Courtney Tomeny ’17: ACE VISTA Fellow and Community Policy Institute Coordinator

Who says your time at Siena is limited to four years? Just ask Courtney Tomeny ’17, who elected to come back as a VISTA!

Her Campus Siena: Remaining a part of the Siena Community even after graduation, it’s inevitable that certain things have changed. Primarily, how would you say your outlook on the school itself and the community has changed?

Courtney Tomeny: It was definitely an adjustment going from being classmates and peers with a lot of people. I don’t think it's drastically changed, though. As an undergrad, I was rushing from class to class, but now I’m more organized. I was so focused on what I needed to do, but now I focus on the bigger picture. I went from more of how I fit into the scheme of things at Siena to it being less about me and more about the community.

HCS: What do you like best about being a postgraduate fellow? Least?

CT: Can I give a silly answer, or does it have to be serious? (HCS: It can be both!) Okay, so I get to park in faculty parking, but I also like to be making a bigger impact —specifically in structuring a program. I now have control over the stuff I saw as a student that I wanted to adjust. Least? I don’t not like it, but it’s a little strange for me—it’s an adjustment. It’s not the smoothest transition.

HCS: What was your favorite thing about Siena as an undergrad? How has that changed since beginning a new position here?

CT: I guess just being as in what I was doing. I was in the middle of everything, all my friends were here. We could be spontaneous; it was a lot easier in college, like, when we could go to Stewart’s at 10pm. Simple things like hanging out at someone’s house were just easy.

HCS: So, you were a political science major during your time as an undergrad. Did you have any minors or certificates? What drew you to your major?

CT: I had an English minor and pre-law certificate. I guess for political science, I don’t think I immediately knew that policy was what interested me (I came in as undeclared liberal arts), but I became interested in political science. There’s a lot involved in political science: it involves policy and history and what we’re doing today. Electives are abundant after introductory classes; you can make [your major] whatever you want. All the professors are top-notch and bring something to the table.

HCS: What did/do you envision doing with your degree in the long term?

CT: I see myself going to law school either here or back home in Syracuse. I do think it [my degree] factored into my interest and success in the policy area and taking on the role I have now, and I already see that playing into career building. The ultimate long-term goal is law school, staying on ground-level policy and sustainable legitimate change being enacted. I already see it in what I’m doing now.

HCS: What made you decide to become a VISTA?

CT: Like I said, I was really interested in this particular role (CPI coordinator), but for some people it’s their first experience in a full-time position (although same for me because I’ve always worked part-time), but for me it was an opportunity to make, to work towards sustainable change and capacity building. I didn’t decide to go into this exact community and live off this modest wage, but it’s all part of the experience of living like a VISTA.

HCS: What is one major issue, hobby, or concept that you are passionate about?

CT: Part of me wants to say that it’s one thing, but even stuff I’m uninformed about, I feel like, “This is important, we need to take care of it!” But if I had to pick one be-all, end-all topic, it would be hunger and homelessness because it’s really hard for me to think that there are people living in mansions and others sleeping on the streets. It’s just really hard for me to rationalize that there’s people who have everything and people who have nothing. I don’t lock myself into one issue, but I like seeing how they all tie together (the ripple effects).

HCS: What is one thing on your bucket list that you absolutely intend to achieve, no matter what? Best thing you have achieved?

CT: Swimming with dolphins in Jamaica and visiting the Cliffs of Moher. Dolphins and snow leopards are my favorite animals.

HCS: You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color are you, and why?

CT: I’m green, for sure—either forest or emerald. Probably because I’m down to earth, and I’d rather be outside any day.

HCS: If you had one piece of advice for any current Siena student, what would it be?

CT: Actually get involved. If you’re interested in something, even if none of your friends want to go, even if you just want to stay in bed and watch Netflix, go. I really think Siena has something for everyone (I mean, I can’t speak for other schools), but I really do. Like service? Look into the Franciscan Center or ACE. Like political science? Go for mock trial! In doing things that you love, you find the people who become your lifelong friends.