campus encounters

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Siena College

Siena College (visited 7/30-31/2015)

~Siena quad 2


“I don’t know what’s in the water, but Siena is all alumni can talk about” (and really, where else are you going to get to participate in the Blessing of the Brains before exams and then get bagels and bacon?).

~Siena statue

St. Francis

The type of education at Siena may not be available at other places. Yes, they develop competencies that they can get in a lot of places, but “we give them the way to understand the intersection of the relationships between them and the world, them and others.” The Franciscan ideals are strong and permeate everything they do. “We live in a complex reality; we help students figure out how to live in that world. We ask them to look at the ethics of our actions. For example, some people don’t want to hear the reality of global warming because of the consequences of it. Here, they can’t walk away from that.”

~Siena grotto

The Grotto

The Franciscans have a niche of inclusivity within the Roman Catholic Church. “Siena is proud to be Catholic but we welcome people of all faiths. We help them grow in their relationship with god in however they see it.” The pianist for the weekly masses is Jewish. There’s an interfaith chapel on campus that gets used by Muslim students (who also have Muslim Student Association) more than anyone else; they say they feel comfortable at Siena because people are respectful of their religious values. There’s an Eastern Orthodox and an Evangelical club and a grotto behind the admissions building where anyone can light candles, have services, or just sit.

~Siena 2It’s not even just religious diversity. LGBTQ students are out and accepted. Racial, ethnic, and socio-economic differences are celebrated. Students fall all over the political spectrum. People are willing to engage anyone and everyone in discussions about value, meaning, etc. Everyone is welcome – and people are just nice. A Brother once talked to a student who was thinking about transferring out. When he asked why, she said it wasn’t the place for her: “People are too nice here. I’m used to an edge.”

~Siena dorm 2

One of the freshman dorms

The brand new upperclass dorm that opened in 2014

The brand new upperclass dorm that opened in 2014

There’s no getting around this being a Franciscan institution: there are crucifixes all over the walls, and Friars live on campus. Masses (NOT mandatory!) are held frequently including at 5pm and 10pm in the dorms (to make it more convenient). Students take a religion class but can choose the topic; it doesn’t need to be on Christianity. St. Francis is frequently brought up in FYE and other classes like Ethics in Business. It’s part of the fabric of life here. “People really need to embody it.” The Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy provides ways for students and staff to get off campus and but their beliefs into action with international trips, working in soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity, etc. You name it, they’ve probably done it.

~Siena main bldg

Siena’s main building

I think my favorite part of campus was talking to the Brothers. They joined us for dinner the first night (I sat with one from a town in NH that I also lived in for 5 years!) and several of them gave presentations over the next day and a half. They were personable, funny, and down-to-earth, even Brother Ed, the college President. All the Brothers clearly loved what they were doing and wanted to be interacting with students – and it’s not just the Brothers. Professors tend to be in touch with alumni. “I’m having lunch later with a 2005 grad.”

~Siena mock courtroomAcademic opportunities here are amazing:

  • History buffs can take advantage of a semester-away program at Gettysburg (Civil War) or at William and Mary (Colonial History); both of these include internships at local historical sites.
  • 13 sophomores built a prosthetic hand for a boy in Columbus, OH. The group included 12 physics and 1 English major: “I thought people needed to know what they were doing so I’m their communications specialist.” They flew to Ohio to gave the boy his new hand – and he got to throw out the first ball at the game that night.
  • ~Siena trading room

    One of the trading rooms

    They have a Trading Room, and the Bjorklund Fund which allows upperclassmen trade with $250,000 of real money (“under the supervision of a professor!”) over the course of 2 years. They have to present the results: what worked, what didn’t, what they’ll do to fix it.

    • Professors really work hard to guide students into the proper area of business. “Finance isn’t marketing!”
    • Chad Bingo, class of 2015, developed and marketed the “I Gotta Go!” button as a sophomore.
  • ~Siena SAINT lab

    Part of the SAINT lab

    SAInT Center: Stewart’s Advanced Instrumentation and Technical Center lab has $3 million in technology used in industry such as Thermal Units, Mass Spectrometers, High Intensity Scanners, etc. Students get “extensive hands-on experience on a huge diversity of technology that they use from day 1.” One student did Coffee Research and found no difference in caffeine levels between cold and hot pressed coffee, but light roast has more than dark!

  • ~Siena telescope

    A permanent telescope used by the physics students

    Bonner Service Program: students complete 1800 hours of service during their time at Siena, earning a certificate upon completion. They’re paired with programs dealing with rural poverty, international populations, etc – including post-grad work.

  • Standish Honors Program (yes, related to Miles, back in the day”) is meant to rekindle curiosity.
  • The Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA) allows students of any major to get involved in hands-on research. This summer, there are 117 fully-funded students on campus doing research.

Siena offers 17 articulation agreements :

  • The big one is probably the Albany Medical College Program. Applicants write an additional essay: What service project have you done that reflects the Franciscan values? To qualify, students need a 90 average, 1300 SAT or 30 ACT, and be in the top 10% if ranked. 44 applicants get invited for interviews (done by an admissions rep, a faculty member, and an Albany Med faculty member). They don’t do accelerated “because we think that the 4 years of the undergraduate allows them to develop into really great human beings.”
  • SUNY Upstate Medical University and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine offer both a Dual Acceptance and an Early Assurance program
  • There are also programs for Dentistry, Pharmacy, Applied Nutrition, Physician Assistants, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy
~Siena recycled costumes

Costumes made from recycled items on display in the Theater building

Applicants are somewhat self-selecting, and Demonstrated Interest is important. Students can use the Fast Forward Application, getting an answer 7-10 days from completion (the app, the counselor rec, and the transcript). SAT and ACT are optional with a stipulation: science and math majors need physics and pre-calc (everyone else just needs Algebra 2) OR test scores.

(c) 2015

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