Ask the President

By: Jillian Fiddler

Chris Gibson has been the President of Siena College since July 2020. He has navigated our campus through a pandemic, out of debt, and into an optimistic community looking forward to planned advancements that will benefit everyone involved. Since President Gibson has been announced as the 12th President of Siena College, countless interviews and profiles have been done by both participants of the school and outside sources.

President Gibson with First Lady Mary Jo on his first day as Siena’s 12th President – Courtesy of @SienaCollege

When I thought of the idea to interview him, I knew I would have to do something different from the basic interview or question and answer piece he had already participated in. This is where the idea of “Ask the President” stemmed from. I wanted to create an opportunity for Siena students to use their voices and have their questions answered by the President. Below is a summary of the interview I held with President Gibson, separated by topics formulated by common questions sent in.

Plans to improve Siena’s campus:

Despite this current freshman class being well over one thousand students, the goal is to return the class size back down to the 900s. This is to keep the “liberal arts feel” of the campus while also allowing Siena the opportunity to become more selective to match the obvious growing interest. There are also plans for substantial Wellness Center updates to help promote positive life habits among all members of Siena College. This will come in the form of help with nutrition, yoga, meditation, and mental health support to aid in finding happiness and stability while learning coping techniques for stress.

All lights on in Cushing Village during the cold winter – Courtesy of @SienaCollege

Graduate and accelerated program plans:

Students seek out undergraduate schools with strong graduate programs so Siena is actively working to fulfill this demand. The Masters of Social Work (MSW) program is currently in the process of being established thanks to a very generous sponsor who is helping to fund the initiative. There are also plans to expand the current nursing program so the students and faculty can increase in size and gain more opportunities. The MBA program here at Siena is very popular and seeing as it falls under the growing interests of students, the decision has been made to add a concentration in health administration. 

Future remote class opportunities:

Before the pandemic, colleges and universities had a national baseline of 10% of their classes being asynchronous. Siena College was slightly below this with having only 6-7% of asynchronous class options. The goal after the pandemic is to return to a normal in-person class schedule with the asynchronous class availability now reflecting the national baseline by falling around 10%. This will hopefully provide for more flexibility among both students and faculty, in addition to introducing variations in Siena’s pedagogy. There is also an intention to allow for many online class options in graduate programs so students can share their time between coming to campus and working to gain experience in their desired field. 

Most challenging part of budgeting:

The President has a responsibility to acknowledge and be empathetic to all stakeholders of the budget. This includes three main subsections – the trustees, the students, and the alumni. The trustees have the goal for the college to be fiscally stable and uphold its values. The students want an inclusive community where they can get the best education at the cheapest price. The Alumni simply want their beloved college to flourish. There can be challenges with this because not all priorities can be addressed to the same degree. That being said, the school is doing phenomenal in multiple areas. This is the second year of a balanced budget plus a surplus of funds, enrollment is strong, and the college is scoring very high nationally.

Thoughts on the pandemic:

There has been controversy over how Siena decided to proceed into this academic year regarding masks. This decision was not made lightly and consisted of heavy consultation to evaluate policies that reflected data. This data demonstrates risk management and how best to proceed as a community. Fortunately, it was shown that our case numbers were the same, if not better, than surrounding schools that were either mask mandated or completely locked down. By remaining mask optional and increasing social interaction, there was a noticeable improvement in the mental health of all community members, which is something to be celebrated. 

The sun shining strongly onto Siena Hall – Courtesy of @SienaLiberalArts

Mental health support:

Mary Jo Gibson, President Gibson’s wife, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a strong mental health advocate. She has played a prominent role in influencing President Gibson’s perspective of how important a community’s mental health truly is. This view has changed to a holistic lens, with mental and physical health being of equal importance. Needing support during the pandemic has been increasing here on campus, which is why more resources are becoming available. Kate Kauffman Burns and the Wellness Center, the Counseling Center, Peer Mentors, Saints, and CA’s can all provide advice and support if individuals are struggling.

Diversity on Campus:

It should be noted that the current freshman class has the largest percentage of people of color in the School’s history. This number has doubled from last year and is expected to increase in the following years. To support these students in their success, there needs to be resources readily available such as financial, academic, and emotional support. Every single student at Siena should have the opportunity to flourish regardless of what they look like. This is why a campaign to strengthen the bonds of racial justice is forming. The core of this campaign is rooted in St. Francis’s lifestyle seeing as he is a strong representation of celebrating all life without biases. 

Most pressing concerns on campus:

There needs to be a stronger focus on everyone’s experience here at Siena. One of the best ways to learn how to do this is simply by listening to students. The students have some of the most important opinions on campus, and this is why they have intellectual insight into what should stay consistent and what needs to change or adapt. This can be done by conducting surveys, attending and listening in on senate meetings, and bringing up discussions during clubs and student activities. Siena College is not made up of individuals who are comfortable sitting still. The school is open to change – it just needs to know where it is necessary. 

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with President Gibson and share some of the students’ most pressing questions with him. Siena College is lucky to have a president dedicated to all members of the community and who will continue to support us during these difficult times.

As always, please feel free to interact with and share the bLAb to your friends and family. Here in the School of Liberal Arts we are excited to be involved and learn about how we can best help you use your voice so it is always encouraged to reach out with suggestions or ideas for the bLAb, which can be done by emailing

Have a great Spring Break and I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Siena Alum Reports on Ukraine Crisis

By: Jillian Fiddler and Libby Kane

In 2014 Christopher Donato graduated from Siena College with an American Studies Major and minors in Broadcasting and Creative Arts. Today, he is an Emmy winning ABC News Field Producer and is currently reporting on the crisis in Ukraine from the Poland/Ukraine border. Donato has graciously taken the time to answer our questions and provide both his own pictures and insight into the tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine, as well as how Siena has prepared him to be successful in this line of work.

What is your current role/title, and what does it entail? 

I am a Field Producer at ABC News, mainly covering breaking news. Wherever the story is, I get sent (and there are plenty of middle-of-the-night wake up calls). I work with a correspondent/anchor to pitch stories, to find elements for pieces (video, interviews, etc.), scout locations for us to be live from, and get the corresponde/guest on tv.

Christopher Donato ’14 in front of train packed with Ukrainian refugees

How long have you been in Poland? 

I arrived Sunday, Feb 27. I was actually supposed to head to London to fill in our office there, but was asked to change my plans at the last minute and reroute to Poland.

How long do you plan to stay in Poland? 

Great question! We’ll be here for as long as we’re needed to be here.

Do you have any safety concerns for yourself?

No – everyone in Poland has been extremely welcoming.

How has what you learned and the skills you developed at Siena helped you in your current work? 

One of the main things I learned at Siena was to listen and show empathy. When we’re talking to the refugees, it’s so important to listen to them and show them empathy. Some of the people have told us their homes have been bombed – so they really only have what few possessions they carried with them to Poland. Some have told us about their husbands/brothers/fathers/sons staying back in Ukraine to fight and protect their homeland.

Children playing with donated toys to Ukrainian refugees

Is there anything that we can do to help the Ukrainian people? 

The head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has asked that people donate to big organizations instead of donating small items; he said that by sending money to the organizations, they can purchase what is actually needed and have it brought to the locations easier than private donors can. We’ve seen several aid organizations here helping – the Polish Red Cross has been at several of the refugee reception centers and we’ve seen World Central Kitchen (a non-profit that sets up kitchens and distributes food at disasters) at the border crossings and reception centers at all hours of the day handing out tons of warm meals. For many of the refugees, this is the first warm meal they’ve had during their journey…which for some people, has lasted 5+ days.

What has been the most challenging thing for you to witness while in Poland? 

The second night we were here, we went to the border crossing in Medyka and we watched as refugees came across the border into Poland from Ukraine. There’s no way to really describe it…some people were just so exhausted from their journeys, that they could barely walk. It wasn’t a limp. It wasn’t a walk. There really is no way of describing how their exhausted strides looked. Some told us they walked 20, 30, 50+ kilometers (12, 19, 30 miles) to get to the border. They had a look of confusion on their faces too. Greeting them in Poland were all these volunteers with hot meals and donated clothing, but they didn’t realize it was all free for them. The other challenging moment to witness was just last night; we went to the Ukrainian House – it’s typically a cultural and arts center in a town near the border that puts on programs introducing people to Ukrainian culture. It’s been turned into a temporary housing shelter for refugees. They brought us to one room where kids are in the back playing and laughing, but in front of them were their mothers/grandmothers/aunts sitting at a table with a total look of despair on their faces. They brought us to their auditorium which, just 2 weeks ago, would be home to plays and shows. Well, now it’s filled with cots for refugees to spend a night sleeping. One of the organizers almost started to cry when she told us about the refugees and her fears: she said during the first wave at the beginning of the fighting, refugees came with several large bags and their pets, but over the two weeks refugees have been coming with less and less. Those who arrived yesterday came with just a backpack each. She said she was really worried about those coming from Eastern Ukraine in cities like Mariupol where the fighting is very strong. She worries that those refugees are going to have absolutely nothing with them.  

Ukrainian refugees boarding buses in Poland

While you were at Siena did you ever expect to see yourself working on a job like this? 

No – I actually had no idea I wanted to go into journalism when I got to Siena. I wanted to either become a pediatrician or a high school history teacher (I know, they are so similar!). Once I realized I wanted to become a journalist, I thought I would be at the local level in a large city in the United States. I never thought I would be working at a news network traveling to big stories around the world.

Do you think that by being at Siena and learning about Social Justice, you are better equipped with an understanding of these kinds of situations? 

*The social justice courses were instituted into the core curriculum after Christopher graduated*

It’s important to learn about social justice through Franciscan lens because you really never know when you’ll be faced with a situation like this. I never thought I’d be across the world talking to refugees fleeing war in their homeland and having the empathy to understand them and help them.

Anything else you would like to add? 

We cannot undersell how amazing the Polish people have been. I would say 98% of all the work we see being done for the refugees has been from volunteers. Usually you would expect a majority of the work to be from the government with a small fraction from volunteers. Totally opposite here. And people are coming from all over Europe to help. Yesterday we met three volunteers who filled a truck full of donations in Germany and drove 10+ hours to drop it off here. People hold signs at refugee reception centers (large areas where refugees are brought to by bus once they are processed at the border) with cities listed on their sign. That’s where they are offering a free ride to refugees…some as far as Sweden, Amsterdam, cities across Germany, Poland…I think the furthest we’ve seen is about a 15-20 hour drive. It’s really incredible seeing the best of humanity in the worst of circumstances.

We appreciate everything Donato is doing over in Poland and are very proud that he is a member of Siena’s wonderful Alumni community!

To donate and aid in help for the Ukraine crisis click here.

You can follow Christopher Donato’s experience in Poland @chrisdonato04

The bLAb is Back!

By: Jillian Fiddler

Hi Everyone!

The bLAb is back after taking a short break over the fall semester. Before I introduce myself as the new voice behind the bLAb I would like to thank our previous writer Kiera Mitru, who graduated last May and did wonderful work in the School of Liberal Arts. 

So who am I? My name is Jillian Fiddler and I am a Junior here at Siena. I am studying Social Work with a minor in Criminal Justice while also filling my time on campus with clubs and work. I’m not going to bore you with an entire biography of who I am and all of my interests because most of that information will naturally come to light through these bLAb posts.

My plan for the bLAb this semester is to create a place for students and faculty to share their experiences on campus as well as an opportunity to get information on upcoming events – and the review of them afterwards. I would love for this to be a platform where everyone is heard and respected and the Siena community can thrive by sharing stories.

I know the semester is nearing midterms and between the unpredictable weather and the impending doom of upcoming assignments no one wants more on their plate but I do have a favor to ask. I have two big plans for the bLAb that need your help with input and participation. 

Ask The President:

If you follow the Siena Liberal Arts Instagram (@sienaliberalarts) then you have seen the information being posted about an upcoming Q&A with President Gibson. This is a chance for the President to answer direct questions from the students on Siena’s campus. You still have time to send in your questions and can do so by emailing us at

Siena Student Shoutout:

Siena does a wonderful job at showcasing students who go above and beyond academically and within the community. I love reading about my peers and all they have accomplished and it inspired me to create a platform where students can shout out their friends for absolutely anything. Do they have a great sense of humor? Are they always the one driving you to Walmart? It could even be that you know they had a tough week and want to cheer them up. If there is a student on Siena’s campus that you would like to give a shoutout to, email the bLAb and I will showcase them in the next post!

I hope everyone has a fantastic rest of the week and are enjoying the first signs of spring. Any interaction with the bLAb is greatly appreciated and I look forward to hearing from all of you.

If you have suggestions or ideas for the bLAb they are always encouraged and can be done by emailing 

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! 

A Journey Through the Career, Internship, and Graduate Fair

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Photo by Sergio Sericolo

The Siena College Spring Career, Internship and Graduate Fair was held on March 15th, 2016 in the MAC. I, fortunately, had the opportunity to attend this years’ fair for the first time in my college career. With over 120 organizations attending, I knew some preparation had to take place to aid me in standing out among the crowd. The first extra precaution I took to train for this event came a week prior through the services at Career Center. The Siena College Career Center took it into their own hands to create and host a night for mock interviews and résumé critiques. Upon attending this event, I dressed appropriately and brought several copies of my résumé, as there were representatives from seven different organizations present to provide advice. This event proved extremely beneficial, as it was very helpful to sit with an individual whose job it is to look at résumés. Leaving this event, I felt confident enough to hand my resume to any professional at the career fair. Not to mention the importance of the connections made with those individuals at the critique night that would later be present at the fair.

With the résumé refined, it was time to learn a little bit about internships and careers. The Student Internship Panel allowed for just that. This panel brought together six students from various disciplines to describe their different experiences and journeys. Their advice and knowledge was extremely valuable and their ability to completely answer audience questions made for a full/well-rounded panel. Being a Marketing major myself with an English minor, this panel shed some light on some opportunities and transferrable skills I was previously not aware of. This panel ultimately gave me more confidence in my academic focuses and taught me how to better market myself within both Business and Liberal Arts realms.

The night before the fair had come and I made it my mission to study a few companies in order to have something to converse about, as one of my largest fears was a daunting silence between a potential employer and me. After I felt knowledgeable about companies of my interest, I set out to have a good nights rest. The day of the fair had arrived and I could not help to feel a little nervous. After putting on my best professional wear and studying my qualifications, the time had come to make some connections. The first introduction is always the hardest and as I approached mine, I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d say. However, my education in liberal arts gave me the communication skills to hold a natural conversation while my business skills boosted my professionalism. This combination gave me the tools and confidence to approach any booth and communicate with ease to anyone. Similarly, when these representatives asked about my academic background, it was not exactly my marketing focus that caught their attention but, instead, my liberal arts one that sparked their interest. With business knowledge but also the appropriate knowhow in communication, learning, and writing, these individuals could not wait to take a glance at my résumé. This is also, I’m assuming, one of the reasons a lot of these companies were also prompted to email me following the event. The transferrable skills I have acquired through my education at Siena College have adapted me into quite the asset for a company.

In all, the networking experience of such an event gave me the tools necessary to be confident in my own abilities/skills and helped me to make some great connections. If nothing comes of any of this, I will still be forever grateful to have the opportunity to participate in such a grand networking event. Walking up to a complete stranger and sparking up a riveting conversation was never something I’d call a strength of mine but this event surely turned that around. This career fair was helpful beyond anything I had imagined and simulated a very professional environment that I recognize will help me in the near future. For any of those thinking about attending a future career fair, I would definitely recommend taking all the precautionary measures possible to succeed at the highest level.

Trilogy of Opportunity: Student Internship Panel


If the Student Internship Panel happened to slip through your fingers this semester, it would be highly beneficial to catch the next one. This first exciting installment of the School of Liberal Arts Spring “Trilogy of Opportunity” was conducted on Wednesday, March 9th.  The Career Center, School of Liberal Arts, and Community Living graciously constructed this event for students to learn more about having internships throughout college. This panel, gathered in the Norm, gave six students the opportunity to discuss their experiences as interns at a number of very different organizations/companies. The internship diversity within these students was very notable and greatly appreciated. These differences in academic disciplines gave all those in attendance some type of relevance and familiarity to the point where everyone in attendance left with some more extensive knowledge of their field or focus.

The intern and academic focuses covered among these six individuals included Psychology, Computer Science, Management, Economics, and Political Science. As each field is drastically different from the next, each internship experience was also drastically different. So, as the mediators fired questions at these six students, each answer had something very specific and interesting to their situation that others could not exactly speak to. They all had an opportunity to talk about their knowledge and experiences within their personal internship placements and the inner workings of the processes they went through. The combination of answers these six students provided to each question delivered a well-rounded and diverse response, which in return more adequately prepared the audience for any situation they may find themselves in.

These respectable, successful student panelist’s included Nick Roden, Mary Kate Thompson, Augustin J. (AJ) Lianzo, Anthony Bjelke, Koushik Pernati, and Dina DiCarlo. While each of these students worked at an entry-level position (with the exception of a couple), their experiences were all subject to the corporate cultures and responsibilities thrust upon them. However, each panelist’s advice is just as esteemed as the next irrespective of his or her placement. Advice was shared on a number of subjects that an individual applying to internships would be dying to know. This included guidelines on how to effectively secure an internship position, the interview process, networking, and everything down to the proper work attire. They also comprehensively communicated the importance of LinkedIn and using the resources available at the school to make connections and get information.

As a college student, it is easy to get in the mindset that real life has not started yet, but after attending this student internship panel, just the opposite is proven. Hearing about these experiences and opportunities secures the notion that the future is, in fact, now and there are those who are already ahead of the curve. On this internship panel were six incredible students that have already started to pave a path to their future and took full advantages of the opportunities presented to them now rather than hoping for the best after graduation.

Networking: SoLA Lecture Series


The school has made it a habit of inviting exciting guest speakers back to the campus to hear about their experiences and understand their paths from Siena College onwards. However, most individuals do not realize there is another purpose for these events beyond sheer entertainment and life lessons. Networking is one of the most vital teachings that any institution can instill in their students. Each professional invited to speak at the college is an already established, practiced person who has found success in their particular field. Therefore, there is no better time to engage in connection building than at one of these guest-speaking events. Finding a way to get some face-time with these speakers can pay off in an enormous fashion as well as potentially lead to otherwise unlikely internship or job opportunities. Students are often under the impression that their future is waiting for them as soon as they graduate, but it is very possible to start a future tomorrow by simply connecting with the right people. All of this can start right here on campus and, in fact, has started on numerous occasions for students over the past decades years of networking at the college.

Don’t believe it? Last semester Tom Mazzarelli, the Co-Executive Producer of the Today Show graced the Siena community with his presence. Invited here for the Siena College School of Liberal Arts Lecture Series, Tom spoke about his career after schooling and how his education aided his career path on a greater scale. After an inspiring, impressive and very entertaining presentation, it became very clear how this individual found his success. One student, Emily Carideo, recognized just that and took it into her own hands to seek out the connection. Fortunately, Emily had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Mazzarelli afterwards at a luncheon wherein she was able to keep an open dialogue and learn a little more about Tom.

Emily is grateful for these types of events and explains that, “as a Broadcast and Society minor, this event was something I truly valued, as I was able to hear from someone who not only went to Siena like myself, but was able to land what I consider my dream job.” Emily continued to stay in touch with Tom and the Today show to create a working and strong relationship. Finally, her networking and connection paid off as she was offered an internship at the studio. Emily proudly admits “if it were not for this Key Speaker event, it is possible I would never have been able to make a personal connection with someone at the Today show.” Emily now has the opportunity to thrust her career in broadcast beyond anything she could have imagined at this age.

Students often to tend to think that a story like this is anecdotal or rare but this is an interaction that actually has occurred for decades here on campus. All it takes is the students’ participation and willingness to take control of their future. Opportunities like this do not come around everyday but Siena College is doing what they can to make them more frequent and accessible. This semester, the School of Liberal Arts Lecture Series is proud to feature Michael Zarcone, the Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Metlife. This event is set to take place on Monday, March 14th in the Key Auditorium (RB 202) from 12:30-1:30. Try to stop by and participate in some networking because, who knows, it could be the start of something life-changing.

Siena’s First Student Designed Interdisciplinary Major


Have you ever worried that you won’t be qualified for your future dream job? Do you ever think that there’s not one specific major that you can gain all the skills necessary to succeed in this field?

Siena introduces you to their newest SDIM, Student Designed Interdisciplinary Major, in which a student works with a community of advisors and mentors who will help shape the interdisciplinary major into a concentrated study. The study has to come from at least three different majors and one must reach out to an official advisor who will be committed to overseeing the student’s capstone and journey.

Anna Youngmann a senior at Siena College is one of the first students to graduate with a Self Designed Interdisciplinary Major. An opportunity as such is one that she could not turn down. With her dream is to work with anti-human trafficking organizations internationally, Youngmann couldn’t find one major that encompassed all that she wanted to do.

Anna approached Dr. Laurie Naranch, the Director of the Women’s Studies Minor on campus, to be her advisor and pioneer the SDIM program with her. They’ve worked to design Anna’s major, combining coursework focusing on Women’s Studies and International Studies to create Anna’s concentration in Global Gender Studies.

When Anna was 16 she traveled to Mali, West Africa for two weeks of volunteering. Here she worked with a woman who runs a center for women who were caught in sexual exploitation and trafficking. One of the most life changing moments of her trip, Anna explained, was when she met a young girl just about her age who had been trafficked since the age of 14. Ever since then she has been passionate about aftercare programs for survivors of trafficking and making sure they don’t fall back into all consuming world of sexual exploitation. Her volunteer work consisted of handing out fliers and walking along side her mentor as she spoke the native language Bambara, while Anna would say hello and use some phrases that she was taught in French. It was a simple job, Anna explained, but it was very impactful.

Since Anna’s first year at Siena she has been part of the Women’s Center. She is now the chair of trafficking events on campus and organized to have a speaker come to Siena, which opened the door to an internship with an anti-trafficking organization for Anna.

Before her senior year, Anna struggled with deciding on a major. She was psych, then social work, and then was undeclared; as Anna described it she was “bopping around.” She was looking for a major that would best fit a career of aftercare. She felt social work would have been great for trafficking within the US but her dreams were international and needed more flexibility to take international courses and advanced French courses. She had never found the right fit until she declared her Self Designed Interdisciplinary Major.

Another amazing experience Anna had was studying abroad for a semester in Cameroon, Africa. Here she studied at SIT, School for International Training, where she worked for 3 months on course work and worked with experts then spent one month doing an independent research project on survivors of, or vulnerable to, trafficking.

Anna’s future career goal is to get experience in the United States with anti-trafficking organizations for a few years then move back to Africa, either Cameroon or Mali, and do international trafficking work with a special focus on economic empowerment and aftercare programs.

Anna admits that she doesn’t know if she is the pioneer or the guinea pig but either way she is thrilled to be one of the firsts at Siena to create her own major!

The Next Miss President

Bill Dickinson Follow Capitol Hill Spring

Bill Dickinson Follow
Capitol Hill Spring

Every child’s dream at one point or another is to be the President of the United States. Kaitlyn Krolik, a junior studying Political Science and History, has made it closer to the President than most of us ever will. As an intern at the White house, Kait had the privilege of walking through the tall black gates everyday for an entire semester.

My first question was how did you get this once in a lifetime internship?! Well, as a typical college student, Kait spent most of her time binge-watching The West Wing on Netflix after finals were over freshman year. One day in an episode, all of the inters were getting yelled at and a light went off in Kait’s head that she wanted to be an intern in the White House at some point, any point, before she graduated. She became fully committed to the idea and began googling “Internship in the White House.” She got her resume together and applied. This was the summer after her Freshman year. Of the thousands of applications the White House receives, only around 130 were accepted. To her surprise, she was considered a candidate for an internship in the House’s OPC and eventually was accepted into the program. 

Kait withdrew from her spring courses at Siena. Luckily, Kait had family in the area with whom she stayed with so all she really had to do was change her wardrobe from a college sophomore to a well fashioned businesswoman.

When she finally arrived she realized she was one of the youngest interns in the office, only 19 years old working with college seniors and graduate students. In this office, she dealt with a majority of the mail the White House received. She focused on the greeting cards for the office in particular. The President receives letters informing him of individuals’ major life milestones, and he sends them back a card recognizing their milestone. Kait worked with the office to read the requests and respond appropriately.

Everyday, the office as a whole chose 10 letters to send directly to the president that would represent the mass of letters the president had received. When she was there, major issues that were addressed were foreign policy, like the crisis in Syria and Venezuela, as well as health care concerns and college affordability.

A fun fact about Kait is that prior to this internship she ha taken no courses in Political Science other than Comparative Politics, which did not address any domestic policies, although at the time of the interview and application process she was a declared Political Science Major. But what helped her the most was reading the New York Times every day. This is where we began to form her understanding of domestic and foreign policy as well as the functions of the government. What started as a requirement for her philosophy class led her to become constantly caught up in current news. 

When I asked her what courses had prepared her the most for this internship she explained, “I had taken a writing course and worked in the Writing Center as well. I learned how to articulate my ideas with a comprehensive understanding of whats is going on around me.” She told me that it was her freshman seminar class that taught her how to think critically.

In the future, Kait’s goal is to help people. She feels that the government is a good way to help a large number of people. She plans on applying for scholarships and fellowships to help her gain more experience in the field and potentially attend graduate school once she graduates. Her dream is to, at some point, run for office, which Kait says is “a very real possibility.” 

Currently, Kait is interning at the State Senate, helping the constituents of Brooklyn while beginning o train an understand of how policy is made and how the state legislature functions.

What I learned from speaking with Kait is to always keep an open mind and stay present to your dreams because you never know what you can do with your Liberal Arts education! 

History Isn’t Only For The Historians

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Statue of Gouverneur K. Warren on Little Round Top in Gettysburg PA taken by Francis Butler

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe” (H. G. Wells)

Francis Butler, History major with Revolutionary Era Studies Certificate via the McCormick Center for the Study of the American Revolution, has had his share of experience in the “doing” of history.

What drew Francis to Siena was our McCormick Center for the Study of the American Revolution. He knew he wanted to study history and he knew that Siena’s McCormick Center was the place to get the best education. Not only does he like studying the American Revolution and the Civil War academically, he enjoys it on a recreational level as well. So much so that as a Freshman, while the rest of us messed around and used “I’m still adjusting to being here” as the excuse for everything, he was getting involved as the Program Assistant at the McCormick Center. He was getting his friends and peers involved in the history he loved and at the same time he was expanding the program. He was seen as a student model and recruiter.

In his Sophomore year, Francis wrote paper called “To Bleed for a Higher Cause: The Excelsior Brigade and the Civil War” discussing what motivated New York’s soldiers in the Excelsior Brigade fought in the Civil War. Little did he know, this paper would take him all the way to the New York State History Association’s Annual Conference in June 2013. With a combination of his experiences in the McCormick Center and his education from the history program at Siena, he presented his work in front of historians, teachers, and people from museums from all over New York State. With his trip sponsored and paid for by the McCormick Center, Francis experienced his first academic conference and delivered his research in a professional setting.

When I asked Francis what classes here at Siena were the most rewarding and he explained to me that he has taken many upper level seminars, as far up as 300-400 level. These are the classes that challenge him to think like a historian. These classes built upon his foundational knowledge and invited him to explore historical questions through reading and research. It were these courses that pushed Francis to think and work as a historian.

As a student in the School of Liberal Arts, of course I had to ask him, do you feel that your abilities to think critically have been improving since being here? And his answer was absolutely. He explained how the opportunities extended to him to think critically pushed him to be a better researcher, a better writer, and a better thinker. While he was thinking and writing as a historian, working as a McCormick Center student empowered him to approach problems creatively. So much so he even applied the work of his Marketing class to create a marketing plan for the McCormick Center to increase awareness on campus.

The McCormick Center’s curriculum combines classroom learning with application in the field. Consequently, Francis, as a McCormick Center student, has taken both business, history, and liberal arts coursework that have challenged him and other McCormick Center students to think in diverse and creative ways. Two of the best examples from Francis’s undergraduate career that tie the essence of a liberal arts education and the value of the McCormick Center’s programs are his work on a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant with the McCormick Center and his involvement in the Urban Scholars Mentor Program.

  1. In August 2012, the McCormick Center was awarded a Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for School Teachers grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for $175,000. Francis, as the co-author of the proposal with the McCormick Center’s director Jennifer Dorsey, Ph.D, helped research and write the narrative, create the grant’s proposed budget, and establish a schedule for the program.  The grant required Siena College to integrate historical learning with important “landmarks” in the Capital Region. Focusing on the theme of American Shakerism, Siena’s program, entitled  Heaven on Earth: Shakers, Religious Revival, and Social Reform in America, recruited 80 K-12 school teachers  in all fields from across the nation (split into two groups of 40, brought in in two sessions) to come to Siena and learn about the Shakers. The setting couldn’t be more perfect: Albany, the birthplace of  the American Shaker movement and close to Shaker sites such as  Mount Lebanon and Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts, was ideal for this program. Francis worked primarily as the logistical coordinator for the two weeks of the program in addition to his role in the planning process. This whole experience required him to integrate his ability to research and write as a historian and the skills he learned in his business classes about management and marketing to successfully help the McCormick Center execute this program.
  2. His second big accomplishment was working as a mentor-leader in the Urban Scholars Mentor Program. Although the program is designed to promote youth engagement with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineer, and Math), Francis took it upon himself to tie in history to that mix. With his passion for history he wanted to expose the program’s youth participants to the history he loves so much. After putting their heads together, Francis and some of the other STEM program members designed an interactive class incorporating both technology and history.  The class used Minecraft to create a virtual Valley Forge. The students read primary documents relating to the soldiers’ experiences in Valley Forge and used that information to build it in the Minecraft world. “There are many ways to get into history, these kids are used to studying math and using technology so this was perfect,” Francis said. The kids used their math skills to figure out the dimensions of the cabins, critical thinking when they analyzed what they read, and logic all while learning history.

Francis has had a very successful three years so far at Siena and only time will tell what he will accomplish in his last year. With his future he plans to go into curriculum development, which is how education systems go about finding what should be taught. He plans to orient himself to the profession by teaching in charter schools to further his understanding of classroom education before hopefully progress to curriculum development. He is confident about his future because he is secure in his education from Siena. He has learned how to write effectively, construct an argument and think critically about it. He now thinks at a higher level, all thanks to his liberal arts education here at Siena College.
For those of you who are interested in the McCormick Center click here.