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 Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
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.
I hope you’re all doing well and that this dreary, rainy weather isn’t getting you down! If you’re in the Albany area this weekend and are looking for something fun to do, I HIGHLY recommend going to see “Votes for Women,” a performance put on by the Siena College Creative Arts Department detailing scenes from the Women’s Suffrage Movement. I was able to attend this past Friday night and I was SO impressed by the skills of everyone in the performance, including some familiar faculty faces. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into when I decided to attend the performance because the flyer indicated that we wouldn’t be sitting in the theater per usual, that we would be walking around the building. Our tickets contained a sticker on the back, each with a name and we were told that we were to follow the suffragist leader of that group. My ticket read “Votes for Women” and I had the chance to follow Harriot Stanton Blatch (played by the wonderful June Casey) though various scenes throughout the Women’s Suffrage Movement, including the trial of the one and only Susan B. Anthony. We literally walked all over Foy, including backstage, to reach these scenes and this is something that I have never done before!
I think the aspect of the performance that I was most impressed with was the historical accuracy that each cast member put into their characters. The words spoken throughout the show were original text and content from the time period and many of the cast members were required to memorize extensive monologues in language that is not quite as familiar to us these days. In particular, Sandra Boynton who plays Susan B. Anthony, delivered her lines in such a way that I truly felt as if I had been transported back to her time. I was able to clearly see the absurdity in the way women were treated back then and honestly felt incredibly inspired after hearing the words spoken just so well and so passionately.
Check out the flyer above for location and time details for this weekend’s performance and please try to attend if you can! If you did attend the performance here at Siena, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below!
Julia (Student Intern)
One of the most important parts of being a young twenty something is exploring the world around us. There are so many amazing places to see and incredible things to do and most of the time, we don’t even see the opportunities to travel that are sitting right in front of us. If you’re going to be a junior (or a senior) at Siena in the fall, there is still time to apply to study abroad. I unfortunately was not able to study abroad due to academic obligations by the Honors Program, but I have had so many friends who have gone through this experience and have come back with a hunger for traveling and seeing the world. Junior Interdisciplinary Major (with a focus on Social Justice) Karina Wojnar studied abroad in India last semester and she was blown away by her incredible experiences on the other side of the world.
I absolutely adored how much it challenged me in every way. Being abroad challenged my world views, my personal values, my physical energy, and my mental capacity. I loved that I could NEVER assume anything. I could not assume what I was eating, nor if what I was wearing was appropriate. I loved that. It kept me mindful and on my toes.
My favorite adventure, as cliche as it sounds, would have to be my trips to the Taj Mahal. I went first before my program, with my brother while we were backpacking around North India. Then, I saw it as a tourist, we took tons of pictures. I freaked out. Oh my god, the Taj Mahal! This beautiful, symmetrical marble structure is breath-taking. The second time, I went with my program peers. I think I took maybe one or two pictures. We went during sunrise and I just watched. I sat in a quiet corner of the grounds, at the foot of the Taj, eyes closed, facing the sun. I absorbed the moment. Here I was at one of the seven wonders, but not there to check it off my list of “Things to See Before I Die”. I was there to admire the atmosphere, to appreciate the architecture, to be in love with this new culture I will have been starting to learn about.
I learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and to encourage it. Don’t understand what anyone is saying? Fine, listen and improve your comprehension skills. Don’t know what you’re eating? Ask and/or try it anyway. I learned to be open to embarrassment and uncertainty. Although it was easily frustrating at times, it ended in such rewarding ways.
Studying abroad not only opens your eyes to new food, culture and traditions, but it also allows you to learn about your major from a totally different perspective! If you’re even considering a trip abroad, make an appointment to talk to a member of the staff in the Study Abroad office! They have a TON of helpful information, plus multiple programs and destinations that will work for your interest and field of study. To make an appointment, you can either stop by Foy 301 or e-mail email@example.com. The Study Abroad team is AMAZING and even if you’re not sure whether you want to study abroad or not, make an appointment anyway! It never hurts to get some information and you may just find that this is the right opportunity for you.
Julia (Student Intern)
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
This weekend, I was able to attend the 12th annual Mr. Siena show for the first time (even though I’m a senior) and I have to say, this was one of the FUNNIEST and most exciting events that I have been to all year. For those of you that don’t know, Mr. Siena is a bit like a male beauty pageant, but with a huge comedic element. Guys sign up to participate at the beginning of September and they practice each week until the day of the show, working on dance numbers, individual talents, and answering questions. There are also three non-student judges at the event who choose the winner and two hosts, one of whom just happened to be Siena’s very own Father Dennis Tamburello! This year’s show showcased eight contestants and the money raised from ticket sales was put towards Siena’s Habitat for Humanity organization, a tradition that has continued throughout these past years.
I first want to say congratulations to every single one of the contestants. Not only did they work extremely hard over these last months, but you could see the incredible dynamic between the guys as they performed together on stage. They were genuinely happy for one another and kept high fiving each other after one did something cool or funny. The turnout from the Siena community was also amazing to see. Student, faculty, families, so many came out to support the event and every seat was taken inside the MAAC. This is a time during the year where it doesn’t matter what your major is, how old you are, or where you’re from. This event brings people together to support their fellow Saints and I truly think that’s why I enjoyed Mr. Siena so much. I came with my friends, but we also met up with other people that we knew and it was so much fun having the opportunity to just talk and laugh with everyone! As a senior, I am SO glad I decided to attend this event and for those of you who haven’t gone, this isn’t an event you should miss!
In addition, a HUGE congratulations to Kenney Alexandre, who was crowned Mr. Siena 2017!!!!
Did you go to Mr. Siena this past weekend? What did you think?
Julia (Student Intern)
For those of you who may not know her, Dr. Chingyen Mayer is a highly respected and valued member of the Siena College English Department and she was recently appointed as the new director of the International Studies minor. She has taught a variety of different courses here at Siena, including Introduction to International Studies, Literature from Asia, Realistic Movements in American Literature and Asian American Literature, which was one of the best classes I have taken throughout my four years here. In my Asian American Literature classes, Dr. Mayer not only opened our eyes to incredible novels we had never even heard of before, but also to the treatment and perception of Asian Americans in the United States. She even brought our entire class on a trip to Chinatown in NYC, where we had the privilege to walk around and visit the Chinese American museum!
In the classes that I took with her, Dr. Mayer also spoke often about her travels around the world and I believe this is one of the many reasons why she will be such a successful director for the International Studies Minor. She has immersed herself in different countries and culture and has strived to pass on the things she has learned to her students. Since joining the Siena community in 2002, she has taken over sixty students to present (or to attend) at Montreal’s Concordia University’s Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability and she has even organized the Siena-Concordia conference right here on our own campus. Her position as the new director for the Siena College International Studies Minor begins May 2017 and I have no doubt that she will succeed exponentially at the tasks ahead.
Enjoy the snow day and stay warm out there!
Julia (Student Intern)