding that we’re fighting the same dragons,” Wise explained, “the same monsters we’ve always been fighting.” He concluded his lecture optimistically and answered an hour of audience questions.

I will be covering Wise’s visit in the 2/15 issue of The Promethean, so if you’re interested in more extensive coverage of his time on campus and lecture, be sure to check it out.

Reflecting on Last Year’s MLK Keynote

This Wednesday, anti-racism activist and published author Tim Wise will take the stage in the MAC and deliver his talk, “Challenging the Culture of Cruelty: Understanding and Defeating Race and Class Inequity in America.” Wise will be the keynote speaker 32nd Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. I strongly encourage everyone to attend Tim Wise’s lecture this Wednesday at 7pm in the MAC, and because these MLK keynotes usually draw in a large crowd of faculty, students, and members of the local community, I suggest getting there early to reserve a seat. 

As the event approaches, I am reminded of last year’s speaker, Luis Alberto Urrea, whose meditation on borders seems especially relevant in regards to the political climate today. I personally covered Urrea’s visit in The Promethean, which involved a lot of research, interviewing, editing…and re-editing. Out of all the articles I have written for the paper and events I have attended at Siena, Urrea’s keynote keeps coming back to me, maybe because his encouragement of unity is more important now than ever in the face of political division.

A self-proclaimed “border writer,” Urrea’s talk centered on issues surrounding the US-Mexico border, which is arguably a more politically charged topic now than when he delivered his keynote speech last year. He narrated his own experience as a Mexican-American, highlighting his struggles with racism, discrimination, and oppression, and acknowledged that many anti-immigrant sentiments are born out of ignorance. “People don’t understand the folks who seek solace and shelter here in this country,” Urrea said.

Despite the emotional, poignant nature of his talk, the author ended his keynote with a sense of optimism, encouraging the use of art and human connection in the face of division. “There’s got to be a better way,” Urrea addressed the audience. “Force doesn’t work, politics doesn’t work, co-optive religion’s not working. What’s going to work? Maybe only, right now, art and song and hope and each other. Maybe we can understand there’s no ‘them’ out there. There’s only ‘us’ out there. Maybe we can help each other.”

Looking Ahead to MLK Week

With the first week of classes drawing to a close and a massive snowstorm rolling in, everyone’s looking forward to having Monday off. A long weekend means sleeping in, catching up on Netflix, and getting a small break from work and school. It’s important, though, to remember that this Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day. MLK day is observed on the third Monday of January every year in celebration of MLK’s birthday. The holiday celebrates King’s life and legacy, as well as encourages a day of reflection.

“The holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration . . . Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress.” -Coretta Scott King

In recognition of King’s life and tremendous achievements, Siena will be hosting a weeklong series of events, including a mass, a gospel concert, and a day of service. The 2nd Annual MLK Week runs from January 23-20, 2019 and ends with the Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series of Race and Nonviolent Social Change. This year’s keynote speaker is Tim Wise, an anti-racism activist. He will be delivering his lecture, “Challenging the Culture of Cruelty: Understanding and Defeating Race and Class Inequity in America,” on Wednesday January 30 at 7pm in the MAC. 

I attended last year’s MLK keynote speaker, author and activist Luis Alberto Urrea, and was incredibly moved by his talk on immigration and acceptance. Before delivering his keynote lecture, Urrea even met with creative writing students in a hour-long lunch. Wise will be meeting with students on campus before his lecture as well and leading a workshop in Dr. Wilhite’s African American Literature class. I’m looking forward to attending Tim Wise’s upcoming talk and am hoping to see a successful turnout for the event. Last year’s speaker brought a full house, so if you’re hoping to find a seat during the lecture, be sure to arrive early!

Best wishes for a restful, reflective weekend.

My Top 10 Tips for Finals

As a senior at Siena, I have been through the finals process over and over again; I know the stress of the last weeks of the semester and trying to get everything handed in before heading home for a month-long break. Here are my top 10 tips for finals!

  1. Study wherever you can focus best. Any tips you read about finals often suggest only studying in the library or in a classroom, a place where you won’t get distracted by your phone or friends. For me, personally, the library isn’t always the place where I can focus. The quiet floor is just too quiet, and the main level sometimes gets too loud. I spend a lot of my time studying and writing my essays in Casey’s because I work well with medium-level background noise.
  2. Don’t feel pressured to study in groupsAnother common tip you’ll hear is to study or work with friends. Though studying in a group can be helpful and boost memory retention, I find myself getting off-topic and distracted with my friends around. I know I work best as a solo studier, so I spend most of my study/writing time alone. If you know you study better in a group, be sure to use the method that works best for you.
  3. Take breaksSometimes when you’re so close to finishing your review guide or closing in on that concluding paragraph, it feels counterintuitive to stop working. But be sure to listen to your body during these hours-long Tstudy sessions. If you’re not eating, drinking water, or moving around enough, your body will respond in a negative way, making it harder for you to concentrate. Consider taking a 10-minute break for every 50 minutes of work.
  4. Review class notes. Anyone who knows me knows I am an extensive note-taker. Most exam or final paper material is discussed in class, so be sure to pay attention in those final days of the semester.
  5. Make a study guide. Most of my finals at this point in college are papers, but when I have a test coming up, I always make a study guide. This usually consists of just copying my class notes, unless the professor was generous enough to share a review guide. If your professor gives you study materials, use them. They’ll only help you in the long run.
  6. Create your own study playlist. Studying/writing with music is a dividing decision among college students. I personally love having music playing while I’m writing an essay or reviewing flash cards. The type of music you listen to can affect the way you study as well. I would suggest listening to something more ambient and instrumental to keep your stress levels low, but listen to whatever makes you feel motivated and allows you to focus.
  7. Hit the gym or do yoga. When I’m in the middle of finals week with no end in sight, I always try to exercise. Exercise is a form of stress relief for me, and it also gives you a break from studying. If you’re not into running or lifting weights, yoga is a great alternative. Yoga is known for helping manage stress. If you’re a beginner and want to learn, Siena offers free yoga classes. These yoga and mindful meditation sessions will take place on Monday Dec. 3rd and Monday Dec. 10th in the MAC aerobics room.
  8. Talk to someone. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I usually call my mom or one of my close friends. Talking to a loved one can help you feel less stressed about your upcoming work and the end of the semester, so take the time to reach out and have a conversation with someone.
  9. Turn off your phone notifications. We are constantly bombarded with notifications – from texts, emails, social media. With Apple’s new “screen time” feature, I am much more aware of the ridiculous amount of time I waste scrolling on my phone. During finals, my phone is easily one of my biggest distractions. I always have it within reach while studying or writing, which makes it so tempting to check it every few minutes. Turning off notifications or turning on “Do Not Disturb” can really help with the urge to check your phone so frequently.
  10. Don’t study the night before the examThis might seem contradictory, but I think it’s important to give your brain a break the night before a big test. Cramming for exams negatively impacts your memory retention and increases stress, so let yourself relax the night before. Get a good night’s rest, watch a movie, or relax with friends.

Good luck with your finals, Saints! Hang in there – it’s almost time for the month-long break!