Erin DeGregorio ’16
Following a successful inaugural symposium last year, Siena College was privileged to host Ambassador Robert Gosende for the Keynote Address at the Second Annual Undergraduate Symposium in Modern Languages and Classics on Friday, April 8.
Gosende’s lunchtime lecture titled “Transforming the World: The Power of Language Study and Study Abroad” highlighted his own global experiences with various languages and cultures, including how he was originally influenced by President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 iconic inaugural address to spend time in Africa. He also emphasized to the crowded Molinari Room the importance of studying abroad. He urged students to consider pursuing the experience in order to better both themselves and the world, especially during their collegiate careers.
“I want to come back next year and talk earlier to the freshmen and sophomores because study abroad is fundamental for you. It’s not a good idea – it’s a mandatory idea,” said Gosende. “Study abroad is something you need to plan in your life, at Siena, … and in your program of study.”
Gosende served in the United States Foreign Service for more than 35 years in a distinguished career with the U.S. Informational Agency and the Department of State. His overseas experiences included tours of duty as a Cultural Affairs Officer in Libya, Somalia, and Poland and as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs in South Africa and in Russia. Gosende was also President Bill Clinton’s Special Envoy for Somalia during the height of the security and humanitarian crisis in that country from 1992 to 1993. On tours of duty in Washington, D.C., he served as the Associate Director of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Informational Agency and as that agency’s Deputy Director and Director for Sub-Saharan African Affairs. During 1994 he was the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, directing the U.S. Government’s public affairs activities in support of the first multi-racial elections held in South Africa in April of that year. In higher education, Gosende has shared his expertise as a professor, fellow, diplomat-in-residence, and as Associate Vice Chancellor for International Programs for the State University of New York System.
“The presence of Ambassador Robert Gosende as our keynote speaker was excellent for the Symposium as well as for the students attending it. His knowledge and experience in different countries was recognized by our students,” said Assistant Professor of Spanish and the Symposium’s faculty committee chair, Lisette Balabarca, Ph.D. “Gosende has also a desire for sharing his advice to young students, and he was kind enough to talk to some of our student presenters and offer them his advice regarding their life after graduation.”
The nine participating students presented their research throughout the day, allowing them and other Siena community members to hear Gosende speak, support fellow students and learn more about their unique areas of research.
“It was such an honor to have Ambassador Gosende with us at the event; hearing him talk about his experiences and the advice that he had for us was full of wisdom and understanding of the world,” commented symposium participant and English and French double major Alicia Rydjeski ’16. “To me, it seemed that his personal philosophy ties in extremely well with Siena’s learning philosophy, which I think resonated with many students who attended his talk.”
Students’ paper topics this year included social justice issues, literature, and film, which related to their own specific interests, related coursework, and professional aspirations.
“Overall I think the symposium went exceedingly well; it was wonderful to be able to participate in this event as well as enjoy and congratulate others on their presentations because you could see that we were all very passionate about our topics,” said Rydjeski at the event’s conclusion.
The Modern Languages and Classics Department, the Political Science Department, the History Department, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, Damietta Cross-Cultural Center, International Studies minor, and School of Liberal Arts at Siena College co-sponsor the Symposium. This year’s faculty organizing committee included Dr. Balabarca, Dr. Nathalie Degroult, Dr. Marcela Garcés, Dr. Carolyn Malloy-Madrid, and Dr. Janet Shideler.
Participating students and their research paper titles/topics:
Kevin Tessolecki, “Practical Business Applications of Mythology”
Alicia Rydjeski, “Literature in Translation and its Effect in the Modern World”
Matthew Ciotti, “Opera: The Modern Resurrection of Greek Tragedy”
Anahi Sanabria, “Bilingualism in Paraguay”
Oscar Ralda, “Whitman, Neruda, and the Aporias of Linguistic Totalization”
Eric Socha, “The Place of Popular Religiosity in Relation to Contemporary Argentine Culture”
Nicole Peterson, “The Golden Age of French Cinema and its Lasting Impacts on 21st Century American Films”
Laura Isabelle Zagada, “Social Justice in Contemporary Film: An Analysis of Neocolonialism in Even the Rain”
Amanda Knipple, “The Quebec Sovereignty Movement: How Cultural Differences Affect National Identity”
To see more photos from the event, click here.