Current Bonner Spotlight | Michael Averill ’22 & Erin Spence ’22

Current Bonner Spotlight | Michael Averill ’22 & Erin Spence ’22

April 28, 2020 Stories from ACE 0


We are very excited for two Sophomore Bonners who’s work for the COMD 200 course they took with Dr. Ruth Kassel in connection with the Bonner First Year Trip to West Virginia, which was published in the International Journal for Service-Learning, Leadership, and Social Change. Below are their reflections about this experience. 

Sophomore year is certainly a pivotal time in the Bonner program. As second-year students, we are expected to rise to the challenges that Bonner presents us with and benefit from the various experiences we are given.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the rural service trip to West Virginia with my classmates. We enjoyed learning about community development in the Appalachian Region.

When we arrived back at Siena in the fall, our sophomore class took a course called COMD 200, led by Dr. Kassel, which explored various community development topics. Our final goal for the class was to have our work published in a service-learning journal. After months of waiting, I recently found out on April 7th, 2020 that my article had officially been published by the International Journal for Service-Learning, Leadership, and Social Change run by Governors State University.

My piece was called “The Story of Paul”. As a senior in high school, I had a foreign exchange student from the Dominican Republic, Paul, live with my family. At the end of his program and after we had both graduated from Saugerties High School, Paul did not return to his home country, but rather took off from the foreign exchange volunteers the morning of his flight. Paul continues to live in the United States as an undocumented immigrant to this day.

Having my article published was an incredible feeling of validation. I have always taken pride in my ability to write and I see myself publishing more research papers in the future. This project was a beneficial way to begin my professional writing career by portraying a personal story in the context of the overarching political landscape that we live in today.

Bonner has given me more opportunities in my first two years than I could have ever imagined. “The Story of Paul” is a tribute to mi Hermano Paul and all those who have immigrated as a form of resistance towards the policies in place that have tried to restrain them.

Michael Averill ’22
Bonner Service Leader


I took this opportunity in COMD 200 to write a reflective paper on my experience in West Virginia and the impact it had on me. I found this trip, and the course that followed, to be extremely eye-opening, leaving me with new knowledge and perspectives on several topics within community development. Throughout the semester, we focused on how our own life experiences can impact the way that we see and interact with the world. I chose to look at these interpretations as stories, or different views of the same situation. My goal for this piece was to look deeper into my own preconceived notions, reflecting on how they impact the way I see the world. In this case, I gave thought to what I observed in West Virginia, my initial reactions, and further reflection. Throughout the process of writing this paper and completing the course, I was able to gain a better understanding of West Virginia, as well as the power of a story.

It was a pleasant surprise to learn that my paper had been published, but I would not have been successful without the help of Dr. Kassel. I would like to thank her for guiding me through this process and providing the opportunity to share my experience with a larger audience. I am very grateful for the experiences I had through this travel course and my personal growth as a result.

Erin Spence ’22
Bonner Service Leader