Siena’s First Student Designed Interdisciplinary Major

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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!

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