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!

Why Get a Liberal Arts Degree?

With the spring semester looming on the horizon, the registration process kicks up a lot of questions about a student’s future. Most of the conversation involving registration brings up the question college students always hear: “What do you plan to do with your degree when you graduate?” The question, of course, is valid; it’s important for students to have a sense of direction when making big decisions about the future. So why pursue a liberal arts degree? 

Many students don’t know what exactly constitutes the broad category of “liberal arts” in college. Even up until I started working in the SoLA office, I wasn’t exactly sure of what fell under the umbrella of liberal arts. Most people get the basics – English, writing, creative arts – but don’t realize the broadness of the category itself. Liberal arts includes American studies, education, history, modern languages and classics, philosophy, political science, psychology, religious studies, social work, and sociology! So a liberal arts degree isn’t just for someone interested in studying Shakespeare or analyzing Plato; it can apply to hundreds of different career paths.

A liberal arts degree prepares its students with a number of soft and hard skills that are beneficial in the job market, including reading comprehension, analytical writing, and communication skills. Similarly, pursuing a liberal arts degree does not only mean taking English and philosophy classes; students are pushed to engage in a variety of topics, including math and sciences. A liberal arts degree does not teach one specific subject matter but a variety of them, making liberal students skilled and adaptable.

So what are some of your options as a liberal arts student? The first question I am asked when I tell people I’m an English major is always: “Are you going to teach?” This is not to dismiss teaching; being an educator is a valuable, fulfilling career path. However, popular belief is often that you can only teach with an English or history degree. Teaching is not the only option for liberal arts students. Students who focus in English or writing can pursue a career in writing/editing, as a sales manager, or as a communication specialist. Also beyond teaching, students can become involved in marketing communications, business analysis, public relations, copywriting, Human Resources, or sales representation. The opportunities are truly endless with a liberal arts degree.

To end on a positive note from The Muse, “don’t let today’s STEM-driven mindset get you down. No matter your major, the world is truly your oyster. Now go land a killer gig.”

English Colloquium Highlights Professor Projects

Do you ever wonder what your professors do when they’re not assigning homework or grading essays? In an English Department Colloquium on Tuesday Oct. 30, students and faculty learned about Dr. Keith Wilhite’s and Dr. Christiane Farnan’s research projects while they were both away on a spring semester-long sabbatical last year. 

Dr. Wilhite, associate professor of English, titled his talk, “Contested Terrain: The Suburbs, U.S. Literature, and the Ends of Regionalism.” Dr. Wilhite’s primary focus is in urban and suburban studies. His book analyzes the 1945 escalation of suburban sprawl through the 2008 housing crises. He explained that his book “scrutinize[s] the cultural idea of the suburban home.” Dr. Wilhite drew in multiple sources to explain this shift, including the House & Garden magazine and A Raisin in the Sun (1959) by Lorraine Hansberry. The two chapters he worked on during his sabbatical discuss the American desire to progress forward following World War I and the effect of increased suburban housing on race. In the conclusion of his presentation, Dr. Wilhite read a passage from the chapters he worked on during his sabbatical.

Dr. Christiane Farnan is an associate professor of English who focuses primarily on mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century women writers. During her sabbatical last spring, she wrote about The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner in which Ellen Montgomery travels from New York City to the Adirondacks to Edinburgh, Scotland through the duration of the novel. Dr. Farnan’s talk, titled “Training for Travel: The Value of Girl Physical Fitness in Susan Warner’s The Wide, Wide World,” argues about the depiction of protagonist Ellen Montgomery in the novel. She explained that in her essay she argues that “Susan Warner presents the mid-nineteenth century American girl abroad as a different, unusually athletic, more interesting kind of mid-nineteenth century girl.” Dr. Farnan supported her claims with evidence from the book, including Ellen’s physical fitness, spiritual guidance, and psychological strength.

At the end of the colloquium, both professors responded to student and faculty questions. I have had Dr. Wilhite as a professor for a few classes now and have never had the pleasure of taking one of Dr. Farnan’s classes, but it was fascinating to hear about each professor’s individual research. I oftentimes think of my professors only in the classroom and don’t think about all the additional work and research they do in their academic careers, so it was interesting to learn about what they’ve been working on during their sabbaticals.

For more extensive coverage of the English Department Colloquium, keep an eye out for my article in the 11/16 issue of the Promethean! To stay updated on upcoming events on campus, like and follow our social media pages on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

English Majors Wanted!

As an English major, I am constantly asked what my plans are after graduation. The general response I get? “Good luck finding a job!” “What do you expect to do with that?” “Why didn’t you pick a real major?” In my experience, people frequently dismiss a liberal arts degree as unnecessary, even useless. If I had a dollar for every time someone dismissed my field of study, I could make a good dent in paying off my student loans. However, these negative attitudes towards liberal arts degrees are proven largely invalid.

An article in CBS News by Aimee Picchi emphasizes the growing importance of a liberal arts degree in the eyes of employers. College students are widely unemployed, but in an underemployment rate of various majors, English majors are nowhere near the bottom at 29%, and compared with business majors at 31%. 

Picchi’s article suggests English majors and liberal arts students might have a better chance finding a job post-graduation than business or biology majors. Though popular majors are expected to perform well in the labor force, this isn’t always the outcome. Majors like business, legal studies, and social services professions are dubbed “problematic majors” by the article because they are expected to land graduates jobs. They similarly “comprise 4 in 10 bachelor’s degrees handed out by U.S. colleges” (Picchi).

Picchi explains that the main issue with these “problematic majors” is that they are preparing students for specific fields, rather than providing them with the skills to make them a “job ready adult.” Students will graduate without the necessary hard and soft skills needed for employment, making them not fully ready to enter the workforce. Picchi explains, “That’s not to say that business majors can’t find good job opportunities after graduation. But the key is focusing on developing skills that will help them stand out when they go on the job market.”

Liberal arts degrees, though unfairly considered invaluable, teach a broad range of useful skills that are adaptable to many career fields. The applications of communication skills, reading comprehension, and analytical abilities are endless. It can be frustrating to have your degree dismissed, but studies like this prove the value of a liberal arts degree. So when someone critiques your choice of major, remember that every major has value!

Dr. Lewis Releases New Book

Dr. Daniel Lewis held a book release lunch this past Wednesday, Oct. 24, to promote his most recent publication, The Remarkable Rise of Transgender Rights. The event was held in the Norm and drew in students of all majors and interests. When asked how he decided on pursuing the topic of transgender rights, Dr. Lewis said, “I’ve been broadly interested in the idea of how minority rights are represented in our democratic system. Through networking with my co-authors, I started doing some work there and realized there wasn’t really a comprehensive examination of transgender rights politics. We saw it as more of a need and something we were passionate about trying to understand.”

Dr. Lewis’ book seeks to explain how the transgender rights movement has taken shape over the years and how they can achieve political success. He shared some of the successes and obstacles transgender people have faced. He used a Powerpoint with images, graphs, and statistics that I thought helped the audience more fully understand his research.

Part of their research involved running national surveys asking about people’s attitudes towards transgender people and transgender rights policies. On a “hot to cold” spectrum, transgender people rank lower than gays & lesbians, gun owners, interracial couples, police, scientists, and veterans, which suggests there is a generally negative response to transgender people. Similarly, though the overwhelming majority of survey takers believed in discrimination protection for transgender people, the public opinion on bathroom access is still widely divided – there is an even split between those who believe people should use the bathroom reflecting their current gender identity versus birth gender.

Dr. Lewis’ research also reflected that knowing someone who is transgender increases one’s likelihood to support transgender policies. “The number of people that report knowing someone who is transgender has increased over time, not only among close friends or family members, but also acquaintances,” he said, “which suggests there are opportunities to increase support for their policies.”

Though there are still ongoing challenges faced for the transgender community, Dr. Lewis remains positive on the outlook. “A lot of these victories are tenuous right now, and there are challenges to come for the movement. Still, there is a lot of optimism for the transgender movement in securing these civil rights,” he said.

Philosophy Colloquium: Distrusting Distrust

How do we deal with our distrustful feelings? Dr. Jason D’Cruz, philosophy professor at UAlbany, has been working through this question in his research project, “Distrusting Distrust.” He broke down his plan for the lecture, wanting to first work through an analysis of distrustful behavior, then explain the risks of distrust, and finally deliver a proposal on how to respond to these risks.

“I think we should be distrustful of a lot of our distrustful feelings,” Dr. D’Cruz said. He gave an example of a study in which participants were shown several faces and were asked to choose which ones looked the most trustworthy; faces with a turned-down mouth and furrowed brow were regarded as untrustworthy. Dr. D’Cruz explained there is no correlation between one’s face and integrity, and that we respond to new faces based on our past experiences, which are also shaped by difference, prejudice, and stereotypes.

Dr. D’Cruz continued discussing the moral risks of distrust, which include insult & disrespect, and the notion of self-fulfillment. He also commented on the epistemic risks, which are interpretive biasing and asymmetrical feedback. When we distrust based on bias or preconceived notions, we never learn how the person would have responded if we had trusted them.

As a solution, Dr. D’Cruz proposed humble trust, which he defined as a “social virtue and skill that responds to the moral and epistemic pathologies of distrust.” The aims of humble trust are to cultivate full trust of those who are trustworthy. The humble trust mindset similarly seeks to reframe and reorient our thinking, pushing us to make the decision to actively trust in the face of fear. Ultimately, the humble trust mindset seeks to create conditions where a person can rationally trust that they will be trusted.

After finishing his lecture, Dr. D’Cruz answered questions from students and faculty to help the audience fully understand his research and proposals. “Distrusting Distrust” was an interesting, thought-provoking colloquium. To learn about upcoming events on campus, like and follow our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

2018 Clare Center Lecture

Siena hosted the 25th annual Clare Center lecture on Tuesday Oct. 2nd, welcoming Dr. Joy Schroeder, a religion professor and Lutheran pastor, to give her lecture on “Compassion and Imagination and Franciscan Biblical Interpretation.” Dr. Schroeder’s concentrations are in the history of biblical interpretation and women in the church. Dr. Holly Grieco introduced Dr. Schroeder and explained the origins of the Clare Center lecture. “It began as a way to welcome the religious studies department into its new home on campus,” Dr. Grieco said.

Dr. Schroeder emphasized the importance of slow, reflective reading during her lecture. She shared the statistic that the human attention span has diminished to eight seconds, which is one second less than a goldfish’s. Tying a majority of her speech and biblical interpretations into the Syrian and Central American refugee crises, Dr. Schroeder focused on the importance of using our imagination and compassion for the betterment of the world.

In reference to Siena’s Franciscan core curriculum, she mentioned the room to integrate compassionate imagination. “It can be done with holiness and imagination,” she said, “the kind that brings about good business ethics and good business practices.”

Dr. Schroeder’s lecture was part of the celebration of Francis Week, a week-long celebration of St. Francis’ life and values. Other events through this week include the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Feast of St. Francis, and Community Service Day. All students are encouraged to take part in this celebration. 

The lecture was a great addition to Francis Week because it highlighted the importance of the Franciscan traditions in both the Siena community and the world at large. “With both compassion and imagination, we can imagine new ways to do just a little bit of repair work to help heal this broken world,” Dr. Schroeder concluded.

Frankenstein Lecture Kicks Off October

I was ten years old when I read Frankenstein for the first time. It wasn’t the full novel; it was an abridged version for younger readers that cut out some of the more graphic and lengthy parts of the novel. It condensed down the story to the creation of the monster and Dr. Frankenstein’s struggles with his own guilt and grief. As an English major, I’ve learned about the origins of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and discussed its impact in class. I’ve helped students in the Writing Center who read Gris Grimley’s graphic novel adaptation in their First Year Seminar classes.

Siena has been celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein’s publication since last year with film screenings, lectures, and theatrical productions. This Monday, I attended Dr. Michelle Francl’s lecture, “Making Molecular Monsters.” Even as a SoLA student, I could appreciate what Dr. Francl had to say about the intersections between Frankenstein and chemistry.

Dr. Francl, chemistry professor and chair of the chemistry department at Bryn Mawr College, spoke on the connections between the novel and chemistry. “Chemistry plays a really significant role in the story. It sets into motion Frankenstein’s first steps into peril,” she explained.

“I’m interested in molecules that misbehave, molecules that transgress the borders that chemists think exist for molecules,” Dr. Francl said. “Over this forty year career, what unifies it is thinking about what makes the molecule do the unexpected.” Dr. Francl gave an interesting hour-long lecture on monstrous molecules and how they connect with the larger themes in Frankenstein of exploration and control.

If students are interested in hearing more about Dr. Francl’s lecture, keep an eye out for my publication in the Promethean on Friday Oct. 5. Besides the physical copies found in the SSU, library, and Lonnstrom, the newspaper can be read online here. Like and follow our social media pages to stay updated on upcoming Frankenstein events this month! Happy October!