Every year we like to take the time to dedicate the bLAb to welcoming the students and families of the incoming class. Siena College is a community with strong and adaptive individuals who learn from each other and use this safe environment to grow into their own people. I am excited that I will get the opportunity to watch this new class come onto campus and find their way, just as everyone before them has done. That being said, I understand that the last couple of years have not been easy for anyone, but I feel this has aided in our school shaping such resilient and independent students.
As a Junior, I was lucky enough (if you can call it that) to only experience the pandemic during my college years and not have high school opportunities taken away from me. I can’t imagine the dreams and expectations that some of you have had to change as rules and regulations influenced how your school functioned. Although I will never fully understand what you went through, I can tell you that Siena has made the most out of the pandemic and the campus continues working hard to try and have opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to participate in social and academic events.
Siena College is a community built on respect and hard work. Here, we value integrity and compassion as we push one another to be the best versions of ourselves in and outside the classroom. Our Franciscan roots influence and guide us to work with one another as we find our voices and discover our passions. However, this doesn’t happen overnight, so remember to be patient with yourself as you begin your journey here at Siena. You will have so much time and countless opportunities to take in the lessons that will be shared, and not just the ones given by your professors.
I personally think it’s the little things about Siena that make this college so enticing. The tour guides don’t lie; everyone will hold doors here. When it first snows, you will find students running around the quad in a giant snowball fight, and at the first sign of warm weather, they are in the exact same place, laying on blankets or throwing a frisbee. We have food trucks and lawn games on Wednesdays and a line out the door to the dining hall for chicken nuggets on Fridays. Your Saint orientation leaders will continue to be friendly faces in the crowd as you navigate through your freshman year, and the friars are always there to wish you a good day.
I know this class will be willing to run with the punches and make the most of your time here, just as you have been doing through high school, but I want you to know that it’s okay to be nervous. This is the time you have all been waiting for, and it will be a big step. I’m not going to lie; there will be long nights of studying and longing for home-cooked meals. However, there will also be club meetings filled with laughter and games and memories made with new friends that will last a lifetime. Siena College is here to support you as you navigate through this new chapter in your lives, knowing that you will accomplish amazing things in your own way.
Have a great summer Saints; congratulations to the Class of 2022 and I can’t wait to see the rest of you in the Fall!
Happy Sienafest Saints! I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am looking forward to a couple days of fun and festivities before our final stretch of the academic year. That being said, when the last event ends finals will quickly be upon us and the stress of the end of the semester is going to infiltrate our lives – if it hasn’t done so already. This is why I am dedicating this bLAb to techniques for working through possible burnout and finishing strong so the summer break is just as satisfying as we all deserve it to be.
Set reasonable goals:
I am a chronic procrastinator, so I know about unfinished to-do lists and packed google calendars all too well. That’s why I am so aware of the importance of setting reasonable goals. When you outline a couple of things to get done during a time period instead of a never-ending laundry list of tasks, it helps motivate you to keep going. My suggestion is to make a to-do list for the day and list assignments or tasks that take no more than 3 hours to complete in all. Then, under these, start a new list of “extra” things that you can move on to ONLY if you finish the ones above. Keeping the initial list small makes you feel accomplished when you complete one and are ready to start the next instead of dreading beginning because you can’t see the end. Burnout is all about perspective, don’t set yourself up for failure when you can just as easily set yourself up for success.
Switch up your routine:
It can be easy to find yourself trapped in the same schedule and routine every day, and sometimes this is the only way to guarantee that you find time to eat or get to sleep on time. Although routines can be comforting and helpful in many ways, it’s also just as important to keep your brain willing to follow through with these schedules and not dread doing the same thing over and over again. This is why switching up your routine can be helpful. I’m not telling you to throw caution to the wind and have a day of random activities and tasks totally skew your priorities. All I’m suggesting is to maybe switching where you go to eat on a particular day or if you usually study by yourself, maybe ask some friends to join you in your dorm and all do homework together. A switch can even be as simple as swapping when you do what assignment. Switching up your routine helps your brain stay active and feel like it is necessary to keep functioning instead of shutting down out of boredom.
Do something fun:
Hopefully, you all take advantage of Sienafest, and it serves as a helpful reminder that doing something fun every once in a while is necessary. It’s easy to get trapped in the cycle of academic and work responsibilities and push aside social events. However, these low-stake activities are exactly what your brain needs to keep going strong. If you just sat down and studied for multiple hours in a row, I know you probably want to go back to your dorm and take a nap or scroll through your phone. As enticing as this sounds, maybe consider grabbing some food with a couple of friends, going on a walk with your roommate, or even studying some more but this time in the bottom level of the library, where you can joke and laugh without getting shushed. The point is that socialization and bringing a little joy into your day in any capacity will strengthen your mind and prevent burnout from settling in.
Learn to say no:
I’m going to be honest – I’m really, really bad at this. When you’re a college student, you sometimes think you’re invincible, meaning you tend to bite off way more than you can chew. I know it may feel like you always have to be doing something and staying productive, but it truly is okay just to be a student to take some time and only focus on your studies. This is why saying no is a crucial skill that I feel everyone should know exists. As long as you are kind, polite, and the world will not end if you don’t get involved, then it is okay to say no when someone asks for your help or participation. Extracurriculars are supposed to be fun, but there’s no way that’s possible when you’re a part of so many that you can’t even find time to breathe. Saying no is not a sign of weakness; it shows great strength and proves that you have your priorities set and are willing to establish boundaries.
Sometimes burnout is just too strong, and it’s going to take more than a couple of quick tricks to help you to make it through the end of the semester successfully. That’s okay. This is exactly why Siena College has resources in place and at the ready – to help its students when they need a little extra support. Advisors and Professors are always great people to go to for advice, as well as CAs and the Friars. In addition, the campus has a very active office of Health Promotion where students can seek resources for counseling and any wellness and health concerns. No matter your question, there is someone on campus who can assist and support you as you find your way back to stability.
School is stressful but that doesn’t mean we should let this stress take away and ruin all the hard work we have put into this semester. Let’s finish strong Saints!
Chris Gibson has been the President of Siena College since July 2020. He has navigated our campus through a pandemic, out of debt, and into an optimistic community looking forward to planned advancements that will benefit everyone involved. Since President Gibson has been announced as the 12th President of Siena College, countless interviews and profiles have been done by both participants of the school and outside sources.
When I thought of the idea to interview him, I knew I would have to do something different from the basic interview or question and answer piece he had already participated in. This is where the idea of “Ask the President” stemmed from. I wanted to create an opportunity for Siena students to use their voices and have their questions answered by the President. Below is a summary of the interview I held with President Gibson, separated by topics formulated by common questions sent in.
Plans to improve Siena’s campus:
Despite this current freshman class being well over one thousand students, the goal is to return the class size back down to the 900s. This is to keep the “liberal arts feel” of the campus while also allowing Siena the opportunity to become more selective to match the obvious growing interest. There are also plans for substantial Wellness Center updates to help promote positive life habits among all members of Siena College. This will come in the form of help with nutrition, yoga, meditation, and mental health support to aid in finding happiness and stability while learning coping techniques for stress.
Graduate and accelerated program plans:
Students seek out undergraduate schools with strong graduate programs so Siena is actively working to fulfill this demand. The Masters of Social Work (MSW) program is currently in the process of being established thanks to a very generous sponsor who is helping to fund the initiative. There are also plans to expand the current nursing program so the students and faculty can increase in size and gain more opportunities. The MBA program here at Siena is very popular and seeing as it falls under the growing interests of students, the decision has been made to add a concentration in health administration.
Future remote class opportunities:
Before the pandemic, colleges and universities had a national baseline of 10% of their classes being asynchronous. Siena College was slightly below this with having only 6-7% of asynchronous class options. The goal after the pandemic is to return to a normal in-person class schedule with the asynchronous class availability now reflecting the national baseline by falling around 10%. This will hopefully provide for more flexibility among both students and faculty, in addition to introducing variations in Siena’s pedagogy. There is also an intention to allow for many online class options in graduate programs so students can share their time between coming to campus and working to gain experience in their desired field.
Most challenging part of budgeting:
The President has a responsibility to acknowledge and be empathetic to all stakeholders of the budget. This includes three main subsections – the trustees, the students, and the alumni. The trustees have the goal for the college to be fiscally stable and uphold its values. The students want an inclusive community where they can get the best education at the cheapest price. The Alumni simply want their beloved college to flourish. There can be challenges with this because not all priorities can be addressed to the same degree. That being said, the school is doing phenomenal in multiple areas. This is the second year of a balanced budget plus a surplus of funds, enrollment is strong, and the college is scoring very high nationally.
Thoughts on the pandemic:
There has been controversy over how Siena decided to proceed into this academic year regarding masks. This decision was not made lightly and consisted of heavy consultation to evaluate policies that reflected data. This data demonstrates risk management and how best to proceed as a community. Fortunately, it was shown that our case numbers were the same, if not better, than surrounding schools that were either mask mandated or completely locked down. By remaining mask optional and increasing social interaction, there was a noticeable improvement in the mental health of all community members, which is something to be celebrated.
Mental health support:
Mary Jo Gibson, President Gibson’s wife, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a strong mental health advocate. She has played a prominent role in influencing President Gibson’s perspective of how important a community’s mental health truly is. This view has changed to a holistic lens, with mental and physical health being of equal importance. Needing support during the pandemic has been increasing here on campus, which is why more resources are becoming available. Kate Kauffman Burns and the Wellness Center, the Counseling Center, Peer Mentors, Saints, and CA’s can all provide advice and support if individuals are struggling.
Diversity on Campus:
It should be noted that the current freshman class has the largest percentage of people of color in the School’s history. This number has doubled from last year and is expected to increase in the following years. To support these students in their success, there needs to be resources readily available such as financial, academic, and emotional support. Every single student at Siena should have the opportunity to flourish regardless of what they look like. This is why a campaign to strengthen the bonds of racial justice is forming. The core of this campaign is rooted in St. Francis’s lifestyle seeing as he is a strong representation of celebrating all life without biases.
Most pressing concerns on campus:
There needs to be a stronger focus on everyone’s experience here at Siena. One of the best ways to learn how to do this is simply by listening to students. The students have some of the most important opinions on campus, and this is why they have intellectual insight into what should stay consistent and what needs to change or adapt. This can be done by conducting surveys, attending and listening in on senate meetings, and bringing up discussions during clubs and student activities. Siena College is not made up of individuals who are comfortable sitting still. The school is open to change – it just needs to know where it is necessary.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with President Gibson and share some of the students’ most pressing questions with him. Siena College is lucky to have a president dedicated to all members of the community and who will continue to support us during these difficult times.
As always, please feel free to interact with and share the bLAb to your friends and family. Here in the School of Liberal Arts we are excited to be involved and learn about how we can best help you use your voice so it is always encouraged to reach out with suggestions or ideas for the bLAb, which can be done by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great Spring Break and I look forward to hearing from all of you!
In 2014 Christopher Donato graduated from Siena College with an American Studies Major and minors in Broadcasting and Creative Arts. Today, he is an Emmy winning ABC News Field Producer and is currently reporting on the crisis in Ukraine from the Poland/Ukraine border. Donato has graciously taken the time to answer our questions and provide both his own pictures and insight into the tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine, as well as how Siena has prepared him to be successful in this line of work.
What is your current role/title, and what does it entail?
I am a Field Producer at ABC News, mainly covering breaking news. Wherever the story is, I get sent (and there are plenty of middle-of-the-night wake up calls). I work with a correspondent/anchor to pitch stories, to find elements for pieces (video, interviews, etc.), scout locations for us to be live from, and get the corresponde/guest on tv.
How long have you been in Poland?
I arrived Sunday, Feb 27. I was actually supposed to head to London to fill in our office there, but was asked to change my plans at the last minute and reroute to Poland.
How long do you plan to stay in Poland?
Great question! We’ll be here for as long as we’re needed to be here.
Do you have any safety concerns for yourself?
No – everyone in Poland has been extremely welcoming.
How has what you learned and the skills you developed at Siena helped you in your current work?
One of the main things I learned at Siena was to listen and show empathy. When we’re talking to the refugees, it’s so important to listen to them and show them empathy. Some of the people have told us their homes have been bombed – so they really only have what few possessions they carried with them to Poland. Some have told us about their husbands/brothers/fathers/sons staying back in Ukraine to fight and protect their homeland.
Is there anything that we can do to help the Ukrainian people?
The head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has asked that people donate to big organizations instead of donating small items; he said that by sending money to the organizations, they can purchase what is actually needed and have it brought to the locations easier than private donors can. We’ve seen several aid organizations here helping – the Polish Red Cross has been at several of the refugee reception centers and we’ve seen World Central Kitchen (a non-profit that sets up kitchens and distributes food at disasters) at the border crossings and reception centers at all hours of the day handing out tons of warm meals. For many of the refugees, this is the first warm meal they’ve had during their journey…which for some people, has lasted 5+ days.
What has been the most challenging thing for you to witness while in Poland?
The second night we were here, we went to the border crossing in Medyka and we watched as refugees came across the border into Poland from Ukraine. There’s no way to really describe it…some people were just so exhausted from their journeys, that they could barely walk. It wasn’t a limp. It wasn’t a walk. There really is no way of describing how their exhausted strides looked. Some told us they walked 20, 30, 50+ kilometers (12, 19, 30 miles) to get to the border. They had a look of confusion on their faces too. Greeting them in Poland were all these volunteers with hot meals and donated clothing, but they didn’t realize it was all free for them. The other challenging moment to witness was just last night; we went to the Ukrainian House – it’s typically a cultural and arts center in a town near the border that puts on programs introducing people to Ukrainian culture. It’s been turned into a temporary housing shelter for refugees. They brought us to one room where kids are in the back playing and laughing, but in front of them were their mothers/grandmothers/aunts sitting at a table with a total look of despair on their faces. They brought us to their auditorium which, just 2 weeks ago, would be home to plays and shows. Well, now it’s filled with cots for refugees to spend a night sleeping. One of the organizers almost started to cry when she told us about the refugees and her fears: she said during the first wave at the beginning of the fighting, refugees came with several large bags and their pets, but over the two weeks refugees have been coming with less and less. Those who arrived yesterday came with just a backpack each. She said she was really worried about those coming from Eastern Ukraine in cities like Mariupol where the fighting is very strong. She worries that those refugees are going to have absolutely nothing with them.
While you were at Siena did you ever expect to see yourself working on a job like this?
No – I actually had no idea I wanted to go into journalism when I got to Siena. I wanted to either become a pediatrician or a high school history teacher (I know, they are so similar!). Once I realized I wanted to become a journalist, I thought I would be at the local level in a large city in the United States. I never thought I would be working at a news network traveling to big stories around the world.
Do you think that by being at Siena and learning about Social Justice, you are better equipped with an understanding of these kinds of situations?
*The social justice courses were instituted into the core curriculum after Christopher graduated*
It’s important to learn about social justice through Franciscan lens because you really never know when you’ll be faced with a situation like this. I never thought I’d be across the world talking to refugees fleeing war in their homeland and having the empathy to understand them and help them.
Anything else you would like to add?
We cannot undersell how amazing the Polish people have been. I would say 98% of all the work we see being done for the refugees has been from volunteers. Usually you would expect a majority of the work to be from the government with a small fraction from volunteers. Totally opposite here. And people are coming from all over Europe to help. Yesterday we met three volunteers who filled a truck full of donations in Germany and drove 10+ hours to drop it off here. People hold signs at refugee reception centers (large areas where refugees are brought to by bus once they are processed at the border) with cities listed on their sign. That’s where they are offering a free ride to refugees…some as far as Sweden, Amsterdam, cities across Germany, Poland…I think the furthest we’ve seen is about a 15-20 hour drive. It’s really incredible seeing the best of humanity in the worst of circumstances.
We appreciate everything Donato is doing over in Poland and are very proud that he is a member of Siena’s wonderful Alumni community!
To donate and aid in help for the Ukraine crisis click here.
You can follow Christopher Donato’s experience in Poland @chrisdonato04
The bLAb is back after taking a short break over the fall semester. Before I introduce myself as the new voice behind the bLAb I would like to thank our previous writer Kiera Mitru, who graduated last May and did wonderful work in the School of Liberal Arts.
So who am I? My name is Jillian Fiddler and I am a Junior here at Siena. I am studying Social Work with a minor in Criminal Justice while also filling my time on campus with clubs and work. I’m not going to bore you with an entire biography of who I am and all of my interests because most of that information will naturally come to light through these bLAb posts.
My plan for the bLAb this semester is to create a place for students and faculty to share their experiences on campus as well as an opportunity to get information on upcoming events – and the review of them afterwards. I would love for this to be a platform where everyone is heard and respected and the Siena community can thrive by sharing stories.
I know the semester is nearing midterms and between the unpredictable weather and the impending doom of upcoming assignments no one wants more on their plate but I do have a favor to ask. I have two big plans for the bLAb that need your help with input and participation.
Ask The President:
If you follow the Siena Liberal Arts Instagram (@sienaliberalarts) then you have seen the information being posted about an upcoming Q&A with President Gibson. This is a chance for the President to answer direct questions from the students on Siena’s campus. You still have time to send in your questions and can do so by emailing us at email@example.com.
Siena Student Shoutout:
Siena does a wonderful job at showcasing students who go above and beyond academically and within the community. I love reading about my peers and all they have accomplished and it inspired me to create a platform where students can shout out their friends for absolutely anything. Do they have a great sense of humor? Are they always the one driving you to Walmart? It could even be that you know they had a tough week and want to cheer them up. If there is a student on Siena’s campus that you would like to give a shoutout to, email the bLAb and I will showcase them in the next post!
I hope everyone has a fantastic rest of the week and are enjoying the first signs of spring. Any interaction with the bLAb is greatly appreciated and I look forward to hearing from all of you.
If you have suggestions or ideas for the bLAb they are always encouraged and can be done by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org