Jenna Mantell '21 considered staying close to home at the University of North Carolina, or maybe she'd head south to Auburn? But in the end, the decision was easy.
Jenna Mantell '21 was a pretty decent soccer player in high school. She never had delusions of being Division I talent though, which is why she always appreciated the compliment. Throughout her freshman year at Siena, Mantell was consistently mistaken for a student athlete. It's not uncommon for students on athletic scholarship to leave warm weather climates for Loudonville. But, it's much less common for a non-athlete to give up the beach and move more than 600 miles north. There was absolutely no athletic opportunity, but an outstanding academic one.
Mantell attended Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many of her friends attended NC State, or Duke, or UNC Chapel Hill - all within 30 minutes of Cardinal Gibbons. Mantell might have too, if Fr. Mark Reamer '83, O.F.M., and Colin O'Reilly '12 hadn't popped into the high school auditorium one day. O'Reilly, now an assistant director of major gifts but a Siena admissions counselor at the time, pitched the Catholic students on a Catholic college in upstate New York. Mantell has family in Herkimer, so she decided to give Siena a look.
"I visited during a snowstorm. It makes no sense, but I loved it. It had everything I wanted. I knew I wouldn't be a number, but I'd be valued as a person. I wanted to move somewhere different. I just had a feeling that Siena would be a fulfilling experience in a safe environment."
Even though Mantell got a preview of the winter weather, she moved to Loudonville completely unprepared for the elements. The first day it snowed, she took an emergency trip to the mall. She never packed a winter coat because she didn't own one.
Academically, Mantell was much more prepared. She entered as a biology major, and while she never switched majors, she did, unexpectedly, add one. Mantell took a communications law course with Rebecca Taylor, J.D., associate professor of creative arts, and loved it. Mantell believed an education in journalism, with a focus on writing skills, would add another dimension to her skill set and open more professional doors. So, she decided to pursue two degrees, and this year, she'll graduate with the first double degree in biology and journalism in Siena history.
Mantell's parents now live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina - just minutes from the water. Soon, Mantell will leave the beach for the Siena campus. And she can't wait. This summer, she'll start looking for work - maybe in clinical trials, but she may lean on her communications degree, too. Both degrees are infused with the Franciscan values. It's the reason she left her friends, and the beach, and everything familiar in her life for Loudonville. And she couldn't be happier with the decision.
“Reflecting back on my time at Siena, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to explore my passions, and ultimately leave my own mark as the first person to complete these two specific degrees simultaneously. I want to thank my professors, advisors, parents, and friends for seeing this potential in me and always being super supportive throughout my Siena journey.”
Jenna Mantell '21
"Cardinal Gibbons focuses upon faith, service and leadership, which are also hallmarks of the Siena experience, so it's a natural transition for a Gibbons student to become a Saint. For many years, the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn provided leadership and instilled the Franciscan notion of community that still continues today at Gibbons - which is another connection between the two institutions."
Fr. Mark Reamer '83, O.F.M., vice president for mission