Ms. Magazine Publishes Article by McKenna Donegan ’21

McKenna Donegan, a junior Political Science major and Pre-Law certificate student, recently had an article she wrote featured in Ms. Magazine. Her piece “Ranked Choice Voting Would Help Women Candidates in New York City- and Across the Country” delves into the research-based impacts that a ranked-choice vote election could have for candidates. Through her current participation in American University’s Washington Semester Program as an intern for RepresentWomen, McKenna has been researching the structural reform. 

RepresentWomen is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research hub that works to increase women’s representation in elected office and advocates for systemic reforms to the recruitment process, voting systems, and legislative practices. Since September, McKenna has been in Washington D.C interning and familiarizing herself with past research that the advocacy group has produced. “On Monday, November 4th, I was asked by my supervisor Courtney Lamendola and RepresentWomen Executive Director Cynthia Richie Terrell to write a short article about ranked-choice voting and how it helps women candidates, because the next day, New York City was voting on whether or not to adopt the measure” McKenna explained. 

With only a day before NYC voters would start arriving at the polls, McKenna quickly got to work. After leaving her internship that day, McKenna received an email from her supervisor stating that she thought the article was great and that she wanted to send it in to Ms. Magazine for publication. On November 5th, the same day that 73% of NYC voters said “Yes” to bringing ranked-choice voting to various elections, McKenna’s article was published. 

McKenna shared that what helped her most in composing her piece was a study done by RepresentWomen in 2016 that focused on women and people of color running for office in the California Bay Area after implementing ranked-choice voting. “This study was very helpful when I was writing the article because it showed that after the implementation of RCV, the California Bay Area saw an increase in the number of women and people of color running and winning local elective office.” In her article, McKenna further explains this shift, writing that “…the percentage of candidates of color for local elective office increased by 5 percentage points after the implementation of ranked-choice voting. To put this into perspective, neighboring cities that had not implemented RCV only saw a 0.3 percent increase in the number of candidates of color who ran for local elected office.” 

In reference to the publication of her piece and her research internship, McKenna expressed that “It was a great experience and one that I would have never had if it weren’t for the (American University’s) Washington Semester Program.” McKenna’s full article in Ms. Magazine can be found here. Congratulations on this awesome accomplishment, McKenna! 

Recovering from Schedule-Overload

To say that I was overly ambitious entering senior year is an understatement. I’m no stranger to a jam-packed schedule, so I figured the final stretch of undergrad would be fairly manageable. I was excited to be taking on leadership roles in a few clubs, working nearly full-time hours, and having a 15 credit course load. It felt good reciting my schedule to friends and family, completely proud of myself for taking so much on.

Like many other students, I identify with being an overachiever and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. Unfortunately, also like many of my peers, I was quickly introduced to my limits as the semester unfolded. I ended up feeling trapped in my schedule and was buried in the workload I was so proud to be taking on just a few weeks prior.

Digging your way out of the rubble that comes after an overloaded-schedule-meltdown is no easy task. You have to challenge yourself and most likely have to step outside of your comfort zone. Even though the recovery might be painful, the reward of less stress and more time to reflect is worth it. Here are steps to bouncing back after taking on too much in the beginning of the school year. 

Step 1: Sort out what matters the most 

Go through your schedule and determine what matters the most to you. Ranking the importance of each commitment might be helpful in this process. Question your motives along the way. Do you still find being part of that club rewarding? Has picking up extra shifts at work really been worth losing sleep? Did you give yourself any time during the week to attend office hours or visit the Writing Center for academic support? Before you can start cutting commitments off, it is crucial to think through why you are doing what you’re doing. Determine what actually is or isn’t worth a slot in your schedule. 

Step 2: Cut off what is least important

After prioritizing, it is time to let go of what no longer holds high enough importance in your schedule. For myself, this was easily the most challenging part of the process. The thought of letting down, friends, co-workers, or advisors terrified me. What’s important to remember here is that stretching yourself too thin hurts both yourself and the people counting on you. By cutting ties with a few commitments, you will be better able to manage the ones you deemed as most important. So type that email, explain that this is what is best for you right now, hit send, and take a breath. The worst part of schedule clean-up is over. 

Step 3: Stay committed to less commitments

Having free time is a necessary aspect of academic success and overall well-being for college students. With this in mind, that doesn’t mean I am any less of a serial schedule-filler than I was before. I needed to declutter my days, but every now and then I am tempted to fill my open time slots with new opportunities as they present themselves. For myself and anyone else in this position, the key is to stay focused on the priorities back in step one. Stay committed to your new core schedule. Instead of only giving a little bit of your energy to many commitments, give your all to your most valued few. 

As college students, it will always be tempting to load up our schedules to maximum capacity. How could we not want to? There are so many awesome opportunities everywhere we turn on campus. As we settle into midterm season, there is no better time to do some schedule decluttering.

In addition to these steps, utilizing on-campus resources can also beneficial in sorting out your commitments. Be sure to check in with the Career Center, Counseling Center, or School of Liberal Arts Office for additional advice in sorting out your workload. And most importantly, always remember to schedule time to take care of yourself first, Saints!

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.

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.

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!

Using the Library as a Resource

I’ve worked at the library’s circulation desk for over three years now, and I’ve noticed that everyone uses the library differently, whether it be a place for group project meetings, hanging out with friends, checking out books, or for studying. I remember learning about how to use the library in my First Year Seminar class, but there are a lot of resources the library has to offer that many students don’t know about. 

Extended hours & 24-hour computer lab

During finals, the library extends its hours to give students additional study time. Starting on Sunday December 2nd, the library will be open until 2am Sunday through Thursday, and open until 11pm Friday and Saturday. If the 2am closing time is still too early, however, the library’s computer lab is open 24 hours, giving students a quiet, productive space to study in the late hours of the night. The lab is accessible to all students by swiping in with your Saint Card. The computer lab also has printers and computers available for student use.

Standish Café

The library opened the café last year due to student demand. It’s a small coffee and snack bar by the study rooms on the main floor. Instead of having to walk to the dining hall or Casey’s, especially when it’s cold out, students can purchase pastries, snacks, and drinks from the café. There is also a Starbucks machine that dispenses coffee, hot chocolate, or chai tea, so you can get your caffeine fix without having to disrupt your studying.

Reference librarians 

The reference librarians are another useful resource in the library. They work at the reference desk on the main floor of the library and are available to assist students in the research process, especially with finding sources both inside and outside of the library. The library itself offers a wide variety of materials, from books to DVDS to current magazines and newspapers. It also provides extended services like ConnectNY and Interlibrary Loan (ILL), which allow students to check out books or request articles from other college libraries and have them delivered to Siena’s circulation desk or made available electronically. The library itself has over 150 online databases available for student use. These sources are especially useful in writing research papers because students are able to search for reputable, peer-reviewed sources that can be used in academic writing. For help on using these databases, ask any student worker at the circulation desk or a reference librarian.

The Writing Center

Writing research papers adds to the stress of finals. Luckily, the library has a student-run Writing Center, located on the lower level of the library. At the Writing Center, student workers help writers enhance their work in terms of style, cohesiveness, and organization. If citations like MLA, APA, or Chicago are something you struggle with, the Writing Center is also able to help students craft citations. Make an appointment at the Writing Center here.

Reserve a study room

The library definitely gets busier as the semester draws to a close, which is why the library offers study rooms available for reservation. There are nine study group rooms available for bookings on both the main and second floors, which can be done through the library’s website here. The rooms come with a whiteboard, table, and chairs to accommodate groups. Whiteboard markers and erasers can also be checked out with your Saint Card at the circ desk.

Finals are a crazy time of year, but the library is a great resource, so use it! With assistance from librarians, databases, and the Writing Center, students are able to hand in their best possible papers, presentations, and final exams at the end of the semester. Good luck studying, and ace those finals!

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!