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!

Using the Library as a Resource

I’ve worked at the library’s circulation desk for over three years now, and I’ve noticed that everyone uses the library differently, whether it be a place for group project meetings, hanging out with friends, checking out books, or for studying. I remember learning about how to use the library in my First Year Seminar class, but there are a lot of resources the library has to offer that many students don’t know about. 

Extended hours & 24-hour computer lab

During finals, the library extends its hours to give students additional study time. Starting on Sunday December 2nd, the library will be open until 2am Sunday through Thursday, and open until 11pm Friday and Saturday. If the 2am closing time is still too early, however, the library’s computer lab is open 24 hours, giving students a quiet, productive space to study in the late hours of the night. The lab is accessible to all students by swiping in with your Saint Card. The computer lab also has printers and computers available for student use.

Standish Café

The library opened the café last year due to student demand. It’s a small coffee and snack bar by the study rooms on the main floor. Instead of having to walk to the dining hall or Casey’s, especially when it’s cold out, students can purchase pastries, snacks, and drinks from the café. There is also a Starbucks machine that dispenses coffee, hot chocolate, or chai tea, so you can get your caffeine fix without having to disrupt your studying.

Reference librarians 

The reference librarians are another useful resource in the library. They work at the reference desk on the main floor of the library and are available to assist students in the research process, especially with finding sources both inside and outside of the library. The library itself offers a wide variety of materials, from books to DVDS to current magazines and newspapers. It also provides extended services like ConnectNY and Interlibrary Loan (ILL), which allow students to check out books or request articles from other college libraries and have them delivered to Siena’s circulation desk or made available electronically. The library itself has over 150 online databases available for student use. These sources are especially useful in writing research papers because students are able to search for reputable, peer-reviewed sources that can be used in academic writing. For help on using these databases, ask any student worker at the circulation desk or a reference librarian.

The Writing Center

Writing research papers adds to the stress of finals. Luckily, the library has a student-run Writing Center, located on the lower level of the library. At the Writing Center, student workers help writers enhance their work in terms of style, cohesiveness, and organization. If citations like MLA, APA, or Chicago are something you struggle with, the Writing Center is also able to help students craft citations. Make an appointment at the Writing Center here.

Reserve a study room

The library definitely gets busier as the semester draws to a close, which is why the library offers study rooms available for reservation. There are nine study group rooms available for bookings on both the main and second floors, which can be done through the library’s website here. The rooms come with a whiteboard, table, and chairs to accommodate groups. Whiteboard markers and erasers can also be checked out with your Saint Card at the circ desk.

Finals are a crazy time of year, but the library is a great resource, so use it! With assistance from librarians, databases, and the Writing Center, students are able to hand in their best possible papers, presentations, and final exams at the end of the semester. Good luck studying, and ace those finals!

Keeping Your Mind Healthy During Finals

With only two weeks of classes left in the fall semester, students are starting to feel the stress of incoming final papers, projects, and exams. It’s hard to self-motivate, especially so close to the month-long winter break.

It’s important not to let your mental health fall to the wayside during finals week. Taking care of your mental health is vital to ending the year on a high note. Here are some ways to keep your body and mind healthy as you prepare to finish the semester!

Map out your game plan

Before my first set of finals freshmen year, I made a list of all the assignments, projects, and exams I had due in the last weeks of the semester. It can be daunting to see all the work you have to do at first, but it helps keep your organized and less likely to miss a final assignment. Making a weekly study schedule helps keep you on-task. Schedule what you’re going to study and when, as well as schedule in time for relaxation and de-stressing!

Make time for sleep 

Sometimes pulling an all-nighter seems like the only way you’ll get all your assignments handed in on time. But losing sleep, especially during a stressful time of the semester, can negatively impact your memory retention, mood, and productivity. College finals are meant to make you think, so if you’re running on less than five hours of sleep, you’ll have a hard time comprehending questions and coming up answers.

Use caffeine in moderation

Going along with the importance of sleep, caffeine should only be consumed in moderation. The recommended intake for college students is no more than 400mg a day. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to heightened anxiety and trouble sleeping, so make sure you’re not drinking a latte too close to bedtime.

Don’t skip class the day before finals

It’s the end of the semester and you’ve got one skip left for your class. It’s tempting to use it on the last day of class, but don’t skip so close to finals! Many professors use the last days of class to give important information about the final exams or projects, and also will often have review sessions in class to help students prepare.

Schedule breaks for yourself

When you’re in the middle of writing a 10-page research paper, stopping to take a break feels counterintuitive. Cramming for final exams or frantically writing a final paper creates anxiety, which can negatively impact your final grades. Set up a schedule for yourself, like taking a 10-minute break for every hour of work. Taking a break can include having a snack, taking a walk, or just stepping away from your computer for a few minutes.

It’s a given that everyone wants to do well on their final exams, projects, and papers and secure an A for the class. But it’s important to take care of your mental health while striving for good grades. By making time for sleep, limiting caffeine, and scheduling breaks, it can make all the difference in having a successful finals week. Good luck, Saints!

5,000 Miles, 10 Countries, 3 Months

When Saul Flores was a junior in college, he walked 5,328 miles from Quito, Ecuador to the United States. He traveled through 10 countries and took over 20,000 photos in an effort to capture the danger of an immigrant’s journey north. His project, “The Walk of Immigrants,” made national news, and Flores has been featured on NPR, TEDx, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. Flores was invited as the Keynote Speaker for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week and spoke in the Sarazen Student Union on Wednesday Nov. 14, 2018.

A map showing Flores’ journey

During his lecture, “Fleeing Home: Immigration and the Cost of Poverty,” Flores shared personal anecdotes from his experience as a first generation Mexican-American. He explained how both his parents were immigrants: “My mom left because she was escaping poverty and my father left because he was escaping a civil war.” Flores talked about his parents’ experiences working and struggling to provide for their family in New York City. “Being an immigrant in America is very hard,” he said. “It’s been a very turbulent time for a lot of people across the country, and I keep going back to my childhood.” Flores then shared a particularly moving story in which he and his sister witnessed his mother, who worked as a housekeeper on the Upper West Side, scrubbing floors for a living for the first time. “We had never seen my mom scrub the floors before,” Flores said. “My guardian angel, my protector, was on her knees scrubbing floors.”

Photo courtesy of the Franciscan Center for Service & Advocacy

Flores was inspired to take his 5,328-mile trek by a service trip to his mother’s hometown in Mexico. While visiting his grandmother in Mexico, he went to the tiny cinderblock schoolhouse that had been constructed in the 1970s to provide an education to the children of the community. When Flores and his friends went inside the schoolhouse, 124 children began singing the Mexican national anthem to them. “It was so beautiful because they were introducing us into their home,” Flores said. He started noticing the poor conditions of the building, like the crumbling walls, flickering light bulbs, and splintering desks. Flores’ grandmother explained to him that this would have been the school he would have gone to if his mother had not immigrated to the United States. This trip was the catalyst for Flores’ journey, especially once he was told the schoolhouse was doomed to close. In his travels, he took over 20,000 photos, which he sold and donated the proceeds to the schoolhouse’s repairs. Flores shared stories of his 3 month-long journey, with one particularly harrowing experience in the Darién Gap, a passage of swampland between Panama and Colombia. Flores spoke on the positive impact of his journey, explaining that it sparked a national conversation on immigration.

Throughout his lecture and into the Q&A, Flores emphasized the importance of international travel, the influence of passion, and the power of grit and perseverance. Keep an eye out for more extensive coverage of this event in my article in the 11/30 issue of The Promethean! If you’re interested in learning more about Saul’s experience, check out his social media pages at @sweetlikesaul.

“We the Change:” Monthly Talk Circle

In the last week of October, the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women held a #MeToo Forum for students on campus to discuss contemporary issues directly related to women. The discussion spawned dialogue on women’s equality, gender standards, and the need for change. The #MeToo Forum emphasized the need for conversation on these issues on Siena’s campus. In response to this need, Beth DeAngelis, the director of the Women’s Center, created a monthly talk circle for women students on campus.

Beth facilitated this first talk circle but explained that other circles will be student-run. Students will also have the opportunity to anonymously fill out a sheet suggesting topics for discussion in future circles. She emphasized the importance of having safe spaces and places for discussion, especially for female college students. It is also important to mention that what is said in the circle does not leave the room, but what is learned in the circle can and should be shared with others.

The circle is intended to be an open space that fosters honest discussion about issues faced by college women. One of the topics discussed was women being held to a higher standard than men, especially in terms of appearance. This segued into a discussion on how women are perceived in the classroom with focus on class participation. As a female college student, it can sometimes be difficult to speak up in class for fear of being judged, especially in male-dominated settings. I have been to forums at Siena where the conservations are dominated or overtaken by male students, which sometimes makes it even harder for me to add my voice to the conversation. It is important for students to be aware of those who are hesitant or struggling to enter the classroom dialogue and make the space welcoming and open for them. Class discussion is a vital component of the college classroom experience, and everyone should feel comfortable in sharing their voice. 

Siena’s Women’s Center frequently hosts events and forums that encourage women’s participation, so be sure to attend next month’s talk circle and stay updated on their events through SaintsConnect! You can learn more about the Women’s Center here at their website.

Thinking About Grad School?

With registration in full swing, students are encouraged to think about their plans after graduation. One option many students consider is attending graduate school to get a Master’s degree and sometimes continue on to get their PhD. Continuing your education post-undergrad is a big decision, and it’s important to know all the factors that weigh into this choice. On Wed. Nov. 7, the English Department hosted a Grad School Panel where Drs. Snyder, Spain-Savage, and Dearing shared their own graduate school experiences and gave advice to prospective students. They primarily talked about their experience in grad school for English, but the advice they shared can largely be applied to any grad school program. Dr. Snyder explained the panel intended to “demystify” the process of applying to graduate school.

Dr. Spain-Savage talked about the importance of deadlines in graduate school, emphasizing that it is nothing like the undergraduate workload. In grad school, you impose your own deadlines, she explained, which is one of the reasons why not all graduates complete a dissertation. Unlike the strict schedules of undergrad, graduate school grants you the freedom to set your own deadlines, which can be troubling to students who struggle with time management or self-motivation. Dr. Spain-Savage also commented on the importance of finding a program that fosters and supports your area of specialization. Dr. Snyder shared his personal experience with grad school. He said, “You never feel smarter than when you’re in grad school.” Dr. Snyder emphasized the importance of doing research in the grad school search to find out where the funding is, showing that it is possible to get your Master’s and even your PhD and not have to pay for it. Dr. Dearing, fresh out of grad school last May, discussed the importance of knowing what to expect when continuing your education. She emphasized that graduate school is “not undergrad part two,” but schooling at another level. The panelists then shared their advice on applying for and attending graduate school. Another important part of applying for grad school is the application itself. Applicants usually need a certain number of letters of recommendation. Dr. Snyder emphasized the importance of asking your professors early for these letters and providing them with information to help write your letter of recommendation, like a resume, a personal statement, and a writing sample. Similarly, letters of recommendation should show different sides of you and your personality to reflect how you will fit into a particular program. Talking to current grad students is a great way to fully understand the experience. Because they are currently enrolled in programs, they will be honest and realistic about what grad school is really like. Similarly, ask graduate students what they’re doing once they graduate to get an idea of available jobs and realistic goals to set. Another helpful tip is to reach out to the department of a graduate school you’re interested in and ask to be put in contact with a graduate student.

One big concern for undergrads looking towards grad school is the debt. After finishing undergrad, most students have to begin working off their debt from student loans. All three panelists emphasized the importance of finding programs that will help fund you or at least help you pay for the process.  The takeaway? Research, research, research before applying to a program. Research can find you funding to help pay for your education and place you in an academic environment you thrive in. “You have to stay true to what you love,” Dr. Spain-Savage said. Graduate school can be a great opportunity for undergrad students to reach their potential and find themselves in the process. The panelists emphasized to not be afraid to go somewhere new, especially when you’re young. “It’s fun to live somewhere you’re not staying,” Dr. Snyder said.

Grad school is a big decision with many deciding factors and it is not for everyone. It is important to be well-informed about the goals, challenges, and benefits of attending graduate school. If grad school is something you’re considering or even just starting to think about, reach out to your professors, especially those working in your field of interest. They are great resources and are almost always willing to share their own education experience with students. Your academic advisor is also a great resource if you have questions about graduate school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, reach out, and research the process!

Why Get a Liberal Arts Degree?

With the spring semester looming on the horizon, the registration process kicks up a lot of questions about a student’s future. Most of the conversation involving registration brings up the question college students always hear: “What do you plan to do with your degree when you graduate?” The question, of course, is valid; it’s important for students to have a sense of direction when making big decisions about the future. So why pursue a liberal arts degree? 

Many students don’t know what exactly constitutes the broad category of “liberal arts” in college. Even up until I started working in the SoLA office, I wasn’t exactly sure of what fell under the umbrella of liberal arts. Most people get the basics – English, writing, creative arts – but don’t realize the broadness of the category itself. Liberal arts includes American studies, education, history, modern languages and classics, philosophy, political science, psychology, religious studies, social work, and sociology! So a liberal arts degree isn’t just for someone interested in studying Shakespeare or analyzing Plato; it can apply to hundreds of different career paths.

A liberal arts degree prepares its students with a number of soft and hard skills that are beneficial in the job market, including reading comprehension, analytical writing, and communication skills. Similarly, pursuing a liberal arts degree does not only mean taking English and philosophy classes; students are pushed to engage in a variety of topics, including math and sciences. A liberal arts degree does not teach one specific subject matter but a variety of them, making liberal students skilled and adaptable.

So what are some of your options as a liberal arts student? The first question I am asked when I tell people I’m an English major is always: “Are you going to teach?” This is not to dismiss teaching; being an educator is a valuable, fulfilling career path. However, popular belief is often that you can only teach with an English or history degree. Teaching is not the only option for liberal arts students. Students who focus in English or writing can pursue a career in writing/editing, as a sales manager, or as a communication specialist. Also beyond teaching, students can become involved in marketing communications, business analysis, public relations, copywriting, Human Resources, or sales representation. The opportunities are truly endless with a liberal arts degree.

To end on a positive note from The Muse, “don’t let today’s STEM-driven mindset get you down. No matter your major, the world is truly your oyster. Now go land a killer gig.”

English Colloquium Highlights Professor Projects

Do you ever wonder what your professors do when they’re not assigning homework or grading essays? In an English Department Colloquium on Tuesday Oct. 30, students and faculty learned about Dr. Keith Wilhite’s and Dr. Christiane Farnan’s research projects while they were both away on a spring semester-long sabbatical last year. 

Dr. Wilhite, associate professor of English, titled his talk, “Contested Terrain: The Suburbs, U.S. Literature, and the Ends of Regionalism.” Dr. Wilhite’s primary focus is in urban and suburban studies. His book analyzes the 1945 escalation of suburban sprawl through the 2008 housing crises. He explained that his book “scrutinize[s] the cultural idea of the suburban home.” Dr. Wilhite drew in multiple sources to explain this shift, including the House & Garden magazine and A Raisin in the Sun (1959) by Lorraine Hansberry. The two chapters he worked on during his sabbatical discuss the American desire to progress forward following World War I and the effect of increased suburban housing on race. In the conclusion of his presentation, Dr. Wilhite read a passage from the chapters he worked on during his sabbatical.

Dr. Christiane Farnan is an associate professor of English who focuses primarily on mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century women writers. During her sabbatical last spring, she wrote about The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner in which Ellen Montgomery travels from New York City to the Adirondacks to Edinburgh, Scotland through the duration of the novel. Dr. Farnan’s talk, titled “Training for Travel: The Value of Girl Physical Fitness in Susan Warner’s The Wide, Wide World,” argues about the depiction of protagonist Ellen Montgomery in the novel. She explained that in her essay she argues that “Susan Warner presents the mid-nineteenth century American girl abroad as a different, unusually athletic, more interesting kind of mid-nineteenth century girl.” Dr. Farnan supported her claims with evidence from the book, including Ellen’s physical fitness, spiritual guidance, and psychological strength.

At the end of the colloquium, both professors responded to student and faculty questions. I have had Dr. Wilhite as a professor for a few classes now and have never had the pleasure of taking one of Dr. Farnan’s classes, but it was fascinating to hear about each professor’s individual research. I oftentimes think of my professors only in the classroom and don’t think about all the additional work and research they do in their academic careers, so it was interesting to learn about what they’ve been working on during their sabbaticals.

For more extensive coverage of the English Department Colloquium, keep an eye out for my article in the 11/16 issue of the Promethean! To stay updated on upcoming events on campus, like and follow our social media pages on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

#MeToo Forum Encourages Open Discussion

On Monday Oct. 29, Siena’s Women’s Center held an open forum discussion on the #MeToo movement. Other topics during the forum included Brett Kavanaugh, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, and women’s empowerment. These topics have repeatedly been in the news over the past few years, especially during the recent Supreme Court hearings and nominations.

The #MeToo movement quickly gained grounds on social media platforms in late 2017, providing a space for those who have been sexually assaulted or harassed to share their personal stories. Many confessions discussed workplace harassment. Even though the #MeToo movement gained prominence more recently, issues of sexual assault and harassment have always existed. There was much discussion of the #MeToo movement in the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct and assault by three women. One of the women, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite the women’s allegations, testimony, hearings, and a brief FBI investigation, Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2018. 

People have been “blacking out” their social media to show their support of the #MeToo movement and that they believe survivors. In the wake of Dr. Ford’s testimony, social media sites were flooded with black profile pictures to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.

The Women’s Center held the forum for students and faculty to discuss their own thoughts and feelings regarding the larger #MeToo movement, as well as Kavanaugh’s recent swearing-in as a Supreme Court Justice. These types of conversations and open forums are especially significant on college campuses, where sexual violence can be prevalent. There are harrowing statistics about sexual violence and college students. For example, 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during their college career. Similarly, 95% of these assaults go unreported. 

During the open forum, the facilitators emphasized that the only thing allowed to leave the room was what people learned during the discussion; all private confessions and stories were not allowed to leave the room. This created a safe space for students to share their thoughts and feelings on the #MeToo movement and its relevance. Because sexual violence is a prominent issue on college campuses, it is important to have conversations and safe spaces where students feel able to share their experience.

There are numerous confidential and non-confidential sources students can utilize on Siena’s campus; all this information can be found here. More information about Siena’s Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women can be found here.

English Majors Wanted!

As an English major, I am constantly asked what my plans are after graduation. The general response I get? “Good luck finding a job!” “What do you expect to do with that?” “Why didn’t you pick a real major?” In my experience, people frequently dismiss a liberal arts degree as unnecessary, even useless. If I had a dollar for every time someone dismissed my field of study, I could make a good dent in paying off my student loans. However, these negative attitudes towards liberal arts degrees are proven largely invalid.

An article in CBS News by Aimee Picchi emphasizes the growing importance of a liberal arts degree in the eyes of employers. College students are widely unemployed, but in an underemployment rate of various majors, English majors are nowhere near the bottom at 29%, and compared with business majors at 31%. 

Picchi’s article suggests English majors and liberal arts students might have a better chance finding a job post-graduation than business or biology majors. Though popular majors are expected to perform well in the labor force, this isn’t always the outcome. Majors like business, legal studies, and social services professions are dubbed “problematic majors” by the article because they are expected to land graduates jobs. They similarly “comprise 4 in 10 bachelor’s degrees handed out by U.S. colleges” (Picchi).

Picchi explains that the main issue with these “problematic majors” is that they are preparing students for specific fields, rather than providing them with the skills to make them a “job ready adult.” Students will graduate without the necessary hard and soft skills needed for employment, making them not fully ready to enter the workforce. Picchi explains, “That’s not to say that business majors can’t find good job opportunities after graduation. But the key is focusing on developing skills that will help them stand out when they go on the job market.”

Liberal arts degrees, though unfairly considered invaluable, teach a broad range of useful skills that are adaptable to many career fields. The applications of communication skills, reading comprehension, and analytical abilities are endless. It can be frustrating to have your degree dismissed, but studies like this prove the value of a liberal arts degree. So when someone critiques your choice of major, remember that every major has value!