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Student Profile:
Elizabeth Birch ‘12

Where did your interest in the languages stem from?

Honestly, some people say they choose their major, I say it chose me. I couldn’t sit in any class whether it was accounting, political science, or pre-med biology and not think about the literal meaning of words and how it connected to Latin and Spanish. I would trace the history of words during class and think about them, pulling me away from the actual topic at hand. I would get lost in the words. Even when I was exploring different majors, I couldn’t and didn’t have a semester without Spanish and Latin. It was those moments in which I knew that Spanish and Latin not only had to be my major, but also were a passion.

What was your most meaningful experience at Siena?

I have had so many moments at Siena in which I felt held, supported, and cared for academically and personally. Most people don’t know how much they helped me in those moments, and if I had the opportunity, I would sit with every person, whether I knew them well or not, and express my deep gratitude to them. They may not remember those moments or me, but to communicate how their acts, big or small, helped me, I would love to do. That’s one of the many things I love about Siena College- it’s full of random and meaningful acts of kindness.

But, to choose one, my most meaningful experience at Siena College was a service trip I took to the Dominican Republic my senior year. Entering in my senior year, I was incredibly injured and could barely walk a couple of steps at a time. I was diagnosed with two herniated discs, spinal stenosis, sciatica, a degenerating spine, and scoliosis. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to graduate on time or even start school in the fall of my senior year. My doctors stated that I needed to go into emergency surgery. But, God’s grace is rather perfect. Before school started, I found out miraculously that my surgery was going to be delayed (and still is!), that I received a merit-based scholarship that enabled me to officially enroll in my last year of school, and that I could start school in the fall. Later on, it was revealed that my language professors recommended me, which touched my heart (Thank you!). With this scholarship, I could also go on a service trip to the Dominican Republic through the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women during spring break. My Spanish professors walked me through the application process and truly guided me. By the spring time, I was miraculously on a good road to recovery with my spine and the members of the team watched out for me on the trip. I was able to bond with a wonderful group of Siena students in a way I never had in the past with anybody, and I was able to enter into the suffering of those in Los Tres Brazos of the Dominican Republic. It’s funny how it’s called a “service trip.” That title implies me helping others. In reality, it was the exact opposite. Siena College, my Spanish professors, the Siena College service team, and the people of the Dominican Republic served me. They changed me, helped to heal me, and inspired me to be a better and more loving person. It was a great end to my time at Siena College and a truly humbling experience.

How has your degree prepared you for life/work after college?

My degree has provided me with an incredible foundation on a personal and academic level. Academically, the foundation enabled me to earn two Master’s degrees from Boston College, one in Hispanic Studies (‘14) and the other in Linguistics (‘16). In my Linguistics program, I researched the newly discovered Jesuit missionary grammars in Latin America. This research was a beautiful merger of my areas of interests- Linguistics, Latin, and Spanish. In January of 2016, I presented my research at the LSA (Linguistics Society of America) conference in Washington DC. I also installed an exhibit in John J. Burns Library at Boston College in order to raise awareness of language and the controversies affiliated with the these grammars during colonial time period and to begin the discussion on the Jesuits and their role in Linguistics. This past September, I started working in the translation and localization field as a project coordinator for LUZ, Inc. in Boston, MA. This company strives to bring “LUZ” (the Spanish word for “light”) to the life sciences/medical field by providing transparent and high quality translation.

On the personal level, this foundation enabled me to serve as a volunteer at various organizations such the Bilingual Catechism Program for Spanish speaking families at St. Ignatius Church and work as one of the Outdoor Extreme Program Leaders at Double H Ranch, a SeriousFun Children’s Network organization. In addition, it enabled me to develop an interior and spiritual life via many routes, such as the rigorous and fruitful Ignatian Spiritual Exercises created by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who looked to and admired the Franciscan spirituality.

It is a true honor to be a daughter of Siena College. Thank you, Siena College, for truly giving me the education of a lifetime.

Elizabeth Birch ‘12

Elizabeth Birch

Class of 2012

Spanish Major

Canaan, NY