Welcome Home, Class of 2023!

Around this time four years ago, I remained undecided about where I wanted to go to college. I had applied to multiple schools but still felt uncertain about what I wanted to do with my undergraduate education, how far I would want to live away from home, and what type of college felt “right” for me. The universal “College Decision Day,” May 1st, kept creeping closer, and I felt the pressure of the decision weighing down on me.

My parents could tell I was struggling with the choice, so one day after school, we drove out to Albany to drive through some of the colleges in the area to help me visualize what living there would be like. We visited UAlbany and the College of St. Rose, but neither felt right; it wasn’t even a feeling I could put my finger on about why they were wrong. It wasn’t until we pulled onto Siena’s campus that I found somewhere I thought could feel like home. As we got out of the car and walked around campus, it became a place where I could visualize myself spending four years, making friends, growing, and I sent in my deposit to Siena shortly after returning home from that trip.

Now, four years later, I’m shopping for a graduation dress, studying for my last final exams, and preparing to leave behind the place that I have come to call “home.” I’m getting ready to say all those hard goodbyes  to roommates, to friends I met during freshman orientation, to the faculty who have pushed me to achieve my academic best.  I used to think it sounded cliche when other people would refer to their college as a “home”; it took me time to see it that way, but now that I think of Siena as my home away from home, it makes it even harder to leave. I’m excited to embrace the next chapter of my life with open arms, but I will miss Siena and the meaningful relationships I have made here.

The best piece of advice I can give any incoming freshmen is to embrace every aspect of the college experience. I remember feeling everything in-between scared and excited when I showed up for move-in day back in 2015. Sometimes college won’t feel fun – it’s a lot of hard work and sometimes you’ll fail test or sleep through your alarm or miss an assignment. Sometimes you’ll get homesick; I got homesick even through my senior year. But these things happen; they’re parts of the college experience. With these not-so-positive experiences come great ones — you’ll meet other students that you quickly become friends with. You’ll get to celebrate at the end of the semester with SienaFest, enjoy sunny afternoons on the quad, and feel on top of the world when you ace the test you were sure you’d fail. You’ll foster great relationships with your professors and they will push you to your best. You’ll find a club that you love. And little by little, these small great moments will stack on top of each other until you start calling Siena “home” without even realizing it. 

As a graduating senior, I would like to extend the warmest of welcomes to the Class of 2023 — welcome home! Siena is lucky to have you, and I hope you enjoy every moment of your four years here.

Practicing Email Etiquette

In the age of social media, the lines between professional and informal, colloquial writing are blurred, which makes writing professional emails a worrisome topic for some students. With the semester winding down, you likely have some pressing, last-minute questions about a final exam, research paper, or project, requiring you to send an email to your professor. At this point in the year, you might have a great relationship with your professor from engaging with them in class or speaking with them during office hours. On the other hand, you might feel like you haven’t fostered a good relationship with them over the course of the semester. I never really sent emails to my teachers in high school, so I was largely unfamiliar with how to write formal emails when I came to college. Whatever the case, it’s important to know how to best represent yourself via emails not only in an academic setting but in the professional world.

1. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. This may seem like an obvious one, but adhering to the conventions of standard English is important. You can even install a free service like Grammarly, which proofreads your emails for you and even makes suggestions for improvement. Proofreading your own emails can also help you catch a lot of these mistakes, so make sure you look it over before pressing “send.”

2. Include a salutation and signature. While emailing, be sure to include a greeting at the top of the email – “Hi [insert name here],” “Good morning [insert name here].” This is a friendly way to begin your email and also establishes that you view your relationship with your professor as a respectable, professional one. Make sure you spell your professor’s name correctly. At the end, include a signature or sign-off – “Best, [name],” “Sincerely, [name],” etc.

3. Make the subject line clear and informativeInstead of emailing your professor something vague (“help!”), make your subject line clear. If you have a question about the final exam, something like “Final Exam Question” will suffice. Including an efficient subject line will help your professor answer your question.

4. Keep your email informative. Don’t use your email as the chance to rant. Professors do not want to read paragraphs on paragraphs of how you’re struggling with your semester, failing all your classes, or just broke up with your significant other. Your email should not only be professional but also relevant to the concern you need to address – choose your words wisely.

5. Determine if your question would be better addressed during office hours. Professors have office hours for a reason. If your question concerns a personal problem or would require a lengthy response, it might be best to address it during office hours instead of over email. I can’t speak for all professors, but some may be more likely to help you if you make the effort to visit them during office hours and talk to them face-to-face.

6. Ask yourself – is this something I can look up on my own? This is arguably the most important tip on the list. As a college student, you should be resourceful, and your professor will often provide you with the resources you need to succeed – including the syllabus. Your syllabus should have information on test/assignment dates, a breakdown of the grading scale, and professor’s office hours. Be sure to check these resources before reaching out to your professor, as your question might be one you can easily answer on your own.

Crafting professional emails is an important skill that is relevant to both your academic and professional career, so be sure to learn patterns of proper email etiquette.

39 Days and Counting

Remember when we were graduating high school and we were bombarded with the dreaded question:  “So, what do you plan to do when you graduate?” It felt like everyone asked this same question – your guidance counselor, the uncle you see twice a year for holidays, the cashier at the grocery store – and they only asked out of interest, but it never seemed to end.

And now it’s almost here; graduation day is only 39 days away. So here comes the question again, only this time it feels harder to answer. There’s nothing wrong with someone being interested in your future, but it can feel frustrating to not have a certain response, especially when there are so many choices to make following college graduation.

Post-grad opportunities are endless. I know friends who are gearing up to move across the world to China, or who plan to travel and live off their savings for a year. I also know friends who just put in their deposits for law or graduate school. I know peers who already have a job lined up for the indefinite future. And I know people who aren’t sure, who hope to take a stab at the job market, work on paying off their student loans, just see what life after college is like. 

There is no wrong choice to make for your future upon graduating. Right now, it might seem like everyone has their plans together, that they know exactly what they’re doing – but they don’t. It’s okay to be uncertain and even feel scared about what will happen after you walk across that stage, move your tassel to the left, and become a Siena College alumni.

It’s okay not to have a definite answer to, “So, what do you plan to do when you graduate?” These choices don’t always happen overnight, and it’s important to remember, as we edge closer to graduation day, to enjoy the time we have left at Siena.

Making the Most Out of the Career Fair

The Career, Internship, and Graduate School Fair is one of the biggest annual events of the spring semester, expecting over 125 employers to be in attendance. Regardless of your class year, it’s a valuable event to attend because it gives you an opportunity to spruce up your resume, dress professionally, and engage with prospective career interests.

The weeks leading up to the fair provide a lot of useful resources and information regarding how to best prepare yourself for the fair. Each year, Dress for Success Albany hosts an annual clothing sale open to students, faculty, and staff. The sale offers gently used business, professional clothing at a discounted price. It’s a great opportunity to buy discounted business pants, blazers, shirts, shoes, and purses. I have attended the Dress for Success sale since my freshman year at Siena and every year, I am able to find high quality business wear for less than retail price. The sale will be happening March 8th from 12-2pm (open to students, faculty, and staff only) and on March 9th 10am-2pm (open to the public) in Foy Hall. I would definitely recommend stopping by the sale to find some business clothing to wear to the Career Fair! 

The Carer Center is also sponsoring a Resume Critique Hour on Monday, March 11th from 12-2pm in Foy Hall Lobby. Students will be able to receive feedback on their resumes and connect with employers prior to the fair. Another great and entertaining event is the Dress for Success Fashion show, taking place on Wednesday, March 13th at 9pm in the SSU. The fashion show highlights what to wear and, more specifically, what not to wear in the professional world. If you’ve never been to the Career Fair and are nervous about what to expect, consider attending the “Make Yourself Stand Out at the Career Fair Employer Presentation” on Monday, March 18th from 12:30-1:30pm in the library, room L-26. This event will provide some helpful tips on professionalism and networking, as well as help alleviate any nerves about attending the fair.

The 2019 Career Fair is a great opportunity to network with employers, polish your resume, and practice professionalism. The best piece of advice I can give is to go into the fair with an open mind – don’t limit yourself to speak to employers only in your field. It can be nerve-wracking to approach people you’ve never spoken to before, especially in a professional setting, but part of entering the job market is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. No matter what class year or major you are, all students can find some sort of value in the event.

RSVP for the Carer Fair online at saintsconnect.edu! The 2019 Spring Career, Internship, and Graduate School Fair will be taking place on Tuesday March 19th from 3-6pm in the MAC.

SoLA Symposium Highlights Faculty Research

This past Friday, I attended the School of Liberal Arts Faculty Research Symposium. Held in the Maloney Great Room, the first session of the symposium showcased the Modern Languages & Classics, Political Science, History, and English departments. The event featured professors who have recently returned from sabbatical, giving them a platform to share their work with faculty, students, and the Siena community. Each presenter spoke for 15-20 minutes with a PowerPoint, then took questions from the audience. 

Dr. Lisette Balabarca-Fataccioli of the Modern Languages & Classics department started off the symposium with her presentation, “The Female Other: Muslim Women in Early Modern Spain.” Her research extensively analyzes 16th century Spanish texts in which, in order to convert to a new religion, daughter characters break the bond with their fathers. Dr. Balabarca-Fataccioli provided historical context for her research project, explaining that in the 16th and 16th centuries, Muslims in Spain were forced to convert to Christianity. She also mentioned she will have an opportunity to present more of her research later this year at a symposium in Toronto

Dr. Laurie Naranch of the Political Science department shared her research on “The Power of Relational Narratives in Philosophy, Politics, and Practice.” She discussed some of the work she completed during her sabbatical, including working on book chapters, being published in a symposium, and revising an article, “The Narratable Self: Adriana Cavarero with Sojourner Truth.” As someone who hasn’t taken a political science class before at Siena, it was interesting to hear about her research.

Dr. Pojmann responds to audience questions

The next presenter, Dr. Wendy Pojmann of the History department, titled her presentation “Espresso: The Art & Soul of Italy.” Dr. Pojmann is currently in the process of publishing a book that she wrote while on sabbatical and read an excerpt from her work during the presentation. According to Dr. Pojmann, her book attempts to explain the historical groundings of espresso, specifically in relation to its unifying qualities, globalization, and monetization. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Pojmann’s project and travels, check out her Instagram page at @wendysespressolife.

English professor Dr. Keith Wilhite delivered the final presentation of the symposium, “Recession-Era Suburbs: Race, History, and the Housing Crisis.” During his sabbatical, he developed two chapters from his new book, the manuscript of which is titled Contested Terrain: The Suburbs, U.S. Literature, and the Ends of Regionalism. Dr. Wilhite discussed the paradox of postwar suburban development, emphasizing the increased focus on privatism in suburbia. He also gave a brief overview of some of the texts he will be working with in his book, including Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris. 

The event was a great opportunity to learn about the research professors conduct while away on sabbatical. As students, we rarely see all the work they do outside of the classroom. I have had both Dr. Pojmann and Dr. Wilhite as professors while at Siena, and it was interesting to hear about their research projects, as well as learn about Dr. Balabarca’s and Dr. Naranch’s areas of focus. There will be a second symposium session held on March 15, featuring the Sociology, English, Education, and Religious Studies departments. The second session will be held in room L26 of the Standish Library from 3:30-5:30pm.

Keep an eye out for extensive coverage of the first SoLA symposium by staff writer Madison Lemke in the 2/15 issue of The Promethean!

Reflecting on Last Year’s MLK Keynote

This Wednesday, anti-racism activist and published author Tim Wise will take the stage in the MAC and deliver his talk, “Challenging the Culture of Cruelty: Understanding and Defeating Race and Class Inequity in America.” Wise will be the keynote speaker 32nd Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. I strongly encourage everyone to attend Tim Wise’s lecture this Wednesday at 7pm in the MAC, and because these MLK keynotes usually draw in a large crowd of faculty, students, and members of the local community, I suggest getting there early to reserve a seat. 

As the event approaches, I am reminded of last year’s speaker, Luis Alberto Urrea, whose meditation on borders seems especially relevant in regards to the political climate today. I personally covered Urrea’s visit in The Promethean, which involved a lot of research, interviewing, editing…and re-editing. Out of all the articles I have written for the paper and events I have attended at Siena, Urrea’s keynote keeps coming back to me, maybe because his encouragement of unity is more important now than ever in the face of political division.

A self-proclaimed “border writer,” Urrea’s talk centered on issues surrounding the US-Mexico border, which is arguably a more politically charged topic now than when he delivered his keynote speech last year. He narrated his own experience as a Mexican-American, highlighting his struggles with racism, discrimination, and oppression, and acknowledged that many anti-immigrant sentiments are born out of ignorance. “People don’t understand the folks who seek solace and shelter here in this country,” Urrea said.

Despite the emotional, poignant nature of his talk, the author ended his keynote with a sense of optimism, encouraging the use of art and human connection in the face of division. “There’s got to be a better way,” Urrea addressed the audience. “Force doesn’t work, politics doesn’t work, co-optive religion’s not working. What’s going to work? Maybe only, right now, art and song and hope and each other. Maybe we can understand there’s no ‘them’ out there. There’s only ‘us’ out there. Maybe we can help each other.”

Looking Ahead to MLK Week

With the first week of classes drawing to a close and a massive snowstorm rolling in, everyone’s looking forward to having Monday off. A long weekend means sleeping in, catching up on Netflix, and getting a small break from work and school. It’s important, though, to remember that this Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day. MLK day is observed on the third Monday of January every year in celebration of MLK’s birthday. The holiday celebrates King’s life and legacy, as well as encourages a day of reflection.

“The holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration . . . Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress.” -Coretta Scott King

In recognition of King’s life and tremendous achievements, Siena will be hosting a weeklong series of events, including a mass, a gospel concert, and a day of service. The 2nd Annual MLK Week runs from January 23-20, 2019 and ends with the Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series of Race and Nonviolent Social Change. This year’s keynote speaker is Tim Wise, an anti-racism activist. He will be delivering his lecture, “Challenging the Culture of Cruelty: Understanding and Defeating Race and Class Inequity in America,” on Wednesday January 30 at 7pm in the MAC. 

I attended last year’s MLK keynote speaker, author and activist Luis Alberto Urrea, and was incredibly moved by his talk on immigration and acceptance. Before delivering his keynote lecture, Urrea even met with creative writing students in a hour-long lunch. Wise will be meeting with students on campus before his lecture as well and leading a workshop in Dr. Wilhite’s African American Literature class. I’m looking forward to attending Tim Wise’s upcoming talk and am hoping to see a successful turnout for the event. Last year’s speaker brought a full house, so if you’re hoping to find a seat during the lecture, be sure to arrive early!

Best wishes for a restful, reflective weekend.

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!

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!

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!