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.
How do we deal with our distrustful feelings? Dr. Jason D’Cruz, philosophy professor at UAlbany, has been working through this question in his research project, “Distrusting Distrust.” He broke down his plan for the lecture, wanting to first work through an analysis of distrustful behavior, then explain the risks of distrust, and finally deliver a proposal on how to respond to these risks.
“I think we should be distrustful of a lot of our distrustful feelings,” Dr. D’Cruz said. He gave an example of a study in which participants were shown several faces and were asked to choose which ones looked the most trustworthy; faces with a turned-down mouth and furrowed brow were regarded as untrustworthy. Dr. D’Cruz explained there is no correlation between one’s face and integrity, and that we respond to new faces based on our past experiences, which are also shaped by difference, prejudice, and stereotypes.
Dr. D’Cruz continued discussing the moral risks of distrust, which include insult & disrespect, and the notion of self-fulfillment. He also commented on the epistemic risks, which are interpretive biasing and asymmetrical feedback. When we distrust based on bias or preconceived notions, we never learn how the person would have responded if we had trusted them.
As a solution, Dr. D’Cruz proposed humble trust, which he defined as a “social virtue and skill that responds to the moral and epistemic pathologies of distrust.” The aims of humble trust are to cultivate full trust of those who are trustworthy. The humble trust mindset similarly seeks to reframe and reorient our thinking, pushing us to make the decision to actively trust in the face of fear. Ultimately, the humble trust mindset seeks to create conditions where a person can rationally trust that they will be trusted.
After finishing his lecture, Dr. D’Cruz answered questions from students and faculty to help the audience fully understand his research and proposals. “Distrusting Distrust” was an interesting, thought-provoking colloquium. To learn about upcoming events on campus, like and follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending Platanos y Collard Greens, an off-Broadway comedy and romance play. Even though I’m a senior, it was the first play that I’ve gone to at Siena in the Beaudoin Theatre. I went in knowing very little about the play itself, only that it was a comedy with the tagline, “A tale of secret lovers from different cultures, who fall in love at first sight, until Mom finds out and has a heart attack!”
Platanos y Collard Greens focuses on two college students, Freeman, an African-American man, and Angelita, a Dominican woman, who fall in love, despite Angelita’s mother’s wishes. Angelita’s mother, who immigrated from the Dominican Republic to New York City, is vehemently against her daughter marrying outside her race, and she is especially opposed because Freeman is African-American. Amidst the relationship issues, racial tensions, and generational differences, Freeman campaigns for student government president with his friend Malady and his cousin OK. Though the concept of Platanos y Collard Greens is in itself a heavy topic, the play is very funny. Freeman’s cousin OK had the audience roaring with laughter for the entire performance, delivering witty one-liners and making hilarious facial expressions.
One thing I really enjoyed about the play was the incorporation of slam poetry and spoken word poems. Characters would often directly address the audience and perform a slam poem about what was troubling their character at that moment in the play. Each act was separated by a poem from a different character. For example, Angelita delivered a spoken word monologue about how she is Latina, but more than just a sexual object. Even though the actors kept the audience laughing through the entire play, Platanos y Collard Greens still managed to discuss contemporary racial issues on a deeper level, captivating the audience while simultaneously providing food for thought.
Keep an eye out for further coverage of Platanos y Collard Greens in the 10/19 issue of the Promethean!
A copy of the paper from last semester
Fun fact: Siena’s Promethean newspaper is the oldest student-run club on campus, even predating the Student Senate. The newspaper is written by students and for students and is published online and in-print biweekly. I’ve been the Academic and Social News editor of the Promethean for over a year now, and I love writing and editing for the paper.
As an editor, I work with my writers to assign them events and edit their articles, providing constructive feedback. By working on the paper, I know about all the upcoming on-campus events at Siena. It also encourages me to attend events I would not have known about otherwise. I recently attended the “Making Molecular Monsters” lecture, and I know next to nothing about chemistry, but I found the lecture fascinating! Writing for the paper encourages me to step outside of my bubble, talk to different professors and students, and helps me to be more engaged on Siena’s campus.
Students can find physical copies of the paper in the library, SSU, and Lonnstrom, and the online copy of the paper can be found here!
Siena hosted the 25th annual Clare Center lecture on Tuesday Oct. 2nd, welcoming Dr. Joy Schroeder, a religion professor and Lutheran pastor, to give her lecture on “Compassion and Imagination and Franciscan Biblical Interpretation.” Dr. Schroeder’s concentrations are in the history of biblical interpretation and women in the church. Dr. Holly Grieco introduced Dr. Schroeder and explained the origins of the Clare Center lecture. “It began as a way to welcome the religious studies department into its new home on campus,” Dr. Grieco said.
Dr. Schroeder emphasized the importance of slow, reflective reading during her lecture. She shared the statistic that the human attention span has diminished to eight seconds, which is one second less than a goldfish’s. Tying a majority of her speech and biblical interpretations into the Syrian and Central American refugee crises, Dr. Schroeder focused on the importance of using our imagination and compassion for the betterment of the world.
In reference to Siena’s Franciscan core curriculum, she mentioned the room to integrate compassionate imagination. “It can be done with holiness and imagination,” she said, “the kind that brings about good business ethics and good business practices.”
Dr. Schroeder’s lecture was part of the celebration of Francis Week, a week-long celebration of St. Francis’ life and values. Other events through this week include the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Feast of St. Francis, and Community Service Day. All students are encouraged to take part in this celebration.
The lecture was a great addition to Francis Week because it highlighted the importance of the Franciscan traditions in both the Siena community and the world at large. “With both compassion and imagination, we can imagine new ways to do just a little bit of repair work to help heal this broken world,” Dr. Schroeder concluded.
I was ten years old when I read Frankenstein for the first time. It wasn’t the full novel; it was an abridged version for younger readers that cut out some of the more graphic and lengthy parts of the novel. It condensed down the story to the creation of the monster and Dr. Frankenstein’s struggles with his own guilt and grief. As an English major, I’ve learned about the origins of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and discussed its impact in class. I’ve helped students in the Writing Center who read Gris Grimley’s graphic novel adaptation in their First Year Seminar classes.
Siena has been celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein’s publication since last year with film screenings, lectures, and theatrical productions. This Monday, I attended Dr. Michelle Francl’s lecture, “Making Molecular Monsters.” Even as a SoLA student, I could appreciate what Dr. Francl had to say about the intersections between Frankenstein and chemistry.
Dr. Francl, chemistry professor and chair of the chemistry department at Bryn Mawr College, spoke on the connections between the novel and chemistry. “Chemistry plays a really significant role in the story. It sets into motion Frankenstein’s first steps into peril,” she explained.
“I’m interested in molecules that misbehave, molecules that transgress the borders that chemists think exist for molecules,” Dr. Francl said. “Over this forty year career, what unifies it is thinking about what makes the molecule do the unexpected.” Dr. Francl gave an interesting hour-long lecture on monstrous molecules and how they connect with the larger themes in Frankenstein of exploration and control.
If students are interested in hearing more about Dr. Francl’s lecture, keep an eye out for my publication in the Promethean on Friday Oct. 5. Besides the physical copies found in the SSU, library, and Lonnstrom, the newspaper can be read online here. Like and follow our social media pages to stay updated on upcoming Frankenstein events this month! Happy October!
Nearly one hundred students and faculty attended Sarah Rogerson’s lecture in the SSU on Monday Sept. 24, titled “Immigration, Executive Power and the Constitution.” The lecture was in celebration of Constitution Day, which takes place annually on Sept. 17 in honor of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The event was not only intended for students interested in political science, but those of all majors, political affiliations, and backgrounds.
After a performance of the Star Spangled Banner by the Siena Chamber Singers, Dr. Cutler, political science professor at Siena, introduced Rogerson. Rogerson is a clinical professor of law at Albany Law School, and the director of the Immigration Law Clinic and the Law Clinic & Justice Center.
“If you live and work in the United States, you are going to encounter immigration issues,” Rogerson explained. “The word ‘immigration’ is not found in the Constitution, so what gives?” She used a powerpoint to explore the Constitutional basis regarding immigration, showing students passages from the document and describing their origin.
Rogerson spoke on a number of immigration issues in our headlines today, including the broken legal system, Muslim Ban, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). She also discussed the ways in which immigration is depicted by the media. “Labels and terminology are important,” she said. “In order to be an immigrant, you have to have an intent to stay.” Rogerson emphasized the importance of knowing the difference between immigrant as a legal term and immigration/immigrating as a verb, something that is very hard to communicate through the news and news cycles.
Rogerson’s keynote lecture was valuable to all students and a great reflection of Constitution Day 2018. Check out and like our Facebook page to stay updated on upcoming SoLA events!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sculptures? Probably not tuna sandwiches. But for sculptor Madison LaVallee, sandwiches help her deal with a way of thinking about sculpture. Tuna sandwiches represent the time she spent growing up with her grandmother and bring back the sense of nostalgia over sharing a meal together. The sandwiches also reflect her grandparents’ gender roles, which she described as the “traditional gender roles of the 1950s family unit” – her grandma was a stay-at-home mom and her grandpa worked for General Electric.
LaVallee and a student work with materials
LaVallee makes “material sandwiches” when sculpting. Her works focus on materials used in the home, which she stacks together in resemblance of a sandwich. She sculpts with what she considers “material outcasts” – drywall, carpet underlay, and popcorn ceiling paint – to make her unique sculptures. LaVallee initially thought sculptures had to be sophisticated and created through negative space, a notion which she rejects in her own work. She showed the audience images of her finished works, one of which included bricks from her childhood home. The materials themselves are symbolic, not only of home, but of the memories they elicit in the viewer. LaVallee explained that her works were not site-specific but site-related. “I’m thinking about that place and responding to it,” she said.
Students collect materials during a hands-on activity
Her background was originally in drawing and painting, but LaVallee was drawn to sculpting. “I was unsure how to navigate what it meant to be a sculptor,” LaVallee said. “I kind of wanted to experiment.” During her residency, LaVallee began making industrial sculptures in the woods, which caused her to realize how disconnected she had been from nature. She started introducing fake trees and green elements, placing them with construction materials, in her sculptures. “I’m identifying with nature in this faux, false way,” she explained.
Students pose with their finished sculptures
LaVallee conducted a hands-on activity for students at the end of her talk. She brought crates full of materials, including chicken wire, yarn, cardboard, and pipe cleaners. Though there were no rules on what types of sculptures to make, LaVallee encouraged students to pick one “hard” and “soft” material while crafting. They were able to piece their work together with a hot glue gun and take them home to keep as a reminder of LaVallee’s work and inspiration.
Students can check out LaVallee’s work on Instagram at @madisonlavallee_art.
You may be wondering why I am welcoming you home… after all you are just going to Siena, right? You’re only going to be here for four years, right? It’s just a place you’re going to get your degree, right? Wrong. You may not believe me now, but this place will become your home. One day you’ll go home on winter and summer breaks and you’ll begin saying you have to go back home and you’ll mean you have to go back to Siena. It happens in the blink of an eye.
While I may be graduating and leaving this amazing place, you guys are just beginning your journey here at Siena. You may already know your major, you may not. You may know a bunch of people already at Siena, you may not know a single soul. It’s completely normal not to know what you’re doing. Almost all of us didn’t when we were in your shoes!
Since I am now an established pro of all things Siena, I figured I would give you guys some tips on how to make the most of your Siena experience:
- Get to know the campus
- There are so many nice places on campus to eat, socialize, and study. Don’t limit yourself to your dorm (or if you’re a commuter, your house). Walk around campus and into the buildings (even if you don’t have classes there) and check them out. There are hidden gems on this campus that even I don’t know about!
- Join clubs and organizations
- An amazing way to get involved on campus is by joining a Siena club! We have over 80 clubs to choose from. Look out for the club fair in the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters to check out each club for yourself.
- Take fun classes
- Seriously, even if you end up loving your major (like I did, go English!) It’s really beneficial to take a class or two that isn’t in your field and that you will actually enjoy! While Siena makes you take core classes that are non-major related, try and take a class or two that you might really enjoy! Some examples include, Sign Language, Creative Writing, a travel course, an art class, etc. The possibilities are endless!
- Go to professor office hours
- I can’t tell you how many times I have felt 10x better after speaking to my professor in their office hours. Office hours are a set amount of time that your professors are in their office to meet with students one-on-one. Even if you aren’t struggling in the class, still consider going to talk about an upcoming project, paper, or assignment. I guarantee you will get a better grade after going and seeing them!
- Socialize…in all different ways!
- Obviously there are lots of different ways to socialize here at Siena. However, it’s not as crazy as you may think. People at Siena enjoy chilling out in their dorms and watching Netflix just as much as they enjoy going out at night. And each weekend there are fun events on campus that everyone goes to! Not only is there often free food at these events (Score!) but it’s also a way to meet new people who don’t live in your dorm or are in your classes!
Each month, the Career Education and Professional Development office showcases an alumni of the month. In January, Alana Strassfield was chosen. Alana graduated from Siena in 2014 with a B.A. in Economics. I asked this former Liberal Arts student 3 questions about her time at Siena!
1) What made you decide to pursue the Bachelor of Arts in Economics? Why the Bachelor of Arts over the Bachelor of Science?
I decided to do the B.A. so that I could take a wider range of electives and theory based Econ classes, as opposed to the core business classes which I felt I could learn at a later time.
2) What was your favorite non-major Liberal Arts class you took at Siena?
One of my favorite non-major classes was Literature of the Enlightenment with Dr. Thomas Akstens.
3) How did your liberal arts education prepare you for the job you have now?
My liberal arts education was inextricably tied to my work with the Women’s Center and the Damietta Cross Cultural Center. Managing projects for both campus organizations and learning how to communicate across cultures through active listening have been some of the most valuable assets that I’ve brought to the organizations I’ve worked at.