Prof. Susan Barranca

Professor Barranca is a Teaching Professor in First Year Seminar.  She holds a B.S. in Computer Science/Math from Siena College.  She also holds an M.A. in Literature and Composition Studies from The College of Saint Rose.  She has been working solely with freshmen college writers since 2007; her teaching interests focus on freshmen writers.


What does it mean to give voice to an idea?  How do we find our voice?   These are a few of the questions we will be exploring this year as we study how our voices reflect and relate to Heritage, the Natural World, Diversity and Social Justice. We will start with Heritage by reading and discussing some voices from our past and explore how these voices affect us today. We will explore the Natural World and how we give voice to those who cannot.  One cannot explore voice in regard to Diversity and Social Justice without thinking about silence, or the loss of voice.  If we are empowered by voice, what oppression comes with silence?  We will look at current events to discover if we are silencing people today.  We will also develop your own voice through discussions and writings.  By developing your academic voice, you will learn how to develop, argue and defend your opinion on a variety of issues. 

Prof. Susan Barranca, “Entertainment Media and Society”

In this seminar, we will explore the meanings that we can derive through entertainment media.  The entertainment industry incorporates the values of society into their media, and in turn, the messages found in entertainment media affect society’s values.   We will look at the messages found in children’s literature, song lyrics, television and movies.   We will explore this theme and how the values of society are reflected in various forms of entertainment media along with the themes of Heritage and Nature in the fall, and the themes of Diversity and Social Justice in the Spring.  


Dr. Braddock is Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Student Academic Success and Engagement.  He is a graduate of Siena College and holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University at Albany, SUNY.  He has taught Philosophy and first year studies classes at the University at Albany, Hunter College, and Skidmore College.


We all want to live well, but what is the good life?  We will pursue this question through engagement with works of philosophy, literature, and other disciplines.  Through these texts and class discussion, we will explore concepts of the good life related to morality, religion and spirituality, prosperity, meaning, happiness, self-reliance and community.  We will also discuss how these concepts relate to the shared First Year Seminar themes of Heritage, the Natural World, Diversity and Social Justice. Students will have the opportunity to develop and defend their own conceptions of the good life and to consider how their experience at Siena College will contribute to this kind of life.


Prof. Anne Collins, a veteran instructor of Composition, is a Teaching Professor in the First Year Seminar Program. She earned degrees in English, Irish, and American Literature at Boston College and the University of Cork, Ireland. Her strong interest in storytelling and the art of narrative writing is reflected in her classroom instruction. 


We hear, read, and tell stories from the time we are very young. From fairy tales to fables to family histories, narratives are part of our everyday lives. They entertain, educate, and empower us.  Writers and researchers suggest that the human connection to stories is deep and that we actually need to read them, but why?  

This question will be addressed as the class explores the narrative in many forms. Songs, short stories, memoirs, poems, graphic novels, and movies, to name a few, fall under the narrative umbrella.  We even tell stories about ourselves via platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.  Each of the works studied in class relates to one or more of the themes central to Siena’s Franciscan traditions-- Heritage, the Natural World, Diversity, and Social Justice. Students will examine these readings and films to reflect, connect, and create personal narratives of their own. What’s your story?


Kelly D'Souza is an instructor in the First-Year Seminar program.  She holds a Bachelor's degree in English and Education from Siena College and a Master's Degree in Education from SUNY Potsdam.


What does it mean to be a hero?  From superheroes to news stories, we are drawn to tales of heroic deeds.  How has our understanding of heroism changed through the ages, and what does it mean to be a hero today?  Through the themes of Heritage, Nature, Diversity, and Social Justice, we will examine how heroes impact our daily lives and the values that we prize.

PROF. KELLY D’SOUZA, “Pop Culture's Impact on Social Movements”

What is pop culture, and why is it important?  Though pop culture is often viewed as being separate from “more serious” social movements, the connections between the two are significant.  Throughout this seminar, we will examine how popular culture is defined and its influence on social/political movements.  By analyzing specific examples of media, such as protest music of the 1960s and 1970s and social media activism of today, we will explore the impact of popular culture.  Through the themes of Heritage, Nature, Diversity, and Social Justice, the class will consider the complex relationship between popular culture and social movements.


Anne Godson-Glynn is the Director of the Siena College Writing Center and a Siena graduate who has taught at her alma mater since 2004. She has earned degrees in History and English and is currently pursuing her research interests in antiracist teaching practices, social justice education, and critical race theory as it applies to peer tutor training and community engaged literacy partnerships.  


In this seminar, we'll examine the history of racism and inequity in the United States since the Civil War and focus on the leadership stories of various social justice warriors who stood firm in the face of white supremacy.  How did such seemingly ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things? How did they overcome obstacles, harness their courage, and empower others to advocate for change?  How can the stories of their movements inspire us to make a difference? Together, we'll ask these questions and many others as we explore how to "be the change we want to see in the world."


Dr. Haas, Co-Director of First Year Seminar, is an historian specializing in American public policy, who is also interested in culture, gender, and international relations.  She has been awarded grants for her research and awards for teaching excellence. 


Both men and women are invited to take this course, which will critically analyze what writers, activists, thinkers, and artists have to say about Heritage, the Natural World, Social Justice, and Diversity in order to understand if and how women’s perspectives about these ideas differ from men’s.  Looking across time and across geographical boundaries, we will examine how women are valued (or not) in each of these four topic areas, paying particular attention to the roles women play, the policies they advocate and/or are the targets of, and the images of women presented through literature, music, art, media, etc. in order to gain a better understanding of the complex, gendered world in which we live.   

Dr. Britt Haas, “Music:  The Soundtrack of Our Lives”

Music provides the soundtrack for our lives.  It is all around us.  And yet, what do we really know about it?  This course seeks to critically address that question.  We will explore how music both shapes and is shaped by our culture and cultures beyond the United States.


Dr. Lim is a tenured member of the Siena’s computer science department since 2004.  He holds a B.S. in computer science from Moravian College, and a Ph.D. in computer science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  Darren’s research interests are in computer science education and artificial intelligence, with a specialty area in computational linguistics.  As a lifelong learner, Darren has over 88 thousand games on QuizUp and (as of March 2020) a level of 880 on Trivia Crack.


The appreciation and romantization of lifelong learning has become more apparent than ever.  In this seminar, we will celebrate learning, within the lenses of Heritage, Natural World, Diversity, and Social Justice.  We will look at humanity’s thirst for knowledge and “truth” as a driving factor throughout history.  Speaking as a lifelong nerd, the thrill of learning new things goes far beyond my science-related interests; to paraphrase my favorite Pixar film: anyone can learn.


Dr. Michelle Liptak is a Senior Teaching Professor in First Year Seminar and Co-Director of the program.  She has been teaching writing, literature, and women's studies at Siena since 2001 and is the co-founder of Gleanings: A Journal of First-Year Student Writing.  She regularly presents her work in pedagogy and literary studies at regional and national conferences, has received several grants for course development, and specializes in theories related to gender and trauma.

DR. MICHELLE LIPTAK, “Trauma Narratives”

In this course, we will explore traumatic experiences - both real and fictional - that are shared through various forms of storytelling. Thinking of trauma as a signal or mark of oppression and subjugation, we will carefully consider whose stories are represented and remembered (and whose are not) while also examining the role of larger social, political, economic, and cultural influences and institutions. Some of the issues that will be explored while "reading" narratives of trauma and triumph include: memory (individual, collective, and cultural), bearing witness, testimony, loss, responsibility, and survivorship.


Dr. Nadeau is Associate Director and ESOL specialist of Siena’s Center for International Programs. She has developed and taught courses focusing on her interests in English Language Learning and teacher education, with emphasis on language and education issues faced by immigrants and refugees in the US as well as English language as a means of access to the global community. Dr. Nadeau particularly enjoys designing and teaching special courses that combine English language learning and teaching with community service.


The new millennium has ushered in an unprecedented age of globalization, with business and educational organizations requiring offices on multiple continents and students from every corner of the world to be seen as current and effective. Yet many in the US continue to espouse a narrow view of diversity as including only multi-skin- color Americans. This course explores the realities of voluntary and involuntary migration, worldwide business, and international education, and the necessity of a global lingua franca with which to conduct these many faceted cross-cultural interactions.  


We’ve all experienced pain as a result of someone’s words. You may be remembering one such experience reading this right now, something that resurfaces whenever you think about hurtful language. This common human thread is what keeps most of us from speaking cruelly to others— empathy restrains us from saying whatever we like. Fascination with this phenomenon has led to the study of communication, laying out basic principles for interaction among and across cultures, using only words as tools to accomplish a variety of tasks.

But what happens when words are mediated, diluting empathy with a keyboard or video camera or smartphone? What responsibility do we have, as humans who espouse Franciscan values, to care for others with our words? And what does this do to our own rights of free speech? This course explores the pragmatic tension between the right to express ourselves and the responsibility to care for others, and ways this tension has increased with the prominence of social and popular media.


Dr. Nolan is a Professor in both Business Analytics and Computer Science. He served as Dean of the Business School for 10 years and won the both the College Administrator of the Year award and the Matthew Conlin Service award. He has been a finalist for both the Siena College teaching and research awards. His research is in the areas of statistical and computer decision making modeling and artificial intelligence.


This course will explore a small number of local events that proved to have national and worldwide impact. Events such as the construction of the Erie Canal, the Battles of Saratoga, the setting aside of large tracks of undeveloped wilderness as forever wild land for public enjoyment, and the creation of the first all-women labor union will be examined through readings, music, film, and on-site visits. Their impact on our heritage, the natural world, society, and diversity will be emphasized. Students will be asked to research local events close to their home geographical regions and explore their impact beyond these regions.


In addition to being a member of the First Year Seminar team of faculty, Fr. Paulli is a tenured, Associate Professor in the Department of Education.   He holds earned degrees from Siena College, Washington Theological Union, and Columbia University.  Fr. Paulli recently published, Outside the Walls:  Encountering God in the Unfamiliar.  In this book, he draws upon the theme of "leaving home," which is also the theme for his sections of First Year Seminar.  For nearly ten of his twenty years at Siena, Fr. Paulli served the College as a senior level administrator, in particular, as a Vice President and Chief of Staff in the Office of the President.  A few years ago, he welcomed returning to the classroom full time.  In terms of academic writing, which is the centerpiece of First Year Seminar, Fr. Paulli's "Leaving Home" sections have the unique opportunity of doing some collaborative work with local middle schoolers.  As a professor, many of Fr. Paulli's students have written about him that he is "approachable," "personable," and "supportively challenging.


Inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s life, in particular, his choosing to leave that which was familiar and comfortable in order determine what he was meant to do in this life, Fr. Paulli’s sections of First Year Seminar will focus on a variety of works all of which deal with what social scientists call, “Social Dislocation.”  In other words, his sections will work with a variety of texts in which men and women “leave” in order to discover who they are and what they are supposed to do in this world. Questions to be considered throughout the year include:  Is it necessary to leave home in order to figure out who you are and what you are supposed to do in this world?  In this age of technology and social media, which make maintaining connections with family and friends so easy, is it even possible to leave home? And if it's not, what does that say about our development as human beings? 

Our year-long work together will be framed around the four themes of the College’s Core Curriculum:  Heritage, Natural World, Diversity, and Social Justice.


Prof. Rody-Wright, a lawyer, has been teaching at Siena since 2009.  She was the Legal Director of the Center for Law & Justice, a non-profit organization in Albany, for 15 years.  She has also taught FYS at a prison for a number of years now and blends the classes at Siena and the prison through peer review of papers.  In 2013, the New York State Bar Association published her legal rights textbook for high school students.  She is passionate about and serves on a number of boards of organizations that advocate for criminal justice reform, especially regarding wrongful conviction, juvenile justice, reentry into the community post-release, alternatives to incarceration, and the use of restorative justice.


What is it like to be incarcerated – to be reduced to a number, cut-off from the family, friends and life you know?  How does this experience alter an individual?  Whom do we incarcerate in this country and by incarcerating people, what do we achieve?  This course will probe the incarcerative experience from historical, sociological, psychological, economic, political and legal perspectives.  Topics covered will include the disproportionate impact of incarceration on racial minorities, juvenile justice, wrongful conviction, solitary confinement and reentry.  Students will explore these topics through prison poetry, non-fiction works, video documentaries and speakers.



Jeff Simonds received his Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2013.  Since then, he has taught Composition and Creative Writing courses at Siena College, Hartwick College, and Holyoke Community College.  His short fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Alexandria Quarterly, and The Amateur Masters.  In 2014, he put out his first short story collection: You Are Not Allowed To Come Back After.  


With the first two decades of the 21st Century already passed, it’s time to look back at pop culture touchstones that have defined these past 20 years.  In this class, we will closely examine and analyze the pop culture (books, movies, music, television, etc.) of the 21st Century and what we can learn from it (as consumers and analysts—as fans and/or critics).  What can we learn about heritage from movies like Moonlight?  What can we learn about the natural world from books like The Overstory?  What can we learn about gender identity from The Avengers?  From Parks and Recreation to Parasite, this class will look at the entertainment of the past two decades and what we can learn from critically examining it.


Why are we interested in true stories of murder, violence, and survival?  Is it to prepare ourselves if we ever face the same kind of evil (learning these stories “could be like a dress rehearsal,” according to Dr. Sharon Packer, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences)?  Do these stories give us an adrenaline rush?  Do we learn violent stories out of sympathy for the victims (or relief we are not the perpetrator)?  With the popularity of podcasts like My Favorite Murder and Serial, docuseries like Making A Murderer and The Staircase, or books like Mindhunter and I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, it is clear that our cultural fascination is not waning.  In this class, we will examine why these stories interest us, what we can learn from them, and how these stories of criminality shape us and our society.

TRIGGER WARNING: While this class will not dig too deep into the most horrifying details of murders, this is a class about true crime—and as such, there will be mentions of violence against women, abuse, and other triggering topics.  Prof. Simonds is available to speak with anyone nervous about content.


Dr. Stein is an instructor in the First Year Seminar Program. She has a BA in English from Tufts University, an MA in Secondary English Education from Columbia University Teachers College, an MA in Educational Leadership from the College of St Rose, and an Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Russell Sage College.  Her research cetners on the promotion of social justice education as a demand for equity for all students.


This course will be an exploration into the topics and ideas that have at one point or are currently restricted, disapproved, frowned upon, off limits, and taboo. Students will read, write, think, and discuss to develop ideas about how the values of society are reflected in human resistance. The course will demand an open mind, sustained focus, intelligent judgement, and fearless inquiry into sometimes sensitive topics. 

Prof. Kimberly Stein, “The American School”

An introduction to the foundations of American education exploring the historical, philosophical, and social contexts of schooling. Student will explore the purposes of education within a democracy where the goals are influenced by politics, the law, global competitiveness, multiculturalism, and social justice. Students will study the intersections of race, culture, immigration status, language, gender, sexual orientation, and ability within education.


Prof. Lara Whelan is an Associate Professor of English at Siena and formerly served as Dean of the School of Liberal Arts. She earned her Bachelor's degree in English from Dartmouth College, her MA in Victorian Studies from King's College, London, and her PhD in English from University of Delaware. She has taught rhetoric and writing to first-year students since 1993, and it is one of her favorite parts of being an English professor.


What makes a perfect world? Is there any perfect world that is compatible with human nature? Or is it due to human nature that we may someday see the opposite -- a dystopia -- on the horizon? And if so, what would that look like? In this seminar, we will explore all of these questions and more by reading both utopian and dystopian fiction that addresses controversies in ethics, economics, science, philosophy, the environment, nature v nurture, and the push and pull between individualism and community.

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