Siena’s First Student Designed Interdisciplinary Major


Have you ever worried that you won’t be qualified for your future dream job? Do you ever think that there’s not one specific major that you can gain all the skills necessary to succeed in this field?

Siena introduces you to their newest SDIM, Student Designed Interdisciplinary Major, in which a student works with a community of advisors and mentors who will help shape the interdisciplinary major into a concentrated study. The study has to come from at least three different majors and one must reach out to an official advisor who will be committed to overseeing the student’s capstone and journey.

Anna Youngmann a senior at Siena College is one of the first students to graduate with a Self Designed Interdisciplinary Major. An opportunity as such is one that she could not turn down. With her dream is to work with anti-human trafficking organizations internationally, Youngmann couldn’t find one major that encompassed all that she wanted to do.

Anna approached Dr. Laurie Naranch, the Director of the Women’s Studies Minor on campus, to be her advisor and pioneer the SDIM program with her. They’ve worked to design Anna’s major, combining coursework focusing on Women’s Studies and International Studies to create Anna’s concentration in Global Gender Studies.

When Anna was 16 she traveled to Mali, West Africa for two weeks of volunteering. Here she worked with a woman who runs a center for women who were caught in sexual exploitation and trafficking. One of the most life changing moments of her trip, Anna explained, was when she met a young girl just about her age who had been trafficked since the age of 14. Ever since then she has been passionate about aftercare programs for survivors of trafficking and making sure they don’t fall back into all consuming world of sexual exploitation. Her volunteer work consisted of handing out fliers and walking along side her mentor as she spoke the native language Bambara, while Anna would say hello and use some phrases that she was taught in French. It was a simple job, Anna explained, but it was very impactful.

Since Anna’s first year at Siena she has been part of the Women’s Center. She is now the chair of trafficking events on campus and organized to have a speaker come to Siena, which opened the door to an internship with an anti-trafficking organization for Anna.

Before her senior year, Anna struggled with deciding on a major. She was psych, then social work, and then was undeclared; as Anna described it she was “bopping around.” She was looking for a major that would best fit a career of aftercare. She felt social work would have been great for trafficking within the US but her dreams were international and needed more flexibility to take international courses and advanced French courses. She had never found the right fit until she declared her Self Designed Interdisciplinary Major.

Another amazing experience Anna had was studying abroad for a semester in Cameroon, Africa. Here she studied at SIT, School for International Training, where she worked for 3 months on course work and worked with experts then spent one month doing an independent research project on survivors of, or vulnerable to, trafficking.

Anna’s future career goal is to get experience in the United States with anti-trafficking organizations for a few years then move back to Africa, either Cameroon or Mali, and do international trafficking work with a special focus on economic empowerment and aftercare programs.

Anna admits that she doesn’t know if she is the pioneer or the guinea pig but either way she is thrilled to be one of the firsts at Siena to create her own major!

The Next Miss President

Bill Dickinson Follow Capitol Hill Spring

Bill Dickinson Follow
Capitol Hill Spring

Every child’s dream at one point or another is to be the President of the United States. Kaitlyn Krolik, a junior studying Political Science and History, has made it closer to the President than most of us ever will. As an intern at the White house, Kait had the privilege of walking through the tall black gates everyday for an entire semester.

My first question was how did you get this once in a lifetime internship?! Well, as a typical college student, Kait spent most of her time binge-watching The West Wing on Netflix after finals were over freshman year. One day in an episode, all of the inters were getting yelled at and a light went off in Kait’s head that she wanted to be an intern in the White House at some point, any point, before she graduated. She became fully committed to the idea and began googling “Internship in the White House.” She got her resume together and applied. This was the summer after her Freshman year. Of the thousands of applications the White House receives, only around 130 were accepted. To her surprise, she was considered a candidate for an internship in the House’s OPC and eventually was accepted into the program. 

Kait withdrew from her spring courses at Siena. Luckily, Kait had family in the area with whom she stayed with so all she really had to do was change her wardrobe from a college sophomore to a well fashioned businesswoman.

When she finally arrived she realized she was one of the youngest interns in the office, only 19 years old working with college seniors and graduate students. In this office, she dealt with a majority of the mail the White House received. She focused on the greeting cards for the office in particular. The President receives letters informing him of individuals’ major life milestones, and he sends them back a card recognizing their milestone. Kait worked with the office to read the requests and respond appropriately.

Everyday, the office as a whole chose 10 letters to send directly to the president that would represent the mass of letters the president had received. When she was there, major issues that were addressed were foreign policy, like the crisis in Syria and Venezuela, as well as health care concerns and college affordability.

A fun fact about Kait is that prior to this internship she ha taken no courses in Political Science other than Comparative Politics, which did not address any domestic policies, although at the time of the interview and application process she was a declared Political Science Major. But what helped her the most was reading the New York Times every day. This is where we began to form her understanding of domestic and foreign policy as well as the functions of the government. What started as a requirement for her philosophy class led her to become constantly caught up in current news. 

When I asked her what courses had prepared her the most for this internship she explained, “I had taken a writing course and worked in the Writing Center as well. I learned how to articulate my ideas with a comprehensive understanding of whats is going on around me.” She told me that it was her freshman seminar class that taught her how to think critically.

In the future, Kait’s goal is to help people. She feels that the government is a good way to help a large number of people. She plans on applying for scholarships and fellowships to help her gain more experience in the field and potentially attend graduate school once she graduates. Her dream is to, at some point, run for office, which Kait says is “a very real possibility.” 

Currently, Kait is interning at the State Senate, helping the constituents of Brooklyn while beginning o train an understand of how policy is made and how the state legislature functions.

What I learned from speaking with Kait is to always keep an open mind and stay present to your dreams because you never know what you can do with your Liberal Arts education!