Can Liberal Arts Fit in the Business World?

By Michael Daddino J. Crew Awnings

By Michael Daddino
J. Crew Awnings

On November 11th, 2014, James Scully, the J. Crew C.O.O Rep, returned to Siena to discuss his journey with his liberal arts degree and how we can make the most of ours. Scully graduated in ’87 with a degree in English and was enrolled in the ROTC program as well.

At such a preppy school, many of us are very familiar with J. Crew and its female line counterpart, Madewell.  As explained by Scully, there are 271 J. Crew, 131 J. Crew factory/outlets, and 76 Madewells. Since 2011 it has expanded internationally especially with the use of opening online stores. The interesting thing about J. Crew that I had not realized was the fact that you can only buy J. Crew brand clothing from J. Crew stores. There are no other stores that sell J. Crew apparel.

But what really caught my attention though, was the fact that he was an English major. I am an English major. When anyone asks me what I plan to do after graduation, never in a million years would I think to say, “Oh, I want to go into retail and become the Chief Operating Officer of a multichannel fashion company.” I usually just stick to “Well, teachings an option, maybe going into editing and publishing, I don’t really know yet…” The classic conversation stopper of an answer.

But Scully confessed he never wanted to be a teacher. He knew the broad education he would receive from the classical training here at Siena could take him anywhere. He was very passion that it is your “personal satisfaction and growth in your career that will allow you to do whatever you want.” A liberal arts degree opens more doors than it closes. He feels his education has made him proficient in long term things such as his communication skills, flexible thinking, and his abilities to problem solve. He raved how a liberal arts degree teaches competency. It gives the student the ability to realize that everything is constantly changing, especially in the realm of retail, and gives you the knowledge to be ready and able to learn new skills to overcome new obstacles.

In the Q&A, I raised my hand to ask if he regrets not taking any business classes while at Siena. He replied with absolutely not. While he does support the enrollment of business classes and econ classes, and finds them to be very valuable, he feels that his education in the liberal arts and his experience out in the field has taught him more than any business class could have.

Always keep in mind that a liberal arts degree can literally take you anywhere. Even though it is assumed that businesses will want to hire a business major, the skills you gain as a liberal arts major are skills that are lifelong and necessary for any job. Any person with a liberal arts degree has the skills to learn to be good at any job. Just remember, a Liberal Arts Degree lead James Scully, a Siena student just like you, to be the Chief Operating Officer of J. Crew and Madewell. Who knows what the future has in store for you with your Liberal Arts Degree!  

Liberal Arts Cares About the Environment Too

Norrie State Park-2 by Esther Lee

Norrie State Park-2 by Esther Lee

Caroline Bertholf, a Siena senior completed the Siena Summer Legal Fellows Program summer of 2013 and the summer of 2014. Here six schools were selected, and out of those six schools only two students per school were chosen to take part in the program (with the exception of the Albany Law Program that selects three students to fill a newly created Intellectual Properties internship position). A very selective program, the Legal Fellows Program is the only one of its kind in the country.

This past summer Caroline attended the Pace University Law School’s Environmental Litigation Clinic where she learned firsthand how the not-for-profit environmental law sphere operates. The clinic focused its attention on the issues regarding the water quality of the Hudson River Basin ranging from the Adirondacks to Long Island Sound.

This 8 week program tackled 5 cases with other law students against pollution and advocating for a much cleaner river. Caroline was expected to do extensive research and was given special permissions to use legal search engines at Pace. She was also very excited about her unlimited access to the Law Library for research at Pace. Along with her research, Caroline met with attorneys on a weekly basis to report on her research 3 to 4 times a week. At these meetings they would check on her development, talk about current news on the topic, new strategies and get assigned new projects. And on Tuesdays she would have meetings with clients and sometimes phone conferences to make sure everyone was on the same page moving forward.

She developed relationships with the people in the organization and used LinkedIn to find followers and keep professional relationships. With LinkedIn especially she is still involved in that community.

Naturally, she attributed her success to her liberal arts education. Caroline explained how she felt her education was so well rounded because of the School of Liberal Arts. She can draw now from all of her different courses, balancing between her business, economics, and finance courses with her liberal arts courses. Caroline felt Siena prepared her to act professionally due to her professors pushing her to do so. From the way classes are held and students are expected to withhold a standard at Siena she felt it was easy to acclimate to the professional environment at Pace University Law School’s Environmental Litigation Clinic. Similarly, She felt capable to think with an open mind and understand different perspectives because of the Franciscan values that Siena follows so religiously.

Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program

An aspect of Siena’s School of Liberal Arts that deserves a highlight is the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program. Dr. Sonnelitter was recently named the director of the minor and plans to spread word on this fascinating and useful minor in order to get people talking.

The title of the minor is pretty self explanatory, but for those who don’t know the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, it focuses on the history of that time period through English classes, Language classes, and art classes. Dr. Sonnelitter urged the importance of learning about history through these different perspectives because it really opens the student’s eyes to understanding that there are so many different ways to look at one topic. The students who minor in this are expected to remove any preconceptions and think like they are in the Medieval and Renaissance Era. This minor teaches the students to approach the world from the past instead of the present.

“The fun thing about this minor is that it is an interdisciplinary program giving the students a deeper understanding of history.” All the different courses give you different ways to remove yourself from the present day and put yourself into the Renaissance Era to relive the beauty of that time period and learn about it.

The skills the students learn are fundamental to any liberal arts education: critical thinking, creative thinking, informed reason and judgment, communication skills, and a diversity of perspectives.

Registration is coming up so take a look at courses for the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program!

How To Network

By Bowen Chin: Connecting People

By Bowen Chin: Connecting People

What is networking exactly? Basically, it is interacting with people to gain contacts and develop relationships to further ones career. Little casual conversations to further your understanding about different fields and what exactly a career entails. Networking is so important because, yes an education can get you very far but it is your social skills and personal relationships that take you to these places. The more people you know, the more opportunities you have. Everyone is out there to help you, not hurt you (most of the time). Seeing a familiar face when walking into a completely foreign place is the most comforting feeling in the world and you get that from Networking. So, here are some tips on networking that I learned at Siena’s Mock Tail Networking Event on November 4th, 2014.

  1. Be yourself! Who else is better than you? You know your skills, your flaws, your strengths and your weaknesses. Take a deep breath and speak from your own experiences. You never know what commonalities you might have with someone.
  2. Smile! The friendlier a person looks the easier they are to approach. Make yourself look approachable and wear that smile. When you’re speaking to someone, smile and look interested in what they are saying.
  3. Be interested in the other person. This is a big one. Everyone LOVES talking about themselves. Everyone. And in these situations, it will benefit you to pretend to care even the slightest bit. The person talking will appreciate that you are listening to them and are attentive to their story; and hopefully when you tell your story they will be just as attentive.
  4. Your Elevator Speech. An elevator speech is a quick summary that quickly and simply defines yourself or your organization. You want to make sure you tell them your name, your major, the school you attend(ed), any experiences you have had, let it be an internship or volunteer work in your field, and perhaps what you plan to do with your degree in a non-begging-them-to-give-you-a-job way.  You want to briefly inform them of the things that would set you apart from everyone else. Don’t tell them every single thing about yourself, but definitely let them get to know you a little.
  5. It’s okay to disengage. Ending these conversations can be very awkward and uncomfortable if you let them be. But you control it. Simply say, “it was very nice meeting you, perhaps we could exchange business cards?” If they seem interested in you and you get their information, follow up within the next 24 hours to ensure they will remember who you are. Finally, always, always thank them for their time. They just took time out of their day to further your career (hopefully). So let them know how much you appreciate their advice or simply, time.

If you’re still not sold on the importance of networking here is a little story about a woman we all know so well from her email blasts, Cwinkler, our very own Courtney Winkler:

Courtney went to Syracuse to study Art History, a fellow Liberal Arts student, graduated with a degree in Art History. After her experiences in various fields she finally figured out that she wanted to work where she could work closely with people and harbor relationships. “My liberal arts education allowed for me to strengthen my critical thinking and writing skills, gave me a background in a variety of subjects, and developed an awareness of others and different social situations, which ultimately helped make me into a well-rounded and thoughtful person.”

Siena has always been a place very close to her heart; her grandfather graduated from here, her parents met here, her sister and her husband met here as well, so when she found out they were hiring she was ecstatic. Long story short, her boyfriend, who is an attorney at a firm with a large amount of Siena alumni, had a friend pass along her resume to several members of the college. While this did not guarantee her job, it did put her foot in the door. (This is networking at its finest) The story ends with Courtney getting the job as our very own Career Center Assistant. If it weren’t Courtney’s boyfriend’s friend, maybe she wouldn’t have scored this job. Its all about your connections. “This highlights what I love most about Siena: there is a familial bond between everyone in the community, and everyone is willing to help out a fellow Saint,” Courtney raved.

Don’t burn your bridges cause you never know what the future holds.

Live and Let Live

LGBT Pride Parade San Francisco 2008 by David Yu on

LGBT Pride Parade San Francisco 2008 by David Yu on

When did you decide you were attracted to the sex you are attracted to today? What caused you to be attracted to that sex? What made you express yourself as the gender you express yourself as today?

Attempting to answer those questions is almost impossible in a casual conversation. Lady Gaga would respond with baby I was born this way, but to some people that’s too hard to understand.

Understanding, accepting, and tolerating are three basic qualities that not everyone has. To understand one must be educated. To be accepting one must keep an open mind. To be tolerant one must allow the existence of behaviors even if one does not agree with them.

It is the Ally Training Program here at Siena that teaches us to be tolerant, accepting, and to understand those who are part of the LGBTQ community.

Just as a person is born a heterosexual, a person is born a homosexual. But for some reason a person who is a homosexual is not accepted as easily as a person who is born heterosexual is. Same goes for those who identify themselves as transsexual or bisexual. Why is that?

Well, it’s easy to blame society, right? Media isn’t always very accepting of those who don’t meet the social norm. There are very important gender roles everyone is expected to obtain, right?

The power of the individual is very much underestimated, especially next to the vast societal outlook. But at the Ally Training Session, they preached about the importance of an individual as an active bystander. Anybody can be a bystander, but an active bystander facilitates a positive change.

I get it; calling your friend a faggot is so funny. But do you actually know what a faggot is?  It’s a bundle of sticks used to start a fire. Still funny? In the Middle Ages, when witches were brunt to death at a stake, the homosexuals were thrown into fires. They were not worth the stake and were just thrown into the fire “with the other faggots.” Probably not as funny anymore now that you actually understand what a faggot is historically.

No one expects you to completely understand what a member of the LGBTQ community is going through living in a society where they are out casted and ridiculed. But what you are expected to do, at the very least is to tolerate those in the LGBTQ community. By tolerate I mean to simply accept everything and everyone, even if you don’t agree with what they are or what they chose to be. Live and let live.

Understand that those classmates of yours who identify themselves as LGBT have higher risks of suffering from anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Understand that even the littlest thing like an orientation game where you have to answer a question as simple as “who is your celebrity crush?” can make them feel uncomfortable. Educate yourself about sexual orientation and what the experience is for LGBTQ persons in this country. Educate yourself on the laws, policies, and practices and how they affect the LGBTQ community. But as Socrates once said, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

Keep an open mind. Understand that there are differences in everyone that make every person unique. Be inclusive. Be tolerant. Be an active bystander so that next time, when you hear your friend call someone a faggot, you can tell him or her how wrong they actually are.