Academics, Student Life

Caitlyn Gerardi '19

Last fall, Fr. Ken Paulli, ’82, O.F.M., professor of First-Year Seminar (FYSM), was looking for a way to get his freshmen students connected with the community. While they got settled in their dorms, made new friends, and became accustomed to life as college students, Fr. Paulli was searching for a way to get them further connected as they began their role as Saints.

It was then that he began a unique partnership between his First-Year Seminar students and local school children, creating a mentoring experience none of the students are likely to ever forget.

This year, Fr. Paulli’s “Leaving Home” First-Year Seminar Class worked with students at Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in Albany. Both groups read “Make Your Bed” by Admiral William H. McRaven. Inspired by a commencement speech he had given at his alma mater, UT Austin, the Navy SEAL wrote the book to share little things he had learned in his career that had helped him with daily life.

The CBA students read select chapters from the book, while Fr. Paulli’s students completed the work in anticipation of their mid-November meet up at CBA.

In preparation to take on their roles as mentors, the Saints participated in an editing workshop with Anne Glynn, the director of Siena’s Writing Center. It was here they learned the ins and outs of the reviewing, editing, and collaborative processes.

“I didn’t want to stray from the heart of FYSM, which is reading texts more thoroughly and deeply than they typically do and being able to write more persuasively about those texts,” said Fr. Paulli. This mentoring program teaches his students to view texts in “newer and deeper ways," requiring the Saints to not only understand the text, but teach it back to younger students.

While at times a challenging task, the Siena freshmen learned many new things themselves.

“I gained a better understanding and knowledge after discussing the paper with the CBA students and felt as though it was a mutually beneficial learning experience for both the CBA and Siena students,” said Marlie Frisco ’21.

This activity was a special one for both groups of students, and it allowed the Saints, some of whom who don’t plan on working with children in their careers, a chance to hear the thoughts of those younger than themselves on something they had both studied. It taught them to be teachers, not only understanding something well enough to write about it, but well enough to be able to explain it to someone else.

It is experiences and partnerships like this that shape our Saints, providing them the opportunity to get outside the classroom and put the skills they have learned to the test. It is the hands-on learning experience that provides our students the education for a lifetime.