Siena strives to embody the vision and values of St. Francis of Assisi, including his commitment to building a more just, peaceful, and humane world. We must recommit to strengthening the bonds of racial justice to fulfill that mission and ensure people of color in our community feel safe, accepted, appreciated and affirmed. This effort starts with education and conversation. It requires action. The College has established 11 action lines and will provide the most recent updates on each below. Previous actions can be found here. 

Glenn Braddock, Ph.D., Powerpoint — Equity in Retention & Graduation Recommendations

Student Recruitment

Diversity recruitment remains an important focus for the Enrollment Marketing team.

As of December 2, 2022:

  • 39% of applications are diverse. Last year at this time, that number was 39%
  • 27% of admits are diverse. Last year, 26% of admits were diverse at this time

We continue to execute recruitment tactics that are geared towards diversity. Tactics include:

  • An email is sent on behalf of George Christian to all diverse admits. The email asks if they have any hesitations regarding Siena. Currently, 588 students have received the email with a 66% open rate. George responds to each student individually and continues to create a relationship with them. This email will continue to go out to admitted diverse students through the communication flow.
  • Admissions regularly hosts high school groups on campus for information sessions and tours. This fall, 50% of the groups we hosted were CBO’s or from high schools that have a high percentage of diverse students. Examples include Sponsor a Scholar, Black Diamonds Academic Success Group and Democracy Prep. When requested, the HEOP team will also participate in the visit and give an information session to the students.
  • Participated in a UStrive College Fair on October 20, 2022. UStrive connects students with financial need with free, one-to-one mentoring to help them navigate the college and financial aid application process. Siena is a member college of UStrive.
  • This spring, we will continue to “fight club”, one-on-one recruitment of diverse students.
  • We will review each application individually to see what they need to be connected to in order to envision their Siena experience.

Student Experience

The Strategic Enrollment Management Committee had completed a data collection exercise during the spring 2022 academic term. A subgroup of SEMC analyzed the data and identified four central themes as impediments at Siena to belonging: culture, accountability when a community member behaves in a discriminatory way, system to coordinate diversity, equity and inclusion, effective communication and feedback loops on issues to advance DEI. Further an assessment of activities under management across the college to address these issues was conducted (including the action oriented retention report being presented by Glenn Braddock at the December PACDI meeting) and we have concluded that the most important work SEMC can do to improve the student experience of our diverse student population is to strengthen their sense of belonging.

Based on research conducted by Fr. Greg Gebbia, O.F.M., we have identified five components of student belonging. The components include: seamless student experience, active and engaged learning, faculty and mentoring support, mental health and wellbeing, and co-curricular and social engagement. Our previous analysis of activities under management and the consensus of the SEMC membership was that our efforts would be best focused on strengthening issues related to a seamless student experience and areas of concern regarding diverse students' perceptions of their experience.

Specifically the committee will focus our work on identification and proposed recommendations to eliminate friction points in a student’s journey that prevent a seamless student experience. Our next meeting will provide reports on key actions that various units across the College have already begun to initiate to eliminate friction points and then we will build a list of friction points that students (who will also present at our next meeting) identified.

Additionally, the Strategic Plan includes 37 initiatives that are designed to improve the student experience within academic areas, all of which will benefit students across all demographic groups and, arguably most benefit those students who need additional attention. These are all at some stage of planning or implementation. A list of these is available from Provost Madden upon request.

Faculty Recruitment

As reported last year, a faculty task force proposed a plan to revise the faculty hiring process to obtain diverse candidates. The plan addresses each stage of the hiring process from advertisement through acceptance of offers of employment. A faculty member, Dr. Jennifer Dorsey, is revising our faculty hiring guide to infuse DEI recommendations throughout the process. Work on that is well underway and will be ready to guide faculty searches starting in the fall of 2023.

Dr. Dorsey will also design a proposed Advisory Committee to work with search committees throughout the process. If we are able to secure additional financial resources for a position to coordinate this, we will do so next year.

Staff Recruitment

The recruitment of diverse staff has been hampered by the fact that the College’s ability to hire any staff has been significantly impeded due to the recruiting environment in general (all employers are struggling to find good hires) and our compensation structure for non-faculty employees is below market. That said we have made good progress in regards to administrative/staff hiring. For the period of 11/1/21 – 10/31/22, 23%, or 21 out of the 94 of the administrative/staff new hires were diverse.

In an effort to identify opportunities to enhance its overall diversity efforts the College engaged Jackson Lewis P.C. to perform a diversity analytics study. This study focused on the diversity of the applicant pool and the conversion of the applicants to diverse hires. It was an analytical review of what is actually happening at the College, with regard to applications and hires and was based on data gathered from the Interview Exchange portal, which is utilized for all candidates.

The results of the study will be used to develop recommendations for next steps. Jackson Lewis, considers this study to be confidential and privileged. Therefore, we are working with them at this time to determine the best way to communicate the results and recommendations.

Education and Training - Faculty

The ¼ time position of Faculty Development Coordinator was created and Dr. Marcela Garcés is serving in that role. She is implementing recommendations made by a faculty task force focusing on professional development for faculty on DEI instructional issues, such as pedagogy curriculum, inclusive teaching practices, and recruitment of diverse students. She is starting with inventorying current programming in order to coordinate it better, identifying gaps in programming, and creating an Advisory Committee with representatives from involved areas to assist in delivering new programming. The scope of the subsequent coordinating work will depend on whether additional resources are obtained to expand the time commitment of the coordinator.

Education and Training - Administration

On Wednesday, August 31, the Council of Administrators hosted its annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workshop open to all staff and administrators. The workshop was hosted by Dr. Laura Quiros, associate professor of social work at child advocacy at Montclair State University. Dr. Quiros is also an author and highly regarded facilitator. Her training and workshops focus on interdepartmental community building, implicit bias, whiteness, trauma-informed practice from a DEI lens, allyship, inclusive leadership, and radical self care.

Dr. Quiros facilitated a 90-minute workshop in the Key Auditorium which drew nearly 100 staff and administrators. She then hosted 30-minute sessions from the President’s Dining Room with representatives from each VP area. Members of the Council of Administrators executive committee worked with the respective VPs to identify 5-10 representatives to participate in the small group discussions. Those representatives were then charged with taking the ideas generated in the small groups back to their areas to continue the conversation.

Everyone who participated in the open discussion was sent an assessment via email and they were asked to fill out the form and provide feedback (which was collected anonymously). Here’s a brief summary of the 39 responses we received:

  • As a result of my experience and this workshop, I have a better understanding of Trauma Informed Social Justice: Yes – 38; No – 0; I am not sure – 1
  • As a result of this workshop, I am able to take away ideas on how to develop a deeper sense of belonging for others: Yes – 39; No – 0; I am not sure – 0
  • As a result of this workshop, I have a better sense on how to create a space for dialogue, honor curiosity, and welcome vulnerability: Yes – 36; No – 0; I am not sure – 3
  • I recognize that there is space in my office or area of work for the principles (Safety, Trust, Choice, Collaboration, Empowerment and Voice) to be fostered: Yes – 37; No – 0; I am not sure – 1
  • Which Principles are you interest in developing in your office or area of work: Collaboration – 14; Empowerment and Voice – 12; Brave/Safe Space – 9; Trust – 3; Choice – 1

The Council of Administrators executive committee will meet early in the spring semester to begin planning our annual workshop for next fall. Dr. Quiros has already indicated her interest in returning to campus. Our first two workshops were both facilitated by Matt Grimes and his second session built on the information in his first session. So, there’s precedent and value in asking Dr. Quiros to advance the work from this summer. That’s something that will be taken under advisement by the executive committee, and a determination will be made by the middle of the spring semester and communicated to all staff and administrators.

Criminal Justice Studies Major

The Criminal Justice Studies program was approved by NYS Education Department and students are declaring it. We have 38 declared majors right now and are in the process of hiring two new faculty members to teach in it. We’re looking forward to being able to recruit fall 2023 incoming students specifically for that program and there is already quite a bit of interest in the incoming application pool.

Curriculum Reform

To date, five departments have received small grants to develop curriculum and recruit and support diverse students in their majors. Faculty from these departments gave presentations on their projects in a panel in October, as many of the projects can be duplicated in other disciplines. A new round of proposals has been received and we are reviewing them to determine which will be funded right now.

The new Core Curriculum Director, Dr. Darren Lim, is working on implementing a review of the Franciscan Concern categories to develop a process to assure they meet the intended learning outcomes, starting with the Diversity category.

Standish Library Director Vicki Parsons has engaged a consultant to do a DEI inventory of library resources. This will lead to a systematic effort to enhance library resources to fully support student access to contemporary material on DEI issues.

Student Retention

The Student Retention and Success Committee has made comprehensive recommendations on how to assure that students in all diversity categories are retained and graduate at the same rate. 

Damietta Cross-Cultural Center

The following is a list of major programming orchestrated through the Damietta Center since Spring 2022.

Siena Fresh Stoles for ALANA & Lavender Celebration of Achievement - A pre-commencement commemoration to celebrate the achievements of graduating students who identify as and support ALANA and LGBTQ+ students.

Diversity Training for Saints, Community Assistants, and Commuter Transition Specialists (8/27) Total Cost: $3,107.38 (Collaboration: SALD, OCL, Damietta)

  • Facilitators: Consultant Matt Grimes + 9 students and 5 administrators
  • Attendees: 152 Participants
  • Training on effective leadership and how to foster an inclusive environment for new students.

Damietta Center Open House (9/16): Attendees: 52; Open House with catering for students to experience the Damietta Center Lounge.

Orientation and Training for new and returning Damietta student leaders (9/17). 12 attendees

Borderless Dreams with Samantha Ramirez-Herrera - Latinx Heritage Month (9/21): Creative entrepreneur, activist and immigrant DREAMer shares her compelling journey. 57 attendees.

Uniting with Ukraine: Music, Dance, and Song (10/6): Traditional Ukrainian Cossack Dance Troupe and music performance. 86 attendees

Women of Color in Media Panel (11/14): $2,156 Three dynamic professionals share successes and challenges relating to race and gender. 57 attendees.

Fall Fusion - Multicultural Talent Show (12/3): Attendees: 272. Showcase of dance, spoken word, singing and other talents from Siena students

Contributions to Campus Partner Events:

  • J Baptiste - Intersectional Transgender Identity and Self Care (10/19)
  • Women, Life, Freedom: Iran Uprisings Discussion (10/26)

*We thank the generous contributions and participation from various campus partners to help. support our Fall events: Affinity Clubs, Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy, Chaplain’s Office, Center for Academic Community Engagement, Student Activities and Leadership Development, Office of Community Living, Race and Ethnic Studies Minor, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Minor, Sociology Dept.

Other Programming and Recognition

Harvard social psychologist Dr. Robert Livingston led "A Conversation About Racism" on Tuesday, Oct. 25 in the Maloney Great Room. The event was hosted by NewsChannel 13 anchor Elaine Houston and sponsored by the College's Spirit of '68 Endowment. More than 325 members of the Siena and Capital Region community attended the event. Dr. Livingston’s talk mixed statistics with humor and compassion as he explored how racism thrives, and how we can achieve a better society. His talk was very well received with 99% of survey respondents finding the program impactful and informative. Dr. Livingston researches the science underlying racism and bias, and serves as a diversity consultant for Fortune 500 companies, public sector agencies and nonprofits.

“This work is my passion, my life’s purpose,” he said. “To bring greater equity to the world. People say ‘Dr. Livingston, tell us what to do,’ but the problem is much more complicated than that. Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step. If you don’t know you have a problem you can’t seek treatment. Awareness first, then commitment.”

“I felt that Dr. Livingston had incredible insight on the topic of racism and bias in the workplace. He did not deviate from his argument and supported it with facts and data, while also keeping us all interested with his jokes and sense of humor.” ~ Emily Atassi ’25, Spirit of ’68 Steering Committee member

“He helped us understand that everything takes time; nothing is achieved overnight like many people expect, whether it's as small as losing weight or as big as changing mindsets about racism and tackling it. He also taught us that even though it can take time, nothing is impossible; we can achieve all our targets with hard work and patience.” ~ Mariam Zulfiqar ’24

The much-anticipated Martin Luther King III keynote lecture took place on May 3 at UHY Center. MLK3 adopted the theme “Strengthening the Bonds of Racial Justice” for his speech and as part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change festivities, the College presented MLK3 with an honorary degree.

Timothy Tyson is the 2023 Keynote Speaker for The 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. The title of his speech is "Love, Power, and Nonviolence: The Utterly Unacceptable Philosophy" and the event is scheduled for January 25, 2023 at 7 p.m. in the Sarazen Student Union.

Timothy B. Tyson is Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. His 2017 New York Times bestseller, The Blood of Emmett Till, won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and won the Southern Book Award and the Grawemeyer Award from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Hollywood screenwriter Jeb Stuart directed a 2010 feature film based on Blood. Tyson’s Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award for best book in United States history and the James Rawley Award for best book on race from the Organization of American Historians and became the basis for a 2006 PBS documentary, “Negroes with Guns: Rob Williams and Black Power.” His 2006 Ghosts of 1898: Wilmington’s ‘Race Riot’ and the Rise of White Supremacy won the Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. In 2002, he served as editor for The Black Power Movement, Part 2: The Papers of Robert F. Williams. Tyson teaches African American and Southern history, culture, and politics to students at Duke, UNC, Durham Technical and Community College, and the public. He works with Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and serves on the executive boards of the N.C. NAACP, the UNC Center for Civil Rights, and Repairers of the Breach.

Supporting Our Vision

In August, a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) was submitted to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation requesting $300,000 to support the establishment of the Saints Opportunity Fund. In working with Maggie Madden and Yasmine Fisher, it was determined the Saints Opportunity Fund would be established to ensure that students with financial need and from backgrounds historically underrepresented in higher education will have the opportunity to participate in internships, study abroad, undergraduate research, community-based learning, and other purposeful experiential learning activities beyond the classroom. Siena will give priority to students enrolled in HEOP. Students who are eligible for federal Pell grants and are either first-generation students or from racial/ethnic minority backgrounds will also be eligible to apply. Siena will  provide 30 students annually with awards of $1,500 to $5,000 each to offset costs related to unpaid internships, study abroad, research projects, service trips, and other activities in which they could not otherwise afford to participate. Unfortunately, in October we were informed that our LOI was not selected for an invitation to move onto the full proposal step in the application process. In January/February 2023, Cherisse Young will revisit this proposal and work with McAllister and Quinn to determine if Siena should reapply to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation with a revised proposal regarding DEI initiatives on campus.

In January, Cherisse will begin to research the possibility of submitting a concept paper to the Mellon Foundation. Elizabeth Alexander, the current President of the Foundation, is focusing the grantmaking on social justice/strengthening the bonds of racial justice through Humanities and Arts programs in Higher Education. The ask amount would be in the $40K-$50K range based on the advice of M&Q and should be for curriculum and/or professional development in the area of racial justice in the Humanities.