Academic Community Engagement

What are the best ways for students to build leadership skills through community engaged scholarship?

A group from Siena presented on this topic at the national IMPACT 2023 conference held February 23-26 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The annual conference gives college students and their mentors the opportunity to network and discuss ways to best lead inclusive social change movements to liberate themselves and their communities.

Mouda Al-Zayan ’23, Ethan Hull ’23, Shriya Matta ’23 and Sarah Toledano, assistant director of Siena’s Office of Academic Community Engagement (ACE), made up the first Siena delegation to attend IMPACT. All three students are involved with ACE’s Nonprofit Excellence and Transformation (NExT) for-credit fellowship program, where students work in small teams on problem-based consulting projects for non-profit partners. 

“We presented in a breakout session on experiential learning and our work with the nonprofits that are part of NExT,” said Toledano. “The session and the conference were a great opportunity to reflect on the importance of what we are all doing, and on the nature of transformational, as opposed to transactional leadership.” 

Hull said his big takeaway was going into a room with attendees from all over the country, some from institutions much more well-known than Siena, and seeing how they could all come together to talk meaningfully about their work. 

“I loved seeing that Sarah has created a program that holds a certain level of sophistication that not all other schools have, even with budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “I also was able to learn that sustainable community change can come in many different ways such as art, music, consulting and direct service.”

“I got to meet some really amazing people from other schools and talk about the important community engagement work we get to do through our programs." 

Shriya Matta ’23

"This was my first national conference experience ever and I am so thankful for the ACE office for giving us this opportunity. It was so much fun to go and talk about our program and hear things like 'what a sophisticated program' and 'you guys are awesome students.' It was such a validating experience to all the work we have put on Siena's campus, the ACE office, our program, and individual projects throughout our time at NExT."

Mouda Al-Zayan ’23