By Patrick Hoff
Kaitlyn Siner has worked in a number of industries, from healthcare to agriculture, but when she talks about her current field, education, she talks enthusiastically with a passion that only comes from people who truly believe in their work.
Siner, who received her Master’s degree in English and Writing from UMass Boston in 2013, currently serves as the first program coordinator for UMass Boston’s School for Global Inclusion and Social Development.
SGISD was approved by UMass Boston last fall, and is among the first graduate schools in the world that focuses on wellness and social development from an international perspective. It’s focus and mission is dedicated to empowering communities locally, nationally, and internationally to advance wellness, educational access, economic participation, and social opportunities for all their citizens. The school is geared towards developing leaders, building knowledge, and demonstrating real-world innovations that embrace inclusion.
Siner said she has gotten to see the school grow and form, and she has loved being part of something new that she can believe in.
“I really stand behind its mission and want to see it carried out to its fullest, [which] makes [the school] very unique and special for me,” she said.
Siner began her career in Boston working in public relations. She learned business skills through her PR work and said she met interesting people, but she didn’t enjoy the corporate world she had to reside in. She began to reevaluate, trying to find her next step.
“What I came to realize was what I’d always really liked to do was write, so , I decided to go back for a degree in English ,” Siner said.
Siner applied to UMass Boston, which appealed to her because of the English program’s multiple flexible tracks that allowed her to get her English degree while suiting all of her interests, and gave her the opportunity to teach composition to students through a graduate assistantship.
Along with studying and teaching, Siner also assisted international students obtain working visas to stay in the United States. She said between working with the international students and teaching at UMass Boston, which has a large population of international students, she dealt with some similar situations, such as English as a second language, first generation college students and cultural barriers.
“I found that teaching at UMass really added a rich dimension to the work that I was doing in and out of school,” Siner said. “Working at the University, and trying to integrate learning that was inclusive for its studentsI was pursuing at the university in the added an important layer of understanding and meaning to my work, and really helped me feel like I was on the right career track.”
During Siner’s third and final year at UMass Boston, she was introduced to William Kiernan, now dean of SGISD. When they met, Kiernan was developing the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development and needed assistance with the program, and marketing and recruitment efforts. Since Siner had both a background in marketing and an understanding of the University and the needs of its students, Kiernan offered Siner a graduate assistantship for her last year at UMass Boston.
“[SGISD] seemed to come at a time where it really spoke to me … professionally and personally in terms of my values and … what I wanted to see carried out into my next steps,” Siner said, adding, “I felt very fortuitous that I ran into it when I did because it allowed me to merge my previous skills with a school that was focused on things I had become passionate about and invested in, such as working across populations, and developing a deeper understanding of how we deal with cultural differences, and what each side can learn from one another.
After her graduate assistantship was finished and the school was officially approved, Siner moved to become the school’s first program coordinator.
Being the first program coordinator has brought its challenges, Siner said, such as helping to manage the daily functions of a new venture, in addition to being on top of all of the school’s moving parts, but she views every challenge positively.
“One, I really believe in the school; two, there’s an amazing team and vision for it,” she explained. “Anything like this that’s new … there’s always going to be challenges but I think it’s been the best of the possible situation.”
One of the biggest reasons that Siner is able to stay so positive, she said, is because every person that she works with is just as passionate as herself.
“That creates an interesting and a rewarding work environment,” she said. “And it’s fun seeing some of the things that you’ve been working on come to fruition.
She added it has also been great to work and interact with the students as they enter this new school. “The incoming class of MA and PhD students is a high-caliber group of individuals, with diverse backgrounds and interests,” said Siner, going on to describe the students as coming from countries such as China, Greece, and Saudi Arabia, as well as across the U.S. and from local communities such as Dorchester. “Our upcoming students are passionate and have already accomplished great things, such as volunteering in areas such as Africa, Jamaica, and South Korea, and speak languges such as Serbian, Spanish, Swahili, and more. Their interests range from topics like disability, employment, wounded veterans, and health and wellness, to learning communities, educational access, and gender and sexuality.”
Admissions will open again in Spring 2015 for Master’s students, and in Fall 2014 for PhD students, according to Siner, who said that overall, “I’m really looking forward to the next steps for the school, meeting our incoming classes, and seeing the impact the school and our graduates will have on both local and global communities.”
For more information about the School contact Siner at Kaitlyn.Siner@umb.edu.