Greyfriar Author Speaks with English Class

Each year, the English Department hosts the Greyfriar Living Literature Series in which they invite a distinguished literary writer to hold a workshop, discuss writing, and read from their work. This year’s Greyfriar author was Anand Prahlad, a published poet, memoirist, and professor. Prahlad visited my African American Literature class on Tuesday March 5th in the afternoon before his lecture and shared some of his insights on writing with our class. 

As part of our assignment for the day, my professor, Dr. Wilhite, assigned selected passages from Prahlad’s 2017 memoir, The Secret Life of a Black Aspie. His memoir discusses his experience with autism spectrum disorder and describes the way he sees the world. Prahlad kicks off his memoir with a bold statement: “Before I start telling you about my life, though, I should share with you a secret: I don’t remember most of it.” He admitted to our class that it was a line he wasn’t sure if he should keep in the memoir, but decide that there is an important, distinguished relationship between memory and life writing. “Everyone remembers differently,” Prahlad said.

Dr. Wilhite started off the class by having us read one of Prahlad’s poems, “Grind,” from his collection of poetry, As Good As Mango. The poem, written with extensive enjambment and impressionism, narrates an observer watching young black boys skateboarding in Harlem. Students discussed some of their observations from the poem, including Prahlad’s use of bright and positive imagery with darkness. Prahlad listened to student’s comments, then explained his own intentions with the poem, specifically how it was meant to capture a sense of percussive choreography. It was a great opportunity to hear an author speak about his own work. 

The class then transitioned into talking about the selected passages from Prahlad’s memoir. Students were able to ask Prahlad questions, and many of their inquiries centered around his writing style as someone diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. “My relationship to memory is kind of rooted in sensory experiences,” he explained. Prahlad shared an anecdote about a time he was asked to describe the autistic experience in order to best understand how to work with someone with autism. “Imagine everything is alive,” he said. “Everything is an aura. Everything is vibrating.”

Hearing Prahlad speak about his memoir and poetry was a valuable opportunity as an aspiring writer and an English major. I was unfortunately unable to attend his reading and Q&A due to a class conflict, but I was fortunate to have the chance to hear him discuss his own work. If you’re interested in learning more about Prahlad and his publications, you can check out his website at https://prahladauthor.com.

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.

MLK Keynote Tim Wise Visits Siena

This past Wednesday Jan. 30, 2019, author and activist Tim Wise delivered a lecture at Siena as the speaker of the 32nd Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. This year’s lecture was held in the MAC to accommodate the large audience. I’m terrible with numbers, but there were easily over 200 students, faculty, and people from the local community at the event.

Wise had a very commanding presence as a speaker, constantly keeping the attention on him and using his humor to connect with the audience. He commented at the beginning of his presentation that he has been delivering speeches nationwide for almost thirty years, and his impressive rhetorical abilities shone through. 

Wise spoke on how King’s memory has ultimately been sanitized and stripped of “revolutionary content” in America’s historical memory, explaining that people only remember the parts of King’s philosophy that make them comfortable. “See, everybody will tell you that they marched with Dr. King,” Wise said. “If everybody who says that they marched with Dr. King had actually marched with Dr. King, we wouldn’t be having to have this conversation about racism in 2019.”

The MLK keynote centered on the idea of a dangerous historical memory. Wise tied this notion to the 2016 election, immigration conflicts, and police brutality, honing in on the idea that past history is constantly repeating itself due to America’s faulty historical memory. “We keep trying to reinvent the wheel instead of understanding that we’re fighting the same dragons,” Wise explained, “the same monsters we’ve always been fighting.” He concluded his lecture optimistically and answered an hour of audience questions.

I will be covering Wise’s visit in the 2/15 issue of The Promethean, so if you’re interested in more extensive coverage of his time on campus and lecture, be sure to check it out.

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.

5,000 Miles, 10 Countries, 3 Months

When Saul Flores was a junior in college, he walked 5,328 miles from Quito, Ecuador to the United States. He traveled through 10 countries and took over 20,000 photos in an effort to capture the danger of an immigrant’s journey north. His project, “The Walk of Immigrants,” made national news, and Flores has been featured on NPR, TEDx, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. Flores was invited as the Keynote Speaker for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week and spoke in the Sarazen Student Union on Wednesday Nov. 14, 2018.

A map showing Flores’ journey

During his lecture, “Fleeing Home: Immigration and the Cost of Poverty,” Flores shared personal anecdotes from his experience as a first generation Mexican-American. He explained how both his parents were immigrants: “My mom left because she was escaping poverty and my father left because he was escaping a civil war.” Flores talked about his parents’ experiences working and struggling to provide for their family in New York City. “Being an immigrant in America is very hard,” he said. “It’s been a very turbulent time for a lot of people across the country, and I keep going back to my childhood.” Flores then shared a particularly moving story in which he and his sister witnessed his mother, who worked as a housekeeper on the Upper West Side, scrubbing floors for a living for the first time. “We had never seen my mom scrub the floors before,” Flores said. “My guardian angel, my protector, was on her knees scrubbing floors.”

Photo courtesy of the Franciscan Center for Service & Advocacy

Flores was inspired to take his 5,328-mile trek by a service trip to his mother’s hometown in Mexico. While visiting his grandmother in Mexico, he went to the tiny cinderblock schoolhouse that had been constructed in the 1970s to provide an education to the children of the community. When Flores and his friends went inside the schoolhouse, 124 children began singing the Mexican national anthem to them. “It was so beautiful because they were introducing us into their home,” Flores said. He started noticing the poor conditions of the building, like the crumbling walls, flickering light bulbs, and splintering desks. Flores’ grandmother explained to him that this would have been the school he would have gone to if his mother had not immigrated to the United States. This trip was the catalyst for Flores’ journey, especially once he was told the schoolhouse was doomed to close. In his travels, he took over 20,000 photos, which he sold and donated the proceeds to the schoolhouse’s repairs. Flores shared stories of his 3 month-long journey, with one particularly harrowing experience in the Darién Gap, a passage of swampland between Panama and Colombia. Flores spoke on the positive impact of his journey, explaining that it sparked a national conversation on immigration.

Throughout his lecture and into the Q&A, Flores emphasized the importance of international travel, the influence of passion, and the power of grit and perseverance. Keep an eye out for more extensive coverage of this event in my article in the 11/30 issue of The Promethean! If you’re interested in learning more about Saul’s experience, check out his social media pages at @sweetlikesaul.

“We the Change:” Monthly Talk Circle

In the last week of October, the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women held a #MeToo Forum for students on campus to discuss contemporary issues directly related to women. The discussion spawned dialogue on women’s equality, gender standards, and the need for change. The #MeToo Forum emphasized the need for conversation on these issues on Siena’s campus. In response to this need, Beth DeAngelis, the director of the Women’s Center, created a monthly talk circle for women students on campus.

Beth facilitated this first talk circle but explained that other circles will be student-run. Students will also have the opportunity to anonymously fill out a sheet suggesting topics for discussion in future circles. She emphasized the importance of having safe spaces and places for discussion, especially for female college students. It is also important to mention that what is said in the circle does not leave the room, but what is learned in the circle can and should be shared with others.

The circle is intended to be an open space that fosters honest discussion about issues faced by college women. One of the topics discussed was women being held to a higher standard than men, especially in terms of appearance. This segued into a discussion on how women are perceived in the classroom with focus on class participation. As a female college student, it can sometimes be difficult to speak up in class for fear of being judged, especially in male-dominated settings. I have been to forums at Siena where the conservations are dominated or overtaken by male students, which sometimes makes it even harder for me to add my voice to the conversation. It is important for students to be aware of those who are hesitant or struggling to enter the classroom dialogue and make the space welcoming and open for them. Class discussion is a vital component of the college classroom experience, and everyone should feel comfortable in sharing their voice. 

Siena’s Women’s Center frequently hosts events and forums that encourage women’s participation, so be sure to attend next month’s talk circle and stay updated on their events through SaintsConnect! You can learn more about the Women’s Center here at their website.

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!

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!

#MeToo Forum Encourages Open Discussion

On Monday Oct. 29, Siena’s Women’s Center held an open forum discussion on the #MeToo movement. Other topics during the forum included Brett Kavanaugh, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, and women’s empowerment. These topics have repeatedly been in the news over the past few years, especially during the recent Supreme Court hearings and nominations.

The #MeToo movement quickly gained grounds on social media platforms in late 2017, providing a space for those who have been sexually assaulted or harassed to share their personal stories. Many confessions discussed workplace harassment. Even though the #MeToo movement gained prominence more recently, issues of sexual assault and harassment have always existed. There was much discussion of the #MeToo movement in the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct and assault by three women. One of the women, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite the women’s allegations, testimony, hearings, and a brief FBI investigation, Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2018. 

People have been “blacking out” their social media to show their support of the #MeToo movement and that they believe survivors. In the wake of Dr. Ford’s testimony, social media sites were flooded with black profile pictures to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.

The Women’s Center held the forum for students and faculty to discuss their own thoughts and feelings regarding the larger #MeToo movement, as well as Kavanaugh’s recent swearing-in as a Supreme Court Justice. These types of conversations and open forums are especially significant on college campuses, where sexual violence can be prevalent. There are harrowing statistics about sexual violence and college students. For example, 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during their college career. Similarly, 95% of these assaults go unreported. 

During the open forum, the facilitators emphasized that the only thing allowed to leave the room was what people learned during the discussion; all private confessions and stories were not allowed to leave the room. This created a safe space for students to share their thoughts and feelings on the #MeToo movement and its relevance. Because sexual violence is a prominent issue on college campuses, it is important to have conversations and safe spaces where students feel able to share their experience.

There are numerous confidential and non-confidential sources students can utilize on Siena’s campus; all this information can be found here. More information about Siena’s Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women can be found here.