As someone who aims to inspire global citizenship in young people, Sirianna certainly has walked the talk. With a background in visual arts, Hispanic Studies, and Sociology, she has lived and studied in the U.S., U.K., Scotland, and Cambodia teaching students about leadership development. To Sirianna, there are infinite ways to learn, but believes that cross-cultural conversations are often the most powerful.
Having nearly two decades of classroom-style education, I realize that the more I go to school, the more I realize that there is so much more to actually learn. And that’s exactly what excites me about continuing my professional career in education — for me personally, so much of being an educator is being able to be open to the fact that you are constantly going to be learning with and from your students every day.
A really effective way to learn is to surround yourself with a diverse student body. I think I learned this most immediately from my grandmother, who was an immigrant from Norway and loved to tell me stories about her own personal history. I grew up listening to her talk about her cultural experiences, which is exactly what sparked my eagerness to pursue working in an educational stratosphere that enabled cross-cultural conversations.
I ended up going to an international high school and got my Master's degree in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh. There, I realized that talking about your own cultures and experiences and while simultaneously mirroring them to the cultures and experiences of those around you puts you in a constant state of learning — not unlike that at EXPLO.
Cross-Cultural Learning — Outside the Classroom
This idea of cross-cultural conversations was most present when I did my Master's. For my work-based placement dissertation, I combined my interest in gender and development with cross-cultural learning and ended up spending 10 weeks with Harpswell Foundation in Cambodia. There, I taught critical thinking and leadership skills to university-aged women in a dormitory setting. While there, I applied for the School for Ethics and Global Leadership, which is now where I am working during the year. I work as the Assistant to the Head of School.
From all of my education experiences, something that stands out as being important is being able to work with students outside of the classroom. As a Residential Advisor both during the year and here at EXPLO, it’s clear that outside of the classroom is where these cross-cultural conversations are happening most often. Not to say that there are so many wonderful, exciting, and intriguing things that happen in an academic setting, too. But I like how I can facilitate conversations with students to connect classroom content to their own life experiences. As a Residential Advisor, you can tease out at dinner or on the hall that lightbulb moment for a student where they realize, “Right! This is why what we learned today in the classroom matters.”
Being able to work with students outside of the classroom is also incredibly important in teaching students — yes, definitely particularly at this age group at Wellesley — about leadership skills. . . No matter what your age is, learning about leadership comes down to having a good mentor. And as a student, when you are making connections with your Residential Advisor during meals, activity periods, or at Main Events, you are constantly being mentored by someone you trust, look up to, and want to mirror.
Just yesterday at Community Meeting, Residential Advisors were getting up and dancing on stage, shamelessly being themselves. That’s mentorship right there. It’s teaching students that they are a part of a safe community where you can get on stage, do goofy things, have fun. It’s also teaching students that you can still be authentic while being professional.
Every Moment is a Learning Moment
All those small moments that happen in between academic settings really evoke certain ways of leading and engaging with students. Even if students aren’t actively aware of the teaching moment, they’ll remember the moment their RA got on stage and danced their heart out. They’ll mirror that notion consciously or unconsciously in their future careers.
At EXPLO, this energy and enthusiasm helps us to feel open towards each other. To educate one another about communities. . . Definitely to teach each other about cultures. It’s also just a great reminder for teachers and students that there absolutely is always more to learn.
Welcome to the EXPLO Neighborhood! Each summer and throughout the year, we have conversations with students, staff members, and alumni to learn more about their interests, strengths, talents, and perspectives on the world of people and ideas. We hope these Neighborhood Profiles offer you a glimpse into the vibrant EXPLO community of more than 80,000 individuals from around the globe who are constantly investigating, questioning, discovering, debating, understanding, and, of course, exploring.