“Oceans or Landfills?” Plastic Pollution Presentation with Expert Judith Enck

“Get active on these issues while you are still a college student” -Judith Enck

On the evening of Wednesday, February 12th, guests overfilled the Norm for “Oceans or Landfills? Moving Beyond Plastics”. The lecture featured Senior Fellow & Visiting Faculty member at Bennington College and Founder of Beyond Plastics at Bennington, Judith Enck. Judith delved into the dirty and devastating realities of the extreme increase of single-use plastic in the U.S over the past two decades. The presentation emphasized the urgency of this matter as the clock is ticking on how long the world still has to fix this issue. As Judith described the crisis, the Earth may be soon facing the irreversible effects of climate change and, at this point, “recycling is not the solution.” 

The event was sponsored by The Fair Trade & Social Justice Committee, CURCA, and The Stack Center and was opened by Dr. Vera Eccarius-Kelly of the political science department. Beyond Plastics at Bennington College in Vermont is an organization dedicated to ending plastic pollution through policy and societal change. During his presidency, Judith was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In this position, she was in charge of overseeing the environmental protection of various regions across the nation. Judith was also Deputy Secretary for the Environment in the NY Governor’s Office. 

Judith Enck with former U.S President Barack Obama

Through her discussion, Judith expressed concerns regarding the continued increase in plastic production. “8.8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year” she noted. In explaining this unimaginable amount, Judith helped the audience conceptualize how generating this much pollution has been possible. A timely phenomenon, she stated that half of all plastic that has ever existed has been produced in just the past two decades. Judith indicated that the millions of tons of plastic in the ocean are not going away or even decreasing anytime soon with this rate of increase in plastic production. Furthermore, she noted that plastic in landfills will remain there until they begin to breakdown after roughly 500 years.

Judith explaining plastic pollution in oceans

At this point, the audience was left to wonder, what can we do to stop plastic pollution? Judith’s answer- produce less plastic. 

While she drove-home the point that this issue requires significant systemic and policy changes, there are ways that individual consumers can help. Judith urged the crowd to partake in eliminating what she referred to as the “Plastic Trifecta”, or single-use plastic straws, bags, and polystyrene, in their everyday lives. While it may seem like a small effort, Judith emphasized that change in plastic pollution can occur when a lot of people get on-board. Substantial progress can occur if the masses begin to reduce their daily plastic consumption.


Judith Enck closed out this event optimistically in saying she is “hopeful for the future because people are paying attention.” If you missed “Oceans or Landfills? Moving Beyond Plastic” be sure to check out the Beyond Plastics website for more information on the organization and how you can make a difference in ending plastic pollution. As always, be sure to stay up-to-date with what’s happening on campus by following Siena’s SOLA InstagramTwitter, and Facebook pages! Hope to see you at the next event, Saints!

3 Reasons to LOVE Liberal Arts

Love is in the air, Saints! With Valentine’s Day approaching, let’s share some appreciation for our liberal arts studies. Here are 3 reasons to LOVE being a liberal arts student: 

1. The Emphasis on Humanity

In studying liberal arts, students are faced with issues regarding the human experience. Whether it be reading moral arguments in philosophy or reviewing the ethical treatment of participants in psychological research, our work consistently emphasizes the importance of humanity. To be a liberal arts student entails approaching problems with the improvement of the lives of everyday people in mind. Our inquiries, discussions, and research regarding human experiences are crucial in the betterment of the greater good. 

2. Strengthening the Most In-Demand Skills

According to Linkedin’s list of Skills Companies Need Most in 2020, the top soft skills employers want to see in new hires are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. Even if students do not realize it, we are constantly improving on all of these desirable skills through our coursework. Persuasion abilities shine through when political science students pose arguments in papers and copious amounts of creativity are put into every showcase, performance, and musical production that comes out of the creative arts department. Education students know how to quickly adapt to new classroom environments in their field placements while those studying communications learn how to collaborate effectively to accurately report on current events. Emotional intelligence is a staple of sociology and social work classes as students master reading and reacting to social situations. What’s not to love about gaining some of the most employable skills while also studying your passion?

3. Provides Room to Explore Interests and Career Paths

I have switched majors, traded minors, and even transferred schools. I have never been the type of person that has a clear academic or career path. It has been a frustrating journey, but being a liberal arts student has provided me the opportunity to explore my interests thoroughly. Liberal arts has allowed me to combine everything that intrigues me while working towards my degree. Looking to the future, having my B.A will help me explore multiple different career options as well. If you are a person that takes interest in many areas of study, you probably love (or will love) the freedom to grow that a liberal arts education provides. 

What do you love about your liberal arts program? Our SOLA Instagram (@sienaliberalarts) followers weighed in on the topic as well! When asked what they loved most about their field of study they responded…

  • @jordanglazier12 (economics major) : “The econ department at Siena is second to none and I’m confident that majoring in economics will open many doors and prepare me well for the workforce and/or grad school.”
  • @kaiti.hope (creative arts major with minors in English, psychology, and film studies: “I love how, with the Creative Arts major, I was able to tailor it to what I’m really interested in.”
  • @diannaapro (social work major with a pre-law certificate): “My favorite part of my field of study is that all of my professors are passionate and encourage us students to be our best!”

The day-to-day coursework can be stressful, but remember, there are so many reasons to love your liberal arts education. Share some liberal arts love and have a happy Valentine’s Day, Saints!

Annual Clare Center Lecture Focuses on Relational Love in the Mayo Clinic

The 26th installment of the Clare Center Lecture Series brought Dr. Amy Koehlinger to campus on the evening of Wednesday, October 2nd. Each year, the lecture series aims to engage the Siena community in learning about a contemporary or historical aspect of the Franciscan tradition. This year’s lecture highlighted the Franciscan value of relational love in the developing of and revolutionary medical practices in the Mayo Clinic.

“I’m coming from Oregon so it may seem raining to you guys, but for me this is just an average Wednesday” Dr. Koehlinger joked about the dreary night as she began her presentation.  Dr. Koehlinger, an assistant professor of history and religious studies at Oregon State University, focuses her research on the culture of American Catholicism, the intersections of social reform and religion, and gender roles within American religious traditions. For her visit to Siena, it was only fitting that she discussed the historical connections between the  Franciscans and the Mayo clinic since the college announced it’s new dual-nursing program with Maria College last month.

As Dr. Koehlinger explained in her lecture, the Mayo Clinic is a premier medical center located in Rochester, Minnesota. While today it is currently ranked as the number 1 overall best hospital in the United States by the U.S News and World Report and is home to one of the top medical schools in the nation, the clinic had very humble beginnings. After a tornado struck the small town of Rochester, many individuals were left in need of immediate medical care. As they both realized their community was in desperate need of aid, a partnership between a physician William Mayo and Catholic nun Mother Mary Moes was born.

Dr. Mayo and Mother Mary Moes  would go on to lay the foundation for  “one of the most unexpected and enduring institutional partnerships in the American medical profession” as Dr. Koehlinger referred to it. The duo recruited local physicians and the sisters from Mother Moes convent and got to work healing their community members. Years later, Mother Moes and Dr. Mayo would go on to open up St. Mary’s Hospital, a Catholic facility fully staffed with Catholic sisters, but open to people from all religious backgrounds. 

“(The Franciscan  sisters) worked back-to -back shifts and slept on the floor when the hospital was filled to capacity, as it almost always was” Dr. Koehlinger stated. In her discussion, she explained that the sacrifices the sisters made were what made the hospital so revolutionary at the time. Patients were never turned away, measures to insure conditions were sanitary were being implemented like never before, and most importantly, the staff treated the entire being of a patient, not just the part of their body that most obviously needed care. Throughout the years, the Mayo Clinic never lost its core Franciscan values, as Dr. Koehlinger expressed in her closing. While eventually the nursing staff would no longer only be made up of  Franciscan sisters and the  Franciscans would let go of legal and financial control of the hospital all together, the core values that started it all still live on in the organization to this day.

Today, the Mayo Clinic has a sponsorship board dedicated to making sure that  Franciscan values are still embedded into every department. Dr. Koehlinger ended the 2019 Clare Lecture Lecture Series by telling the audience that the original  Franciscan values are still alive in the clinic as every new employee to asked to follow in the original sister’s footsteps by “treat(ing) every patient and every colleague with respect and dignity.” It was the Franciscan value of relational love that made the original medical partnership, the care patients received, and Mayo Clinic, so exceptional.

SoLA Symposium Highlights Faculty Research

This past Friday, I attended the School of Liberal Arts Faculty Research Symposium. Held in the Maloney Great Room, the first session of the symposium showcased the Modern Languages & Classics, Political Science, History, and English departments. The event featured professors who have recently returned from sabbatical, giving them a platform to share their work with faculty, students, and the Siena community. Each presenter spoke for 15-20 minutes with a PowerPoint, then took questions from the audience. 

Dr. Lisette Balabarca-Fataccioli of the Modern Languages & Classics department started off the symposium with her presentation, “The Female Other: Muslim Women in Early Modern Spain.” Her research extensively analyzes 16th century Spanish texts in which, in order to convert to a new religion, daughter characters break the bond with their fathers. Dr. Balabarca-Fataccioli provided historical context for her research project, explaining that in the 16th and 16th centuries, Muslims in Spain were forced to convert to Christianity. She also mentioned she will have an opportunity to present more of her research later this year at a symposium in Toronto

Dr. Laurie Naranch of the Political Science department shared her research on “The Power of Relational Narratives in Philosophy, Politics, and Practice.” She discussed some of the work she completed during her sabbatical, including working on book chapters, being published in a symposium, and revising an article, “The Narratable Self: Adriana Cavarero with Sojourner Truth.” As someone who hasn’t taken a political science class before at Siena, it was interesting to hear about her research.

Dr. Pojmann responds to audience questions

The next presenter, Dr. Wendy Pojmann of the History department, titled her presentation “Espresso: The Art & Soul of Italy.” Dr. Pojmann is currently in the process of publishing a book that she wrote while on sabbatical and read an excerpt from her work during the presentation. According to Dr. Pojmann, her book attempts to explain the historical groundings of espresso, specifically in relation to its unifying qualities, globalization, and monetization. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Pojmann’s project and travels, check out her Instagram page at @wendysespressolife.

English professor Dr. Keith Wilhite delivered the final presentation of the symposium, “Recession-Era Suburbs: Race, History, and the Housing Crisis.” During his sabbatical, he developed two chapters from his new book, the manuscript of which is titled Contested Terrain: The Suburbs, U.S. Literature, and the Ends of Regionalism. Dr. Wilhite discussed the paradox of postwar suburban development, emphasizing the increased focus on privatism in suburbia. He also gave a brief overview of some of the texts he will be working with in his book, including Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris. 

The event was a great opportunity to learn about the research professors conduct while away on sabbatical. As students, we rarely see all the work they do outside of the classroom. I have had both Dr. Pojmann and Dr. Wilhite as professors while at Siena, and it was interesting to hear about their research projects, as well as learn about Dr. Balabarca’s and Dr. Naranch’s areas of focus. There will be a second symposium session held on March 15, featuring the Sociology, English, Education, and Religious Studies departments. The second session will be held in room L26 of the Standish Library from 3:30-5:30pm.

Keep an eye out for extensive coverage of the first SoLA symposium by staff writer Madison Lemke in the 2/15 issue of The Promethean!