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From the Alumni Office:

My College, My University, My Siena!

Jennifer Hamlin ChurchAssociate VP for Advancement & Director of Alumni Relations
Jennifer Hamlin ChurchAssociate VP for Advancement & Director of Alumni Relations

Homecoming 2013: What a weekend! Hundreds of alumni came back to campus, the rain stayed away, there were reunions of all kinds—classes, cheerleaders, sorority sisters, fellow semester-travelers to Italy, baseball players. Read all about it in this issue of Reflections.

We work all year on Homecoming and when it’s over, I’m always in a reflective mood. That was especially true this year, because I was honored to be one of your 2013 alumni award winners. Standing on the awards stage at the start of Homecoming gave me a new perspective on Siena. So this seems a good time to talk about my work and why I am so grateful to be at this place.

My job is all about building relationships: inviting friends and alumni (you!) to reconnect meaningfully with the school you once attended. Sometimes, alums are concerned that today’s University seems different from the college they attended 20, 30, 50—or 5—years ago. And it is different: There are new buildings. There are men. There are no uniforms or room inspections, no mandatory Mass. There are students who never set foot on campus. Depending on when you attended Siena, any or all of those differences might be jarring.

But at its core, Siena Heights has not changed a lot. Whether in a classroom, over a computer, or on a stage or football field, Siena maintains its commitment to teaching-and-learning together; respecting the dignity of all; and assisting people to become more competent, purposeful and ethical. SHU embraces the Adrian Dominican values of study and the search for truth, prayer and contem-plation, community (we are all in this together), and preaching (living your values in the world). One more thing that I appreciate about Siena: there is an unspoken agreement here that faith—whatever yours or mine is—is a topic worthy of reflection and discussion; and in the Catholic spirit of hospitality, all are welcome.

Those are some of the reasons I am inspired by working at Siena Heights.

My job is also interesting. I have unusual experiences, like the time two baby squirrels crawled up inside my pant leg. (That happened while visiting Caryl Widdowson ’69, a wildlife rehabilitator in Maine). I hear great stories: I know all the places students went to smoke in the ’40s and ’50s! I also know about the time, probably in the 1930s, when two Adrian Dominican novices sneaked into the Motherhouse bell tower and rang the bell non-stop. (“People thought the Pope had died!” one Sister recalled with a grin). And I meet wonderful people all the time. I’ve met some amazing graduates through the Alumni Awards program—people like Ann Tompert ’38, who at 95 is still writing children’s stories. And Jalal Hosseini ’96 from Iran, one of the most persuasive voices for religious tolerance I’ve ever heard. And Angela Susalla, OP ’63, who spoke at last year’s awards day about the modern-day heresies of racism and poverty.

So many Siena alums are doing remarkable things in the world. How could I not like my work?

When I came to Siena Heights in 1995, I was inspired by all of those things—and by Siena’s historic commitment to non-traditional students as well as traditional 18-23-year-olds. This is a place that empowers students of all ages to learn, grow and give back to their careers and communities. This blend of youth and experience, full-time and part-time, teenager and mid-career executive—a mix I encounter at every Commencement, Kente ceremony and on-the-road alumni event—makes Siena Heights a place I love and am proud to embrace as your newest Honorary Alumna!

Jennifer A. Hamlin Church
Associate VP for Advancement & Director of Alumni Relations
(517) 264-7143

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