Liberal arts programs often receive scrutiny and have developed a negative reputation, as it is believed that such an education leaves the graduate without a job and without direction. Daemen College’s own graduate, Thomas Wilkie, is breaking those standards.
Wilkie graduated Daemen College in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish, along with minors in Hispanic studies, entrepreneurship, international business, and composition. Now, he is in his second year of graduate school at Daemen while developing his own product, Storillo.
Storillo, while not yet fully functioning, is a program that will be used to help students who have to work together through a writing aspect.
“The idea is to give data and more control to teachers and students in collaborative writing,” Wilkie said.
The program will give students more freedom in their contributions by giving them the choice to choose the format, such as integrating parts from each student piece by piece or allowing each student to contribute freely on their own basis. Teachers will also be able to track how much each student has contributed, allowing for a more accurate grading system for group work.
Another feature will include a coding system for comments, so students can comment on their work as a whole, instead of making direct changes to an assignment. The end result plans on making the collaborative writing process and group work more enjoyable for all involved.
“We wanted to create something that got people working together and actually creating things,” Wilkie said.
He first came up with the idea while interning at the Albright Knox and continued to develop it through his senior year.
“It originally was an idea to do collaborative storytelling, like a social media,” he said.
During his senior year, he continued to experiment with the idea and started to test it in student sandbox programs. It was at this point where his idea changed its form and began to become more directed at education.
“We realized that it had more potential in the education setting, so we adapted what we were doing for education,” Wilkie said.
With the assistance of one of his friends from high school who will provide the coding and building aspect of the partnership, Wilkie plans to fully develop the program into a functioning entity that will be available to kindergarten through university classes.
In Wilkie’s opinion, Storillo might not have be a possibility without his liberal arts degrees.
“I don’t think I would have thought of this idea without being an English major. My English degree informs how I approach this, and my Spanish degree, and being in that liberal arts field really informs how I approach the problems I face.”
A pilot version of Storillo has been tested in one of Melissa Fiori’s, Ph.D, Spanish classes during the spring. The pilot will address any technical issues and get a view into what features students and teachers like.
“One of the main reasons why I agreed to work with him to run a pilot in my course is because of his work ethic. Thomas wholeheartedly dedicates himself to his pursuits and operates from a stance of learning and development. Due to both his work ethic and his character, I am happy and willing to embark on this journey with him,” Fiori said.
“We actually just finished up what we were doing with that class. Since I did that as a part of my graduate research, I can’t really get into any details with about it. Now we’re working on taking what we learned to improve the site and we’re looking to find more people willing to test it for next fall,” Wilkie said.
Aside from his entrepreneurial endeavors, Wilkie also works in both Daemen’s Conference and Events Office and the Student Affairs Office.
At the Student Affairs Office, his main responsibility is to coordinate the van and shuttle services that transport students to service learning sites and through the campus community.
Greg Nayor, the Vice President for Student Affairs, had nothing but praise for the work that Wilkie has done for the office.
“Tom is outstanding–high level of intelligence, character and drive. One of the best hires I ever made,” Nayor said.
When he is at the Conference and Events Office, his main duty is to work on the web content for the Office’s site and the events calendar.
Margene Weiss, the Director of Conference and Events, also gave her insight on Wilkie.
“He’s terrific and has a great attitude. He’s a great worker. He’s a Daemen alum and he is really passionate about Daemen.”
Currently, Wilkie is working on a master’s degree in Executive Leadership and Change, with a specialization in business.
Much can be said about Wilkie’s accomplishments. He was able to graduate with his degrees in four years, while working a part-time job, studying abroad in Spain and participating in three internships.
Only one question remains: what will he accomplish next?