Student View: Reflections on Experience at El Buen Amigo

By: Emily Pawelski
GS 300: Service Learning Abroad – Dominican Republic

El-Buen-Amigo-12During the Fall 2015 semester, students from GS 300: Service Learning Abroad – Dominican Republic traveled to El Buen Amigo, which translates to: “A good friend” in English.  Founded by Santiago Masferrer, once a political prisoner in Chile, El Buen Amigo is a unique shop nestled in a quaint block on Elmwood Avenue in Allentown.  El Buen Amigo, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and was featured in The Public,  is a non-profit organization which offers “fair trade” goods such as: crafts, clothing, and coffee direct from artisans and farmers in Central America, Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean which helps support the artisans and their families by providing a fair wage for their services.  To that end, Hilbert College Enactus has collaborated with EBA over the past few years through its Artisan Support Project in the Dominican Republic by importing ornate, handcrafted items from local artisans which aims to provide impoverished individuals in a developing country earn a living wage.  Furthermore, El Buen Amigo is a Cultural Center that provides educational programming to enhance understanding of issues related to diversity, which was the focus of the day’s activities.

To start the day off… MarCe Zerrate, a native of Columbia and the Founder/Executive Director of Amor and Heritage Inc. – an Hispanic Traditional Dance Company, provided dance lessons. Amor and Heritage is a traditional Hispanic dance company dedicated to the promotion of multiculturalism and diversity, through the use of dance!   Through dance and movement, Amor and Heritage promotes tolerance, education, understanding of other cultures, the importance of self-confidence, sharing, kindness and staying healthy. Amor and Heritage teaches dance as school programming, special workshops and classes and performs at festivals and events all over WNY.  Through the use of choreography, MarCe explained how the styles of Latin dance have evolved over time and how many of the movements in Latin dance originated from slavery. For example, women would raise their skirts before the music commenced to give praise to God for the opportunity and freedom to dance.  However since slaves could not move their bodies freely while they were on transport ships, they moved their wrists and feet that were shackled together to produce a beat.  Other correlations between slavery and dance included women making swooping gestures with their hats in such a way to symbolize gathering water and men making motions with their arms to symbolize cutting cane with machetes to prove their worth to the ladies. Learning about the different types of Latin dance and the history behind the moves was really cool.  It was definitely more than just a dance class.  It was a really great way to experience some Latin culture firsthand!

After the dance lesson, Santiago engaged the group in a lesson of “Life by Numbers” by asking each individual their age and the age of their grandmother. He then subtracted the two ages (For example: 85-19=66). He then surmised that the number calculated was the estimated number of years left to live. With this, he asserted each day should never be taken for granted and lives should be lived to the fullest!

Last but not least, the most impactful part of the experience was Santiago’s Character Tower exercise as it made so much sense and related to life in so many ways.   To start, Santiago divided the individuals present into two groups. Each group was then to construct a freestanding tower on the hardwood floor using just wooden blocks. The base of the tower was composed of just four pillars.  Each pillar represented a vital component of one’s life, such as: faith, family, friends and finances. Each level of the tower represented a different time in life and with eight levels, they seemed to parallel the eight decades of expected life.  When finished with building the towers, Santiago asked which side the tower may be leaning towards; from there, he started adding blocks to the corner opposite to balance the structure.  After he did that, he removed the weak side pillar and the tower still stood strong on just three legs.  He connected this back to one’s key pillars in life: faith, family and friends.  He conveyed that with a supportive family and great friends (representative of community and society), it is possible to survive most hardships.  Santiago also modeled persistence by having us each throw a block at the other group’s character tower.  The blocks thrown demonstrated the challenges in life such as break-ups and personal losses.  Even with everyone trying to destroy the tower with their blocks, it took a lot longer than expected.  Santiago explained how character must stay strong and constant through life’s challenges. Throughout life, one will experience many obstacles and grueling challenges; however, one must never give up… One must rather persevere and overcome problems with grace and finesse.

Although time spent with MarCe and Santiago at El Buen Amigo was limited, the impact it had on the lives of GS 300 students will last a lifetime.  The dancing lesson rewarded everyone with very important cultural knowledge; while the exercises led by Santiago were thought-provoking and incredibly meaningful.  In summary, El Buen Amigo provided a fun and active learning environment that was engaging to all!

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From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – How to Avoid the Zika Virus

by Kirsten Falcone, RN

How to Avoid the Zika Virus

Another “global epidemic” is in the news lately, and it should be taken seriously. Here is some information to increase awareness, decrease panic, and help you and your friends and family avoid it altogether.

The Zika virus is significant mostly because of its effects on the unborn and also because of the mode it is spread. Many health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe it is on our doorstep because of the proximity of cases in Mexico, and now a few cases reported in the U.S. This week the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency, mostly because of the serious impact it likely has on unborn babies. The virus is believed to be transmitted mainly by mosquitoes, though there have been reports of it spreading through sexual contact and blood transfusion.

What is the Zika virus, and why should I be aware of it?

The Zika virus is vector-transmitted currently by a tropical mosquito called the Aedis aegypti (but can also be transmitted by related mosquitoes that live in the U.S.), and it causes typical flu-like symptoms in healthy individuals. However, worldwide it is believed that more than 4,000 infants born with microcephaly (an underdeveloped brain and small head) can be linked to the virus. Therefore, pregnant women need to be aware of the threat, and take precautions right away.

Precautions for pregnant women (and those who may be pregnant) include the following:

  1. Don’t travel abroad to countries with the outbreak, including much of South America, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
    (Link to the CDC’s list:
  2. Once the weather warms up here in Western New York, wear long sleeves outdoors or use a mosquito repellant during the day. That is the most likely time to be bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito.
  3. Stay inside, and use screens or air conditioning.
  4. If you develop flu symptoms (fever, rash, unusual joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headache) after spending time in a high-risk area, get a blood test from your doctor. It might be just the flu, and this will put your mind at rest.

Precautions for the rest of us:

  1. If you travel to an affected country (see list above), protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and using repellant, especially during daytime hours.
  2. If you plan on spending time outdoors, treat gear and clothing with permethrin.
  3. Only 20 percent of people infected will ever develop symptoms. Prevent a mosquito from biting you after you return from an affected area. That will keep the virus from spreading in your network.
  4. If you develop flu symptoms after traveling to affected areas, have a blood test to rule out the cause, and continue to prevent mosquitoes from biting you.
  5. Even if you don’t develop symptoms, you may want to be tested, since only 20 percent of people develop symptoms. This will prevent you from infecting others unknowingly.
  6. Stay away from pregnant women until you can confirm that you are not infected. (This may or may not help, depending upon how far a mosquito can fly, but it will make the pregnant woman feel more secure!)
  7. There is no vaccine or medicine specifically for Zika, but you can treat the symptoms. The good news is symptoms are usually mild, and death is rare.

Knowledge is power. Stay safe. Stay well.


For more information on the Zika virus, visit these sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Medline Plus:


The White House:

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MLK Franciscan Day of Caring – Photo Gallery



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Student Activities Kick Off Spring Semester – Photo Gallery

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Hilbert Ranks 2nd on List of Best College Dorms in NYS

BestDormsAccording to Niche, Hilbert College ranks second on list of 2016 Best College Dorms in New York.  Hilbert ranks 81st on the national list of Best College Dorms.  According to the website, the ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews.  The Best College Dorms ranking provides a comprehensive assessment of the quality, safety, and cost of on-campus housing. This grade takes into account key factors such as student housing crime rates, average cost, and student reviews in an attempt to measure overall quality of college housing options.  The website says that factors that are considered include, student surveys (weighted 70%), average housing cost (10%), housing capacity (10%), and student housing crime rate (10%). See methodology link below for more information.

2016 Best College Dorms in New York

Best College Dorms Ranking Methodology

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From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – Staying Healthy on Winter Break

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

It’s mid-December, and you’re looking forward to your semester break. Congratulations! But, because of the considerable stress most students endure at the end of the semester, they are often more susceptible to illness during the holidays. It is a bummer to be sick during the best time of the year. Here are some tips to help you fight off holiday illness:

  1. Maintain proper hygiene by washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and covering your sneezes and coughs.
  2. Drink enough water. Try to drink at least 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day or the equivalent of four to six 16-ounce bottles of water, or eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water.
  3. Manage your stress by not over-scheduling, sticking to a budget for gifts and entertainment, and avoiding negativity, e.g., watching too much TV news, letting a negative relative influence you, negative self-talk.
  4. Catch up on your sleep by going to bed at the same time each night. After all, you won’t have to study for any tests! Try to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
  5. Stay warm and dry, and dress in layers.
  6. Eat healthfully, and avoid too many sweets. It is okay to take only one cookie or to save room for your favorite dessert, and forego having a slice of each one. Also, when you are consuming a large meal, eat your veggies first.
  7. Exercise wisely. It might be safe to go for a walk each day, but then again, there could be ice or snow in your way. Use proper footwear, or exercise indoors. Even in the winter months, exercise is important to maintain a healthy body and brain, and it keeps your immune system strong.
  8. Don’t smoke. Smoking exacerbates respiratory illnesses, and it lowers resistance to illness and disease. If you smoke, it is pertinent to your long-term health to quit now. You will never regret that decision!
  9. Be wise when drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful. In fact, the only alcohol recognized as beneficial is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women (two for men). If you do happen to drink beyond what is considered healthful, here are some guidelines to follow: One drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. In order to maintain fluid levels, drink eight ounces of water per hour also. (In addition, this will help ward off a hangover the next day.) Don’t binge drink, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as imbibing five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in a two-hour period.
  10. Down time. Make certain this involves praying, listening to music you enjoy, thinking positive thoughts, a hobby you love, and/or spending time with someone you enjoy.
  11. Be a blessing to others. Remember, holiday time is not all about you. The more you give of yourself, the more blessed and healthy you will be. So go caroling, visit an old friend or a nursing home, smile at and hug your negative relatives, and go to church. Do something good for someone else. Spiritual health and physical health are not two separate entities; they complement each other.

For more information on managing your health during the holidays, visit these Web sites:

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

The Wellness Center wishes you a very healthy and happy Holiday Season and New Year!

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From the Hilbert College Wellness Center – Remedies for Cabin Fever and Seasonal Depression

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

As the daylight grows shorter, you may be feeling as if the walls are closing in on you. This is not uncommon. Terms frequently used for this feeling are “Cabin Fever” and “winter blues,” though health professionals have actually recognized it as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Typical symptoms of SAD include feeling depressed, hopeless, worthless, helpless, irritable, restless, disinterested in activities you formerly enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, disturbed sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide.

If you suffer from these symptoms even just a little, it is reassuring to know that there is hope, and there are lifestyle changes you can make to get through it. Some helpful ideas to try are:

  • Exercise. Take a walk to the gym, or do calisthenics in your dorm room. Park on the far side of the lot, and walk the extra distance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or take up a winter sport, like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or sledding. If the snowfall isn’t as deep as you’d like, you can still go for a brisk walk. (I don’t recommend jogging due to the stress it puts on joints.) Or you can extend the warm weather sports you enjoy, only with a couple extra layers of clothes!
  • Fresh air. Yes, you will have to bundle up right now. But a dose of fresh air can lift your spirits. Besides, who knows what the air quality is inside those walls in which windows have not been opened for weeks.
  • Sunshine. Besides improving our moods, sunshine actually has a reaction with your skin that produces vitamin D. Studies show that vitamin D could lessen the symptoms of depression.
  • Vitamin D. If you can’t find any sunny rooms in which to hang out, or if it’s cloudy out, you can supplement with vitamin D. But, since vitamin D is absorbed by fat and is stored in your body, you may want to consult your doctor before taking large doses. The best bet is to add food rich in vitamin D to your diet. Some foods that have vitamin D are salmon, swordfish, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolk, beef liver, and fortified cereal and milk.
  • Proper nutrition. Skip the pop and the junk food, and opt for some fresh veggies and a lean piece of meat. Add vitamin D fortified milk (see above) and some whole grains, and you will feel human again.
  • Hydration. Even though you are not sweating a lot, as you do during the hot summer weather, drinking enough H2O is actually energizing, plus it helps combat the dry winter air.
  • Sleep. Make sure you are getting the right amount of this. Seven to nine hours of sleep at the same time every night does wonders for the mood.
  • Socialization. Yes, you need this. Go to church. Hang out with your friends. Go on a date. Take an elective class. Just don’t spend too much time alone. Be selective, and choose positive people.
  • Avoiding alcohol. Alcohol is a known depressant. Overdrinking on a regular basis can cause brain damage and change your brain chemistry. Currently, the only alcohol considered healthful is five ounces of red wine per day for women, and 10 ounces per day for men.
  • Light therapy. Because of the shortened daylight hours in the winter, some people do well with light therapy. If you think you would like to try it, ask your doctor to recommend a treatment.
  • Talk therapy. Go talk to someone who is trained to help walk you through. Sometimes having an expert there to hold your hand is just what you need. (At Hilbert College, that expert is Psychologist Phyllis Dewey, who is located in St. Joseph Hall. Phyllis is eager to help all students with this and any other issues that crop up.)
  • Antidepressants. These should be used only as a last resort after you have made the above lifestyle changes. There is no “happy” pill. In fact, these drugs take several weeks to kick in. Antidepressant medication has side-effects that are, well, depressing! Their dosage also needs regular fine-tuning. However, some people do show improvement on these drugs, and they are very popular right now.
  • Get some perspective. In many other countries where daylight is short, the frequency of SAD is lesser than in the United States. In Norway, for instance, the people have a different mindset. Instead of rejecting the darkness and cold, they embrace it! Winter is a time to get outside and enjoy themselves, or to snuggle closer to the fire with someone they love.
  • Take up a craft. Some new studies have shown that spending time crafting improves mental health. Some of the crafts on the list are knitting, drawing and painting, cooking, photography, music, cake decorating, and even doing crossword puzzles. It is thought that doing such activities increases the brain’s level of the natural anti-depressant dopamine.

The idea to take away is there is always hope. This year the winter solstice (the day with the shortest daylight) occurs on December 21. After that, the daylight will lengthen again!

For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, click on these links:


MedLine Plus

Focus on the Family

Mother Nature News

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President’s Listening Session for Students this Friday

To Hilbert Students:

As I have communicated to you previously, I am committed to assuring that Hilbert provides a safe and respectful environment for learning for all students. When I attended the Provost’s Town Hall meeting last week, several students expressed a desire to meet with me to share their concerns and suggestions. So I would like to invite you to a President’s Listening Session for Students on Friday, Dec. 11th from 3:00-4:00 in the McGrath Library Conference Room. The purpose of this session is for me to hear from students. Therefore, at this meeting, the format will ensure that each student in attendance will have an opportunity to speak in a safe and respectful environment. Faculty and staff may attend as observers. While I know the original proposal was to hold this in the dining hall, dinner service that night makes that impractical.

I know this may not be convenient for all of you at this busy time of the semester, so I am also scheduling monthly listening sessions in the Spring semester. They will all be held at 3:00 pm in the Donough Board Room on the second floor of Franciscan Hall. The dates are: Jan. 22, Feb. 26, Mar. 16, and April 22.

I encourage you to continue to work closely with your faculty and support services available at Hilbert College to ensure that you successfully complete your final exams and other end of semester assignments.

Best wishes to you and your families for a joyous holiday season. We look forward to welcoming you back to campus in January 2016.


Cynthia Zane

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Live Nativity – Photo Gallery

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BPO Holiday Pops Concert 2015 – Photo Gallery

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