Rachel Jones, Director of Dining Services, Cooks up Campus Positivity

By: Kiera Mitru

There is no better way to celebrate the recent observation of Women’s History Month than by expressing gratitude for the women in our lives and the lessons they teach us. At Siena, our community is made stronger and more vibrant by the hard work and intentional connection fostered at the hands of the strong women that surround us. 

Rachel Jones is the Senior Director of Dining Services at Siena, and is a true Saint among us. Her patience, warmth, thoughtfulness, and passion for cooking are woven into the work that she does, and her impact could not be more resounding. One of the most important aspects of one’s college education is the experience one participates in outside of the classroom, and Rachel Jones is someone that each of us can learn a great deal from. 

Good food and great company is what SienaFresh is all about – how could you not smile? Photo courtesy of Rachel Jones.

Starting as a restaurant hostess and working her way up to a serving position in her early twenties, Rachel came of age in an industry that is known for its misogynistic managers and oppressive business practices. Along with the guidance of her best friend and mentor, Julia Philippone, she learned lessons throughout his period of her life that still inform her work ethic to this day, the most important being:

  1. Always dress for your next position.
  2. No crying at work.
  3. Emails and texts are a record, not a conversation.

During her career as a restaurant server, she recognized that many of the people that she worked among were women and gay men. Witnessing the lack of support that was granted to herself and her coworkers, she became inspired to step into a managerial position as soon as the time was right. Showing up for herself and her coworkers is exactly what she did day in and day out for years, working at an Applebee’s in Atlanta, Georgia until she became the manager of the restaurant location. 

When returning to her hometown, she recognized the need to change her career path as a single mother. Work hours in the restaurant industry are often long, unforgiving, and irregular. Looking for consistency, she began a virtual position working to advocate for teachers in Chicago, Illinois. This position took place at UAlbany, where she gained experience in Human Resources and Administrative Tasks. While looking for her next position, she knew wanted to stay in the college atmosphere, but a piece of her missed working in the restaurant industry. At the time she applied to work at Siena, she was hired as the Office Manager for Siena Fresh, and within four months she was promoted to the position of Director of Operations. 

(Dining) service with a smile! Rachel loves chatting with students and ensuring that their dining experience at Siena is well-rounded. Photo courtesy of Rachel Jones.

Her position at Siena has celebrated a marriage, of sorts, of her career interests so far. She is able to flex her administrative muscles, organize budgets, get creative in the kitchen, and empower the people she surrounds herself with. Some of the most important connections she has made at Siena include her close friendships with Beth DeAngelis, Director of the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women, and Kate Kaufman Burns, Director of Health Promotion. Through these connections, she has found support and empowerment – two superpowers she shares with the students and colleagues she works with.

Rachel shares that while the restaurant industry has come a long way in the past 20-25 years, there is a lack of intersectionality present among those in managerial positions across the board. There are more and more women in positions of influence, herself setting a glowing example of that. Jones shares that, “Women can be successful, independent, strong, and unique. A college campus is the perfect place to embrace that.” 

Cooking up connections: Rachel’s student-focused work with SienaFresh fosters positive and intentional relationships. Photo courtesy of Rachel Jones.

As she continues to forge her path forward, Rachel shares that she only has her Associate’s Degree. While the position she currently holds would normally require a Bachelor’s Degree, she got where she got because she works hard. Jones firmly believes, “There is no substitute for hard work. If college is not in the cards for you, hard work can and will get you to a similar place.” As she worked toward her Associate’s Degree, she was guided by professors who believed her lived experience played into her degree. Looking into the future, Rachel hopes to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree at Siena, completing a walk across The Stage at commencement that will bring everything full-circle.

When discussing the impact cooking has had on her personal journey, she mentions how cooking and baking have been grounding for her, especially through the challenges that have come with this past year. When asked who her favorite chef is, Jones responds, “I am my favorite chef. I love the way it makes me feel.” Her go-to dishes are her meatball and vegetarian lasagne. While she shares that they take a while to construct, putting them together is a labor of love. She doesn’t refer to a recipe because she knows that, “Recipes taste the best when they’re written in your heart.”

Rachel uses baking as an outlet, a way to clear her mind after long weeks. Here, we witness her culinary expertise via this gorgeous Frasier Layer Cake. Photo courtesy of Rachel Jones.

Jones wishes that, above all, more people understand that food service employees are people too. These people are the moms, wives, sisters, brothers, and best friends that keep our world turning and our bodies nourished. On campus, SienaFresh employees greet each day and each student with optimism and respect – they care about the work that they do and continue to show up for the community that they serve. Rachel hopes that her hard work and that of her dynamic team translates to the community that she cares for. 

SienaFresh employees are halftime heroes! Photo courtesy of Rachel Jones.

Food is a universal symbol for community and acceptance. On a college campus like Siena’s, these themes could not be more harmonious with our Franciscan values. Rachel Jones is a bright light in our community, and her work continues to feed us in both a literal and spiritual sense. We thank Rachel and the SienaFresh team for all that they do; Saints cannot march forward without them!

Employers Beware: Saints Prepare for the Fair

By: Kiera Mitru

Spring has sprung and along with it are budding opportunities for your future. Join the Career Education and Professional Development office at their annual Spring, the Career, Internship, and Graduate School Fair. While offered in a virtual format this year, the Fair still presents promising employer turnout and ample opportunity to make your mark!

I sat down with Ashley Dwyer, CEPD’s Assistant Director of employer relations to chat about the importance of the Career Fair and how it can prove to be beneficial for both employers and students. If you don’t know Ashley as a fellow Saint from the class of 2008, you may be more familiar with her infamous email blasts, speaking to the masses via adwyer@siena.edu, being sure to keep Siena’s student body informed on all things career preparation. During our conversation, Ashley noted that, more than anything, the Fair is the perfect opportunity to work on networking skills. 

“While nobody wants to deal with networking, it’s the elephant in the room that never goes away.” Ashley shares that while networking can sometimes feel tedious, it’s crucial to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” After speaking with an employer’s representative, it’s a great idea to connect with them on LinkedIn and reinforce the initial conversation you have with them. In this case, it is important to reintroduce yourself and discuss how you would like the connection to benefit you. Ashley advises against using the generic “fill-in” examples provided by LinkedIn, as those are less personal. Instead, she encourages students to be specific and personable, tying in connections from the conversation you shared. An example being:

“Hello Sheila, my name is Kiera Mitru and I enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with you about Bard College’s graduate course offerings surrounding sustainability. As I look to continue my grad school research, I will be sure to reach out with any questions!”

A message like this communicates your interest in the conversation with a nod to the topics you discussed. This form of communication will also provide your new connection with insight on how you visualize your level of contact going forward. 

The Fair has something for everyone! Photo courtesy of Siena College CEPD.

While it may be easy to go into the Fair with low expectations, Ashley Dwyer shares that companies participate in Siena’s Career Fair specifically to hire Siena students. This is because they have done so in the past and are pleased with the products of the “Education for a Lifetime.” It is rare that a company will participate in a Career Fair if they don’t have open positions, and if they do, it’s likely that they will have positions open for the following fall or spring. 

This fair is just as important for underclassmen to check out, since it’s wise to start making connections early. In this case, students can maintain their network and have a strong list of references to utilize when it comes to seeking internships. Even if you don’t hear about the position of your dreams opening up right after graduation, you enter the Fair with an open mind and leave with contacts and information that could prove to be helpful in time. 

Don’t forget to check out this week’s CEPD events to Prepare for the Fair! Photo courtesy of Siena College School of Liberal Arts.

Many students know that the Fair typically leans toward having more opportunities for business majors than any other major, but this does not mean that it won’t be helpful for students of all fields of study. As an English major in her undergraduate career at Siena, Ashley Dwyer understands the flexibility of a Liberal Arts degree. She recognizes that many Liberal Arts degrees like English, philosophy, and history are ambiguous and don’t have the same linear tracks that an accounting major may have. While this sounds daunting, it can also be seen as liberating. As Liberal Arts students, we have options. Dwyer shares that “Companies want someone with strong communication, interpersonal, and analytical skills. This is what Liberal Arts majors excel in.” Additionally, experience in Liberal Arts internships and research settings is impressive in the job market. It is important to communicate the value of your experiences in and out of the classroom. For example, maintaining a personal blog online, growing a social media following, writing for a small student publication, or developing your hobby into a small business is crucial to mention in an interview. This showcases ambition and leadership which are necessary to project in a professional setting.

Since the Fair is in a virtual format this year, I would like to share some tips for those that may be a bit apprehensive about interviewing online. While the job search via Zoom may feel awkward, the following tips are sure to make your interviews successful:

  • Look into the camera when you speak. This will feel more personal to the interviewer, making it seem as if you’re making direct eye contact with them while answering their questions. 
  • Pick a well-lit space with a professional background. The study rooms in the library are great for this. There is plenty of light, lots of quiet, and few distractions. If you book a study room for the time that you plan to attend the fair, you can give yourself the space to focus and nail your interviews!
  • Since it’s likely that you’ll be speaking with a number of potential employers, the safe way to go is to avoid clothing that may be revealing. Choosing a top that you feel comfortable and confident in will translate well to the people you interview with. If you are wearing a dress shirt, the Fair is a great opportunity to break out those ties you got as a gift for some past holiday or birthday or graduation long ago. Not to mention, this will tie your outfit together and present a polished look to the employers.
  • Be yourself when you meet potential employers or network connections! Your individuality is what makes you stand out, and in a virtual format it is important to foster a strong connection with the person or people you talk to. Your skills and experience are something to be proud of! In the job search, conveying confidence is about 50% of the work. If you can promote your personality in a positive way, odds are that this optimism will be contagious. You will come across as motivated and driven toward success – who wouldn’t want to work with that?

As you look forward to this Friday’s Spring Career, Internship, and Graduate School Fair, feel confident in yourself and your passions. With support from campus resources like the CEPD office, the Office of Internship Programs, the SASE office, and countless others, your unique story will lead you toward success and countless opportunities to live a life driven by the desire to never stop learning. Looking into the future calls you to stand up and stand out as you seek to forge a path for yourself. As Friday’s fair approaches, know that you are capable, accomplished, and prepared to get your career on.

Brianna Brown ’20, G’21 is Letting Creativity Pave the Way for the Future

By: Kiera Mitru

Growing up in Guiderland, New York, Brianna Brown ‘20, G’21 found herself expressing her ideas and exploring the world around her through art. From art classes in high school to creative hobbies on the side, Brianna would bring her ideas to life through crafts and conversation. 

While interning with CAP COM, Brianna bridged photography and analytics to market the mission of the local Credit Union. Image courtesy of Brianna Brown.

When entering college, Brianna had initially sought out schools with engaging art programs, but her parents had advised her in a more practical direction. Looking at Siena, Brianna found that the school of business, specifically the marketing program, offered her a unique opportunity to bridge her two interests, art and business.

Brianna has taken full advantage of her Siena education, graduating with a major in marketing, with a concentration in digital marketing and communications, while also picking up a creative arts multimedia minor. Now a graduate student in Siena’s MBA program, she is following a concentration on a strategic management track in order to further “march forward” as a Siena Saint. Since starting her education at Siena, Bri has realized that business can be about more than balance sheets and watching the stock market. Infact, she has successfully integrated her artistic background into the world of business. 

Brianna’s perspective expertly communicates the importance of art to those that are business oriented, as well as the influence of business to those that are more artistically-oriented. “There’s a lot more to marketing than people think”, Brown shares, noting that her view of a traditionally rigid field of study takes on more meaning and artistic liberty. “Marketing is the most vital part of a business because no one is going to understand what a balance sheet is or what an annual report is, but they will recognize your logo and what you stand for, which is the aspect of marketing that calls to me the most”. 

A lot of how a person or a business is perceived is in how they market themselves. Brianna is fascinated in curating the image one projects among their audience. In her Digital Marketing course, MRKT 327, Brianna reached a turning point. In this class, Brianna recognized just how much we collectively underestimate the role that digital media plays in our spheres of communication and representation. Siena’s liberal arts mission allowed Brianna to get a more holistic education, stressing the importance of the real-world applications of the lessons she is learning every day.

If there is anything the past year has taught us, it is that not all learning happens within the bounds of the classroom. Now with online learning, the social and cultural relevance of the global pandemic, and a renewed focus on racial justice, it is impossible to “learn in a vacuum”. During the summer of 2020, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others sparked the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. The activism and conversation that took place over the summer motivated Brianna and millions of others into action. 

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Driven toward justice, Brianna Brown gets creative for a cause. Art courtesy of Brianna Brown.

As a young Black woman, Brianna felt the need to tell her story, because she is not sure how much time is left. In writing this article, Brianna exposed some of the harsh truths of her childhood and her continued lived experience. While Brianna’s piece was supported by friends, family, and community members, she found that some had changed their perspectives. In putting her face and name to some of the pains of microaggression and racial tension, Brianna was forced to reckon with specific moments she has experienced – many of which she thought she had forgotten. 

In her article, Brianna shares, “Throughout my life, I have been grateful to not have to endure the hardships that many other people of color have had to. I’ve never personally lost someone to police brutality, I’ve never been harmed by law enforcement, I’ve never witnessed a trauma happen in front of me. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t experienced micro-aggressions or hatred.”

Brown shares that her experience just scratches the surface of those other Black individuals live from day-to-day. Driven to participate and lead discussions surrounding the African American experience, Brianna contributed to a platform that continued the conversation sparked by the events of summer 2020. She has since “decided to take a step back in order to focus on other opportunities and projects in my life at the moment.” 

Since stepping back, Brianna has recognized that she misses having that creative outlet and sharing her work with others. Recently, she has been organizing and working on a new project that more specifically embraces her creative talent and motivated activism. With her extensive business background, Brianna can utilize her strengths in order to further mend her creative vision into a message she can share with others.

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Brianna, a recent Siena graduate focuses her “2020 vision” on the Siena MBA program following her graduation. Image courtesy of Brianna Brown.

As Brianna looks ahead to a new project and a new semester, she is excited to greet the new opportunities that will continue to shape and impact her learning journey at Siena. Her ability to mix and match her college courses has allowed her to create an educational mosaic in which she sees herself and her interests represented. Just as Brianna believed that the final semester was a culmination of all that she had accomplished, she found new ideas and avenues along which she can continue to collaborate, create, and pave the way for the future.

The Days Are Long, But the Time is Short: Siena’s Extended Winter Break

By: Kiera Mitru

There’s a saying that goes something like, “the days are long, but the time is short”. This saying takes shape in many chapters of our lives, but the sentiment has never proved to be more true than it does during one’s time in college. While there are days and assignments that feel eternal, the end of the semester always rolls around before we know it. We all know that moment when our hearts are heavy with a bittersweet feeling, carrying our bags to the car, returning home for yet another break. Even if waiting for time to pass in your hometown feels like it will last forever, the days pass in the same “wow that was fast” way that reminds us of what we may or may not have accomplished during our time away from school.

For each of us, every semester poses new challenges and opportunities to learn from, this past semester being no exception. Both on campus and off campus, the Siena Community engaged in conversation discussing the importance of voting, following safety measures put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and the obstacles posed by virtual classrooms. Learning communities across the world have had to make substantial changes to even the smallest details of their campuses in order to safely accommodate their students and faculty. Here at Siena, one of these changes is most directly reflected in the length of our Winter Break. 

Instead of taking the traditional 4-week pause between semesters, Siena announced that our Winter Break would last from Thanksgiving through mid-February in order to prevent the projected second wave of the COVID spread. As the scheduling change was announced, I began to dread what would add up to almost 3 months away from school, but quickly changed my tune after settling in at home. 

While a trip to the Jersey Shore in December sounds frigid, the warm colors of the sunrise make the cold weather worth it. Photo courtesy of Kiera Mitru.

For the months that we would be home, I was hired at a local supermarket and worked full-time in order to keep myself busy (and also to save some money). Having worked in the same store during the summer, returning to the strong workplace team I had grown close to was a sort of homecoming. Amidst a global pandemic, my coworkers have never failed to bring optimism and intention to their work, which translates into our essential service to the community. Some days have been harder than others, but each day has proved to me that essential workers are named appropriately, due to the fact that their service is not only necessary but vital to our society as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outside of work I engaged my culinary talent with new cookbooks and flavor combinations. While I didn’t get around to cooking and baking as much as I would have liked to, I kept my Instagram page @CookingUpSomethingFun updated with new treats I had been experimenting with. Some of which included French puff pastry, eggplant parmesan, homemade granola bars, traditional focaccia bread shaken up with some beet root powder, Ina Garten’s classic shortbread, pecan brittle, countless pots of beans, homemade dumplings, and so much more. My work over the stove offers a creative and intentional space to bring my ideas to life. Since most of my family members are working from home, I could always count on them to give a quick taste test of whatever I constructed in the kitchen, none of them sparing their brutally honest reviews.

I impressed myself with my Won Ton folding forte! Photo courtesy of Kiera Mitru.

In my few spots of free time I also turned to music as a creative outlet. I have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar, and finally set out on that journey over the course of our long Winter Break. In my case and in millions of others, music has played a crucial role in our movement through the pandemic. In a time where we have to remain physically separated, music brings us together as we celebrate traditions, reminisce on brighter times, connect to lyrics, and enjoy the artistry we find in our favorite songs. Thanks to the pandemic, my Spotify account is now riddled with specific and engaging playlists to share with friends or enjoy in the background of those more quiet moments.

I also had the opportunity to present my English capstone thesis, “Viewing Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic by the Light of a Biblical Blaze” during the virtual Capital District Feminist Studies Conference hosted by Russell Sage College. Alongside some of my fellow Siena Saints, I had the opportunity to record a presentation of my culminating paper and engage in a Q&A session with conference attendees. Throughout the day of the conference, the audience actively participated in presentations hosted by local feminist scholars for insight and empowerment. As a college student and a passionate advocate for Social Justice, this conference was a celebration of the work that has been done in this field, as well as that which has yet to be completed in the fight for Social and Racial Justice.

Above is a snapshot of the discussion I start in my English capstone paper. Photo courtesy of Kiera Mitru.

As my mind is framed in terms of semesters, at the end of every 3-month-long chunk of time, I enjoy reflecting on the lessons, connections, and inspirations that fill the days as they pass. It’s fair to say that the past year has challenged us to consider time in a new and intuitive way, calling us to appreciate positive moments above all else. As I watch the final grains of sand sifting through the Winter Break hourglass, I find myself cherishing these same moments of kindness, of intention, of shared joy, of meaning, and so on in the context of my time away from school. Somewhere between those days where I could feel the minutes as they passed and those days where the sunset prematurely washed over the sky, I came to realize that moments of rest and solitude are necessary. There is no telling of all the opportunity for refreshment and inspiration bubbling under the surface of a moment of free time. Looking forward to greeting the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester this month, may we continue to cherish moments of positivity even on our busiest days, and incorporate intentional rest into our deepest routines.

Our snow-covered campus awaits! Photo courtesy of Siena College Admissions.

Siena’s Fall Semester Success Story

By: Kiera Mitru

They say home is where the heart is, and for many of us, a piece of our hearts will always rest at Siena. Not only is Siena home because we live here, it’s home because this is where we pull all-nighters, meet our closest friends, travel abroad, overcome our fears, excel academically, laugh, cry, love, and explore. 

Our campus is green and gold by nature! Photo courtesy of Kiera Mitru.

While the Siena experience was uniquely altered this semester, many of us found joy in the small things like the colors of the leaves changing, the Siena Squirrels Instagram account, games of Among Us with friends, and informal check-ins with professors at the beginning of Zoom classes. To say the least, it’s been strange to experience the same place in such a drastically different way. While this semester was challenging, it allowed space for students and faculty alike to hold their memories of Siena a little bit closer, and inspired us all to continue setting goals in pursuit of a more “normal” future. 

One thing that was consistent among almost completely new policies was one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Some days, after being cooped up on Zoom all day, there was nothing more comforting than navigating the place I have come to know like the back of my hand. During past semesters, I never really took the time to intentionally walk around campus, since my different obligations called me all over the place anyway. This semester, I jumped at every opportunity to eat or study outside, which helped me to develop a deeper appreciation for our campus and the beautiful backdrop that surrounds us. 

Nothing beats a Siena Sunset! Photo courtesy of Kiera Mitru.

Due to the unconventional structure of this past semester, many students had to organize alternative plans for their extracurricular activities. Some clubs met virtually, while others hosted speakers and panelists to campus via Zoom in order to ignite the educational flame on campus, and I’ve never seen it burn brighter. 

During the Fall of 2020 there have been some massive headlines, many of which have had to do with the recent presidential election. This year, students and faculty alike helped the Siena Community as they registered to vote and detailed an endless amount of voting plans. This community organization was enthusiastic and crucial to the civic engagement of our campus and alumni network. There were election town halls hosted by the Political Science Department, registration form and absentee ballot dropboxes throughout campus, and a ton of student activism both on and off social media. This excitement was contagious and encouraged Saints to cast (what was for many) their first vote in a presidential election.  

Outside of the classroom, the election and the pandemic combined provided a completely separate, but just as important learning opportunity for each of us. These global and political circumstances required an abundance of patience and listening to one another. This year has felt like it might never end, and as we round the final corner of the Fall semester, we’re greeted with the promise of a new year. While there is just as much uncertainty in the air as there was in August, our community is rising to the occasion as we carry forward the same optimism, respect, and care that we bring to each semester. As we set our sights on the next horizon, may we apply diligence, kindness, and healing to the goals we set today, and all the days to come.

Yet another Siena sunset over the tent-speckled quad. Photo courtesy of Kiera Mitru.

Writing, Fighting, and Striving for Justice

By: Kiera Mitru

There are few things more electrifying than sitting in on a live poetry reading. One would think that sharing poetry in an online format would dull the experience, but that was not the case on the evening of October 14th, as Siena’s Latinx Student Association and the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center extended a virtual welcome to the Adios America team, Melania-Luisa Marte and Angélica Maria Aguilera.

The poetry duo hosted events for two nights in a row, each of them encouraging reflection and creativity. On Wednesday evening, the duo shared a powerful poetry reading performance and on Thursday evening, they organized an interactive poetry workshop for students and professors alike.

Through the medium of poetry, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa addressed themes of allyship, racial justice, microaggressions, the exoticization of women, and the necessity of decolonizing literature. One poem that was especially powerful had to do with rethinking the power and influence that modern literature has granted William Shakespeare. One of Angélica Maria Aguilera’s iconic lines was, “Methinks it’s time to flip the script, Shakespeare”. Looking at canonical literature through this lens, it is clear to see that there is a lack of representation in the work that is deemed “classic”. These works continue to be required readings for many literature and writing courses however, with all due respect, they don’t hold a candle to topics that are important to explore and discuss in the year 2020.

The poetry duo, Melania-Luisa Marte (Left) and Angélica Maria Aguilera (Right) are currently on a performance tour entitled “Adios America” on which they share poetry and insight into the work of intersectional feminism, anti-racism, and advocacy for justice. Photo courtesy of themujerista.com.

During Thursday night’s event, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa addressed topics including common microaggressions, how rest is a form of resistance, and guided their virtual audience through a series of writing prompts centering around identity. Participants started a conversation about beauty politics, anti-racism work both on and off campus, exotification, racialization, and their personal experiences either witnessing or receiving microaggressions in their lives. 

Another powerful moment of the evening came through a small meditation, where Melania-Luisa invited those tuned in on Zoom to visualize their happy place and write down where they found it, what was in it, what they felt, what they saw etc. The Poet then encouraged viewers to think of how one’s community would navigate this space. Is there room for collectivity? Is there visibility and celebration of our individuality and differences? These thinking points resonated with the audience, who engaged in discussion following this reflection activity. 

While asking essential questions regarding anti-racism work both inside and outside one’s immediate locality, Angélica Maria and Melania-Luisa stressed the importance of community and collectivity in this work. Melania-Luisa stating that, “We need community. Our ancestors survived through their connections to community and collectivity”. As students seeking to carry forward the Siena’s intentions of diversity, optimism, respect and service, these words could not be more crucial. There is power in numbers; Siena Saints host the intention, dedication, and commitment to service that is necessary to enact sustainable change.

In times as unprecedented as these, the Siena Community is stronger together. We must respect, serve, care, and share compassion for those around us now and always – it’s ours to do along the road to restorative justice and peace for all.

Even in the Face of a Global Pandemic, the FCSA Finds a Way to Spread Tidings of Comfort and Joy

By: Kiera Mitru

Photo courtesy of the Siena College Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy.

Each year, Judy Doughterty leads the team at the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy in collecting gifts and donations for their annual Giving Tree event. Typically, there is a tree stationed in popular spots on campus including the chapel, the atrium of the Sarazen Student Union, and the Foy Hall lobby. 

Due to campus-wide COVID restrictions, hosting this program in the traditional format is not possible, so Judy and her team got to work. 

It only took a matter of weeks for Judy’s virtual Christmas tree vision to come to life with the help of her student officers. She spent ample time fine-tuning the details of the virtual atmosphere and wanted to ensure that it was accessible to all that wish to participate.

The FCSA’s strong tradition in Franciscan Service and Advocacy has fostered a sense of community both on and off campus. The team in the Mission Office has sought out ways to continue creating connections during a time where we’re encouraged to stay distant from one another.

While the Giving Tree programming looks a bit different this year, the sentiment is just as genuine and now has the capacity to pull from a larger group of donors. Not even a pandemic can keep Judy and her team from spreading tidings of comfort and joy during the holiday season!

Visit the Virtual Giving Tree here: https://dailydigest.siena.edu/students/2020/10/11/its-beginning-to-look-a-lot-like-christmas-2/

Constitution Day 2020: Our Voices, Our Votes and How We Can Make a Difference

By: Kiera Mitru

We the People of Siena College gathered on the evening of September 22nd to discuss the importance of our voices and our votes ahead of the November 2020 election. During this virtual gathering, a panel of Siena Community members was moderated by Dr. Leonard Cutler, who is the school’s Pre-Law Advisor and professor of classes including topics on Constitutional and Criminal Law. Dr. Cutler shared that although the program had mostly focused on student voter turnout, “every member of the Siena Community is encouraged to vote in this election”. 

The panelists engaged in a conversation that touched upon many different topics in the sphere of modern politics and voting concerns. Those that sat on the panel were Dr. Chris Gibson (Siena College President), Professor Annie Rody-Wright (Senior Teaching Assistant, Prof. of FYSM, and Sociology), Amir Taylor (Junior Political Science major on a Pre-Law Track), and Sami DeRagon (Junior Political Science major on a Pre-Law Track and Political Science Society President). The diversity in the academic and personal backgrounds of these individuals fueled a productive, inspirational, and fruitful discussion. 

Photo courtesy of Boston University

Professor Rody-Wright shared information about voter suppression, and how it is specifically prevalent among incarcerated populations. Honoring the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rody-Wright discussed RBG’s dissents from the bench and the way she would do so in order to “appeal to a future day”. Justice Ginsburg understood that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the only vehicle that would ensure fair elections, and never wavered in defending Voting Rights for all. Rody Wright added a very fitting quote from Maya Angelou to the dialogue, when showing up to cast one’s ballot “I come as one but stand as 10,000”. Enacting and encouraging the changes we wish to see in our government starts with voting. It continues when the voting population shows up for their community, when they show up to conversations with their representatives, and when they inspire others to get involved in movements both big and small.

Dr. Chris Gibson continued to touch upon the importance of the Voting Rights Act by calling it “The Crown Jewel of our democracy”. Inspired by the rise of youth voter turnout, Siena’s president shared that on his first day in office he coined an initiative that would seek to engage 100% of the Siena Community in a voter registration and participation effort. The Siena Votes team has worked to facilitate dropbox areas in multiple places around campus where individuals can find absentee ballot registration forms. Through this initiative, students and faculty can also take advantage of postage paid for by the College in requesting and submitting their ballots through October.

Sami DeRagon, as the president of the campus’ Political Science Society, has been at the forefront of the 100% voter registration and turnout initiative that President Gibson proposed at the beginning of his term at Siena. DeRagon shares that “Dr. Gibson set the tone on campus for Siena’s involvement in this election”. This conversation also explored the rise of youth voting in recent years, DeRagon sharing that Gen Z and Millennial voters make up 40% of participants in the latest elections. This means that 40% of voters are 18-38 years old, providing hope for a future that will be shaped and guided by new and politically-active perspectives. 

In 20 states across the country, more young people are registering to vote than did in the 2016 election. In recent election years, there has been more than double the amount of active young voters than there have been in the past. Amir Taylor connected with students who may feel that their vote doesn’t matter. His message was strong and clear, and he urged his fellow students, especially those whose ancestors fought for their right to vote, to be politically active early and often. 

If this event got one message home, it’s the message that our voices and our votes matter. Let us use this message and this election to incite and inspire the positive change we wish to see in this world. It is said that every long journey begins with one single step, and it’s clear to see that Saints are taking strides toward a more just future. 

For more information and resources regarding the upcoming election, students and faculty can reach out to vote@siena.edu to interact with a voter registration hotline.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.com

Newly Reunited Siena Saints “March Forward” Into a New Year

By: Kiera Mitru

The sun rises over Siena Hall ahead of another academic year, photo courtesy of https://www.siena.edu/ .

Whether we’re first year or graduate students, when pulling into campus, Siena Hall’s iconic columns greet us by saying “Welcome to Siena”. For many of us, there’s no place like home, and after vacating campus for over five months, the feeling of being back at school is refreshing, to say the least. This year, move-in was during mid-August, when the late summer foliage was still as verdant as ever. As new and returning students alike re-connected on the quad, MacClosky square, the Paddock, and in their respective dorm rooms, rainbows of flowers sprouted from each plant bed in celebration of a newly reunited community. Even years of calling this campus home, the scenery never gets old. In fact, days before students began to move back, Conde Nast Traveler listed Siena’s campus one of the top 50 most beautiful in America, and now that we’re back and in-motion, I wholeheartedly agree. 

Tents on the quad have been added for more classroom, dining, and activity space, photo courtesy of the Siena College Twitter account.

Despite the addition of tent space for academic and social activities, our campus landscape still has the same breathtaking charm. Our campus climate, however, has adjusted to meticulously abide by local and international precautions to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus. Our campus now has guest visitation restrictions, a mask requirement in every academic and residential building, sanitizing stations in every classroom and hallway, reduced occupancy in dining spaces (many of which only offer meal options to-go), and so much more. A comprehensive list of Siena’s responses to the pandemic can be found on the Marching Forward webpage. Our campus is the same hub of knowledge, school spirit, enthusiasm, and it is a little quieter and a lot cleaner than it has been in the past. 

It is incredible to think of how much of a difference a few months can make. This past summer incited fear, protest, education, adherence to safety measures, and a commitment to fight injustice. Peaceful protests demanding justice and accountability for the wrongful murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and countless others reach every corner of the United States. These calls for justice continue to be sustained to this day. 

At Siena, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, members of the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center and the Black Student Union organized a peaceful demonstration on campus that took place on Saturday, September 5th, 2020. During this event, members of the Black Student Union held space for conversation, reflection, and calls to action for students and educators. In conjunction with this demonstration, the Mission Office has organized an event series advocating for racial justice. The Office has hosted webinars and events live via zoom with distinguished guest speakers including Dr. Bettina Love, Nyle Fort, and Selwyn Jones addressing topics of allyship, mourning, and the Movement for Black Lives. Now more than ever, it is necessary to be the change and to demand the change our communities and our society need. 

To say the least, the past few months have challenged the status quo. Even if my friends and professors are partially hidden by masks or sequestered to a small box on Zoom, starting a new semester will always be a form of familiar chaos. I am optimistic that myself and my fellow students are ready to stay safe, attentive, and active during the upcoming school year. May we all use this as an opportunity to learn with and from one another, and create a considerate and respectful community for all. As our new president Dr. Chris Gibson reminds us, “No matter what the obstacle, as Siena Saints, we are always marching forward”.

Welcome Home, Class of 2024!

At the end of every academic year, a special “Welcome” is posted to our blog, dedicated to making the incoming class feel at home as they prepare to take on all that Siena has to offer. However, I couldn’t welcome our newest Saints without addressing the disappointment you all must be feeling.

So let me start by saying I am so sorry you are not getting the final months of high school that you deserve.

No matter how trivial it may seem to feel devastated about missing prom, your last sport events or musicals, or spending your final weeks with your classmates, it’s ok to be upset. I won’t say I understand what you are going through, but college seniors are dealing with a similar heartbreak. I planned to be enjoying my last Siena Fest, finding shoes that looked cute with my cap and gown, and spending as much time as possible with my housemates right about now.

It took me a while to realize I shouldn’t feel guilty towards my disappointment in missing out on these memories while much more serious matters occur. I hope you all come to realize this too.

Looking to the future may be scary right now, with still so many unknowns ahead of us. I can’t promise you much about what the future will hold, but I can tell you with certainty, that you will be in good hands on campus. Siena brands itself as a close-knit community that takes care of one another, and as I prepare to become an alumna, I can assure you that this is nothing short of the truth.

(Yes, your new home is *that* pretty, photo courtesy of Instragram @sienacollege)

My advice to you is to take advantage of your time at Siena. It makes me feel so old to type this, but your college years are truly too short and will be over before you know it. You know first-hand what it feels like to miss out on making memories, so please, live it up on campus. Build meaningful relationships with professors, join clubs, attend events, get to know your dorm neighbors, and be sure to Saga sit (you’ll learn soon enough) at least a few times each semester. And, for Siena’s class of 2020 especially, make your first Siena Fest absolutely unforgettable.

So, with all of that being said, welcome home class of 2024! I wish you all the best in your endeavors at Siena. Remember to make the most of it and to embrace your new community.

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