2019-2020 Themes


Prof. Suzanne Allegretti, “Exploring Death – To Save Your Life”

Professor Suzanne Allegretti is a lecturer in First Year Seminar. She holds a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling and a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies.

Throughout this course we will reflect and write about how to live a life that matters while recognizing the inevitability of our death. The course will emphasize the stories of people in their final stages of life and apply the wisdom and lessons they have learned about what is most important in the end.  We will follow Plato’s wise advice to “practice dying” by continually asking ourselves, “On my deathbed, what will I want to have done with my life?”

We will explore the meaning(s) of death both in our culture and in our personal life.  We will then compare these views to various cultural perspectives throughout history.  We will also study how cultural biases about death in the United States today shape how doctors and other health care professionals are trained and, as a result, how they provide health care for the terminally ill. We will weave the FYS themes of Heritage, Nature, Diversity and Social Justice throughout our course materials.

Seneca, the famous Roman philosopher, lived in the first century A.D. He instructed his students with the following words; “Rehearse death.  To say this is to tell a person to rehearse his freedom.  A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”


Prof. Susan Barranca, "Voice"

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.  


Prof. Patricia Clickner, "Cultivating Mindfulness "

Patricia Clickner holds a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology and a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She recently obtained her 200 hour Yoga teacher certification. She has co-owned and operated a business with her husband Don since 1998 and has been an instructor in higher education for 14 years.

In this class, we will explore yoga's ethical practice by learning about the Yamas and Niyamas (part of Patanjali's eight-fold path a.k.a. The Yoga Sutras) among other parts of practicing yoga/mindfulness (breathing, poses, and meditation). Students will begin to understand how living "skillfully" and "mindfully" can add richness to their lives no matter what career path they have chosen. Because there are so many facets to studying and practicing yoga, there is something for everyone.


Prof. Anne Collins: “Narrative: The Inside Story”

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 class will explore the function of the narrative, which takes many forms. Songs, commercials, poems, films, short stories, and many more fall under the narrative umbrella.  Each of the works studied in class tells a story that relates to the course themes of Heritage, the Natural World, Diversity, and Social Justice. Among them will be the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman and Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange is the New Black.  The selected readings provide students an opportunity to reflect, connect, and create personal narratives of their own. What’s your story?


Prof. Anne Collins: “Story and Screen”

This course will examine the ways in which films adhere to and deviate from the sources on which they are based. The class will also explore movies that do not have a direct textual equivalent, but connect to personal and historical narratives as well as the required course readings. In addition, students will discuss how the films impact and reflect their own stories. The FYS core themes of heritage, the natural world, diversity, and social justice will provide the framework for the exploration of both written and visual texts.


Dr. Lois Daly, “Popular Culture and the Meaning of Life” HONORS

Dr. Daly is a Professor Religious Studies and a former Dean of the School of Liberal Arts.  In July 2019 she is stepping down after 15 years as Director of the J. Spencer and Patricia Standish Honors Program. She is the winner of the 2015 Jerome Walton Excellence in Teaching award.

Human beings seek a satisfactory response to the question of the meaning of life.  In addition, we also express those responses in cultural forms, especially in what is referred to as popular culture.  In this seminar we will study several of the most common answers concerning the meaning of life, such as love, happiness, success and service, and then explore their expression in popular culture including movies, music, social networking, video games, tattoos, TV, graffiti, etc.  Students will be required to investigate several different examples of popular culture throughout the year and to analyze the way they shape and are shaped by individual and communal quests for meaning.  


Prof. Kelly D’Souza, “Heroes”

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. Anne Godson-Glynn,  “Be the Change”

Anne Godson-Glynn is a lecturer in the First Year Seminar Program and the Director of the Siena College Writing Center.  She is a Siena graduate who holds a B.A. in History and an M.A. in English Language and Letters, with a concentration in American literature and narrative identity, from the College of Saint Rose. Professor Godson-Glynn has been teaching writing, rhetoric, and literature at Siena since 2004.  

Are you interested in social justice and engagement?  Are you compelled to enact positive change in your personal sphere, on campus, or in the community at large?  In this seminar, we'll examine the lives of various social justice warriors and peacemakers who stood firm in the face of marginalization and inequity.  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 their stories inspire us to make a difference? Together, we'll ask these questions and many others as we formulate our own leadership narratives and explore how to "be the change we want to see in the world."


Dr. Britt Haas, “Women:  Their Voices, Their Values, Their Vision”

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”

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.


Prof. Katherine Hastings, “Happiness”

Kate Hastings is an instructor in the First Year Seminar Program. She has worked as an educator for 16 years and holds a Master's Degree in English Education from SUNY Buffalo and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Le Moyne College. She is particularly interested in the study of Media Literacy and the impact of emerging technology on cultural trends. 

According to our forefathers, the pursuit of happiness is one of the "unalienable rights" given to each of us by our Creator, but what does it really mean? The methods through which we each discover happiness are varied and complex. How has the pursuit of happiness evolved throughout the ages, and how has it remained the same? Is there a key to unlocking true human happiness, or is it the pursuit itself that is important?  Throughout this year long seminar, using the themes of Heritage, Nature, Diversity, and Social Justice, we will explore how the pursuit of happiness drives our actions as well as how it impacts our development as a culture.


Prof. Nichole Krisanda, “Fear”

Nichole Krisanda is an instructor in the First Year Seminar program.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Literary and a Bachelor’s of Arts in English and Secondary Education, both from The College of Saint Rose.  Her interests in teaching methodologies and literature are reflected in her instruction. 

American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson asserted that, “fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Is fear defeating you? What are you afraid of? In this seminar, we will explore what we fear, what it means to be afraid, how this causes us to react, and how to overcome our fears.  Through class discussions, current events, analysis of a variety of texts, and personal reflection, we will discover the impact fear has on the individual and on society.   


Dr. Darren Lim, “Nerd Knowledge and Geek Chic”

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 73 thousand games on QuizUp and (as of March 2018) a level of 794 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, “Bearing Witness”

Dr. Michelle Liptak is a Teaching Professor in First Year Seminar and Co-Director of the program.  She has been teaching writing and literature at Siena since 2001 and is the co-founder and co-editor of Gleanings: A Journal of First-Year Student Writing.  Her research on contemporary American literature has been presented at numerous national conferences, and she specializes in literary theories related to gender and trauma. 

Stories are said to document our experiences while informing, persuading, and possibly entertaining others. In this course, we will explore topics related to bearing witness through various forms of storytelling and will consider whose stories are told, by whom, and in what form. The various roles in storytelling will be examined - not only the storyteller’s but those bearing witness as viewers, listeners, readers, and interpreters. Questions about agency, subjectivity, dissemination, and responsibility will be considered while “reading” stories of trauma and triumph. In addition to the FYS common readings, we will examine and analyze a multitude of texts that ask us to serve as witnesses to both diverse and common human experiences.


Dr. Melody Nadeau, “Global Education and Migration”

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.  


Dr. Jim Nolan, “Local History—National and/or International Impact”

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 Battle 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.


Fr. Ken Paulli, OFM, PhD, “Leaving Home” 

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. Hope Perlman, “Defining Success”

Hope Perlman is a First Year Seminar instructor. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Wellesley College and a Master’s in Education from Lesley University. She loves to read, write, and dance. She also loves watching British and Scandinavian crime dramas on TV.

What is success? More important, what makes you feel successful? Is it a great job? A beautiful house? Health and happiness? Real success grows from a sense of purpose, community, centeredness, and the ability to manage your complicated brain to achieve meaningful goals. Explore what experts from many areas say about success, and consider how to define it in your life. 


Dr. Wendy Pojmann, “Gender and Sexuality”  HONORS

Wendy Pojmann is Professor of History and Director of the Standish Honors Program. She is a specialist in modern European history and women's and gender studies.  

In our FYS section, we will approach the common and exclusive texts through the lens of masculinity, femininity and sexuality to understand the ways in which they have been constructed and performed in multiple historical contexts and geographical locations. During the fall semester, we will concentrate especially on the western tradition and the idea of the "naturalness" of gender and sexuality. In the spring, our focus will shift to diverse interpretations of these themes in other parts of the world and to the formation of social movements based on them.   


Dr. Linda Richardson, “The 80’s: Big Hair and Big Business”

Professor Richardson is a Professor of Finance.  She holds a B.A. in Economics from Connecticut College, a M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Montana State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas with a major in Finance. Dr. Richardson has served as both the Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and most recently, the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA). Dr. Richardson, in her role as VPAA, established a “for-credit” program for incarcerated men in New York State. She is the recipient of the Jerome Walton Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 2014 Women’s Business Council award for Women of Excellence.  Her passion for education brings her back to the classroom.

The higher the hair, the closer to God?  Just a “tease” for a look at the decade of the 80s during which we witnessed the fall of communism, the introduction of the personal computer, Ronald Reagan in the Oval office and the outbreak of A.I.D.S.  The cliffhanger wasn’t “is Jon Snow really dead” but rather, “who shot J.R.”  The New York Mets won a World Series title and the Christmas toy rage was the Cabbage Patch doll. 

We will examine how the past helps us to understand the present.  What parallels can we find and how have we evolved?  What questions do historians ask when studying a decade? 

Our history will be viewed through the prism of the four themes of the college core curriculum: Heritage, Natural World, Diversity, and Social Justice. How did the decade of big business and the subsequent stock market crash reflect our values and heritage? Did we repeat our failure in 2008? Did the term “environmental racism,” coined in the 80s follow us to Flint, Michigan?  Working women were paid 49 cents to every dollar a man earned in the 80s. Where are we now? Finally, we examine social justice topics in our second semester. Here is where we continue to struggle.

We will have some fun as we look at culture, religion, politics, economics and sports. Will the Mets clinch another? Who will be our next president? We will be in the midst of the election cycle. Will the Supreme Court justice nomination be “Borked?” Get out your teasing comb and hair spray.  We WILL have a Thriller dance tutorial. 


Prof. Annie Rody-Wright, “Incarceration”

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 16 years.  She has also taught FYS at a prison for three years now and "blends" the classes at Siena and the prison through peer review of papers.  For decades, she regularly provided “Street Smart” (legal rights) workshops to hundreds of high school students in the Capital Region each year.  In 2013, the New York State Bar Association published her legal rights textbook for high school students.  She is passionate about and advocates for criminal justice reform, especially concerning wrongful conviction, juvenile justice and reentry into the community post-release.

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.

Dr. Janet Shideler, “Relationships”

After more than a decade in administration, Dr. Janet Shideler followed her heart back to teaching full-time as Professor of French in Siena’s Department of Modern Languages and Classics.  Her research interests include the history and culture of Franco-Americans, Quebec’s sizeable “diaspora” in the Northeastern United States.  In particular, her work focuses on the writings of immigrant women who came from French Canada to seek employment in the textile mills of New York and New England.  Before arriving at Siena College, Prof. Shideler spent many years in the State University of New York (SUNY) System and was the recipient of the SUNY Potsdam “Best Teacher on Campus” Award as well as President’s and Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

Human beings are born as relational creatures whose lives are connected to and often dependent upon others.  As we grow and mature, however, competing interests often emerge and urge us to pursue goals other than this primal one of seeking ties to others.  Nonetheless, throughout our lives there are arguably few things that give more meaning and purpose to our existence than the relationships we forge.  Moreover, current research suggests an important connection between relationships and longevity, thus making a compelling case for devoting time, attention and effort to something and someone beyond ourselves.  In this year-long seminar, centered on the core themes of Heritage, Natural World, Diversity, and Social Justice, we will explore the significance of our relationships with family and friends, but also with nature, with the broader global community, and with ourselves.  

Prof. Kimberly Stein, "Out of Bounds"

Kim 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, and an MA in Educational Leadership from the College of St Rose.

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. 

Dr. Meg Woolbright, “The Idea of War” HONORS

Dr. Woolbright is a Professor of English. She has served as the Director of the Writing Center, as Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, and twice as Chair of the English Department. For the past ten years, she was Director of the First Year Seminar program. She has been presented with the Student Senate Administrator of the Year Award, 2004; the Outstanding National Research Award for Writing Centers, 2004; the Jerome Walton Excellence in Teaching Award, 2011 and the Matthew T. Conlin Award for Outstanding Service, 2013. Her research interests include the literature of trauma and the literature of the War in Vietnam.

In this seminar we will raise questions about the American idea of war.  What is our idea of war? What function does it serve for us as Americans? How do we learn this? And is it ok to critique it? Who is included in this idea and who is excluded? What do these ideas tell us about our cultural views of masculinity and femininity? Our year-long study of the idea of war will be organized around the four themes of our college core curriculum: Heritage, Natural World, Diversity, and Social Justice. In the Heritage Unit we will ask the question: What is our American heritage of war? In the Natural World Unit, we’ll pose the questions: What is the effect of war on the environment? How does environmental decline lead to war? In the Diversity Unit, we’ll ask questions about women’s role in war.  And finally, in the Social Justice unit, we’ll ask how our veterans are treated as they return from war and what is the effect of war on civilians?

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