New students, new stories: Q&A with some first-year SILS master’s students

Release date: 

September 21, 2016

This fall, the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) welcomed 79 new master’s students to Manning Hall. We asked nine of them to answer a series of questions to learn more about who they are and why they came to SILS. This small sample revealed a wide array of backgrounds and interests, not to mention adventures and hidden talents.  

What is your full name? James Neil Curry III

What do you like to be called? Jim and Jimbo Slice!

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS? I’m originally from Little Rock, Ark. I graduated from the historic Little Rock Central High School in 2010 before moving northwest to attend the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. I spent five years there to complete a Bachelor’s of Science in Education – specifically secondary technology education and English language arts. 
Most summers you would find me working as a camp counselor for either service or outdoor adventure-based camps. I loved getting to interact with youth from all over Arkansas and teach them new skills like archery and carpentry. 
I had many adventures before coming to SILS. Most came from Arkansas’ Muggle Quidditch team, which I was incredibly active in and eventually led. I played as Keeper, and saw my team travel to two of the International Quidditch Association’s Quidditch World Cups.
My most notable adventure, however, took place just before my senior year of undergrad. I was cast for an immersive competition reality television show created by producers from “The Amazing Race” and “The Lord of the Rings” for ABC called “The Quest.”  I was one of 12 fantasy enthusiasts chosen to be a hero to a beleaguered kingdom.  We lived in a castle in Vienna, Austria (my first time out of the country) and learned how to wield swords and ride horses to protect the kingdom from the impending darkness.  The whole process was the experience of a lifetime, it allowed me to connect with people from all across the world, and living out the fantasy story was a childhood dream come true. 

MSIS or MSLS? This is my first semester within the MSLS program!

What made you decide to pursue this degree? I’ve always been a bibliophile. I also found libraries to be the best middle ground for my undergraduate work incorporating both technology and English. 

Why did you choose SILS? There weren’t a lot of options close to home so I was ready to travel out of state, and quick research told me that SILS is one of, if not the best, programs available.  After one campus visit, I knew I’d feel right at home at Chapel Hill. 

Did you receive an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far? I’m incredibly fortunate to now be working within the SILS Library. I work most mornings, so it’s usually where I start my day. It’s such a great space because it allows me to interact with new and returning SILS students and staff. Meanwhile, I’m gaining fundamental library skills from Rebecca Vargha and Kenny Jones that I know will be key to starting a career in a public library one day. 

What inspires or motivates you? I’d have to say that I’m inspired by my family. My parents and younger brother have instilled in me a desire to give everything I do my very best. That desire is what brought me here to continue my education, and will be my driving force throughout my time in the program. 

What do you hope to do with your degree? I’d love to work within a public library one day and specialize in youth and young adult services.  I’ve spent so many summers working with and teaching youth, I knew my career choice should do the same.  I want to keep youth using libraries and keep them reading what they love. 

Any other information you’d like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors? 
I’m one of the biggest Harry Potter geeks you’ll ever meet, and a proud Hufflepuff. 
I’m obsessed with constellations and the stories behind them. 
I sing in one of the University’s choirs. 
I’ve recently started to collect children’s picture books for my home library, and usually can’t leave Barnes & Noble without picking up a new one.  


What is your full name? Carson Fish

What do you like to be called? Carson 

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS?  I came from Kitty Hawk, NC, to UNC Chapel Hill for my undergraduate degree. I studied Russian Language and Literature and studied abroad in Kazan, Russia, and Vladimir, Russia, during my junior year. I spent the year after graduating (2014-2015 academic year) on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship; I taught English conversation courses at the Tyumen State Oil and Gas University in Tyumen, Siberia. 

MSIS or MSLS?  MSLS

What made you decide to pursue this degree? I worked at an independent bookstore in my hometown almost every summer since I was 16, so I love being surrounded by books. I also love university life, but I didn't want to pursue a doctorate degree. One my friends and former co-workers went into library science a couple years ago, but before that I'd never thought to learn more. However, once I did, it felt like the perfect fit. 

Why did you choose SILS?  I went to UNC for undergrad and love calling North Carolina home, so there really wasn't any other competition. The program is also, of course, one of the best in the country and has a great reputation.  

Did you receive an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far?  I am currently working as a graduate assistant in both Davis and Wilson Libraries; I work in the Slavic and Eastern European Resources in Davis and in the University Archives in Wilson. My Davis job aligns perfectly with my background and interests, and my job in Wilson is giving me an opportunity to explore archival work and delve into UNC history.  

What inspires or motivates you? I'm always trying to learn more and to go more places, so I guess you could say that the pursuit of knowledge and the possibility of travel are what motivate me.  

Any other information you’d like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors? I bake my own sourdough bread.


What is your full name? Ernest Goodson Jr.

What do you like to be called? Sonny

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS? Prior to SILS, I completed a master’s degree in English and African-American Literature from North Carolina A&T State University. I am very proud of that degree. During the summers between 2010 and 2015, I worked for a company called Wellspring Camps where I had the opportunity to work every day with teenagers and young adults who were battling with obesity. Although the job was demanding, each summer was life changing and I learned something new about myself and others. While working for the company, I was able to work in Melbourne, FL, Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, FL, and La Jolla/ San Deigo, CA.

MSIS or MSLS? MSLS 

What made you decide to pursue this degree? The Library and Information Science field has no bounds, or limits. With those that I have talked to in the field, they have been able to work in different cities across the country while enjoying the work that they do. The ability and opportunity to work in different aspects of the field–public, university, government, corporate, etc. –is very attractive. Also, I can combine my passions with this field and be able to fulfill my dreams. 

Why did you choose SILS?
In-state. In addition, it does not hurt that SILS ranks #1 (in my opinion) as one of the best, if not THE BEST information science program in the country!

Did you receive an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far? 2016-2017 ALA Spectrum Scholarship

What inspires or motivates you? Anyone who has had to fight, claw, dig and scratch to get where they want to in life is inspiring to me. Sacrificing for something more, something better than your present condition(s) is what motivates me. 

What do you hope to do with your degree? I hope to do many things, one of which is the opportunity to work in a university library in archives/ special collections handling and preserving hip hop culture. 

Any other information you’d like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors? 
Hidden talents- Cartwheel, singing/ holding a note, spoken word
Favorite colors- purple, black, green & blue
Authors- Micheal Eric Dyson, Robert Greene, Rudolph R. Windsor, Rollo Tomassi & James Weldon Johnson
Foods - Pho', sweet potatoes, fruits, pad Thai, curry chicken, lentils & 16 bean soup


What is your full name?
Anthony Vincent Norman Joyce

What do you like to be called? Anthony

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS? I'm from Chapel Hill, and we townies are rarer than Birds of Paradise! After high school, I took a gap year before college and volunteered three months of my year in Yaroslavl, Russia, where I worked in children's orphanages. The weather was frigid but the people were great!
I lived in Egypt for a year from 2007-08 where I studied at the American University in Cairo. I have a previous master's degree in Middle Eastern History from the University of Texas at Austin and I speak/read/write a good amount of Arabic.
My most recent major adventure was travelling to Philadelphia with a college pal to attend protests in the city during that week! It was a steady 100 degree outside at all times but the experience was worth it. I drove us back the entire way from Philly and we didn't return ‘til 5am.

MSIS or MSLS? MSLS

What made you decide to pursue this degree? A hard-nosed reassessment of my life goals :) I lived in Arlington, VA, from 2011-2015. I moved there after my first MA and sought to find work in the federal government. This was not an easy time to be job hunting for such positions though, and I found out the hard way! After 3.5 years of variable successes and failures I realized I wasn't getting where I wanted and that I needed to leave the Beltway region or go somewhat bananas. I then took a closer look at library sciences and realized that my kind of intellect really fits into what is expected and desired of MSLS graduates and workers.

Why did you choose SILS? I am from Chapel Hill and was firmly convinced that I would have no issue getting in. Ha! Joking. I chose this program because it is indeed in my hometown but also because it is rated as the best MSLS program in the country and I've known a number of very gainfully employed SILS graduates, both in the past and very recently. I wrote my master's thesis at UNC and have a strong familiarity with the research resources available here. Lastly, I am a die-hard Tarheel and could think of no school I'd rather attend!

Did you receive an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far? I did not receive an assistantship for this academic year, but I did receive the Margaret Ellen Kalp fellowship, which provides a tuition stipend. I also worked at the UNC Law Library circulation for the Summer 2016 and continue to work there eight hours weekly. My lack of an assistantship/large scholarship has definitely compelled me to go outside campus and libraries to make money, as I just got a job as a professional dog-walker for a local small business! Without an assistantship I had to take loans for out-of-state tuition rates for this semester, as I won't qualify for in-state tuition until Spring 2017.

What inspires or motivates you? Elegantly synthesizing complex ideas into easily digestible phrases! I love studying history and am motivated by the infinite amount of places, events, and happenings that I am totally unaware of. 

What do you hope to do with your degree? I want to use my degree to help develop library systems in developing countries, particularly within the Middle East. I hope that studying library science will help me more effectively activate and share the things I know about the world, and that I will become a more receptive audience to new ways of thinking and learning.

Any other information you’d like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors?
I deeply enjoy war-strategy video games and get an unreasonable level of satisfaction from painting the map the glorious color of my empire!
I used to be a radio announcer and part-time actor while in college.
I was once described as a "walking soul."
In 2007 I ate a delicious lunch in Ba'albek, Lebanon, the hometown of Hezbollah, outside of an ancient Roman temple honoring Jupiter, next door to a brand new mosque honoring and memorializing a still-born granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, built and decorated by Iranian artisans from Esfahan.


What is your full name? Mary Kallem

What do you like to be called? Mary

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS? For the past two summers, I’ve had the honor of teaching robotics to middle school girls! They taught me so much about bravery, self-respect, and the plasticity of technologies’ applications. I’m permanently in awe of teenager’s deeply anti-authoritarian ways of being, as well as their novel conceptualizations of technology. Additionally, I interned for a wonderful museum called the Center for PostNatural History. If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, schedule a visit!

MSIS or MSLS? MSLS

What made you decide to pursue this degree? For years, my political engagement has been grounded in the expansion of access—or, put more dynamically, in the dismantling of boundaries built between ourselves and our needs. As information propagates agency, I see librarianship as a particularly radical manifestation of this practice. As we facilitate others’ access to information, we facilitate their ability to serve themselves.

Why did you choose SILS? SILS is absolutely on the cutting edge of research; it’s an honor to work with these leaders of the field.

Have you received an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far? I’m working as a research assistant at the SILS IT Help Desk, which is directly related to my interests in human-technology interactions.

Any other information you’d like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors?  My loom is my favorite object! The only thing more exciting than a new computer is a really old one.


What is your full name? Hyeeyoung Kim

What do you like to be called? Hyeeyoung

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS? I’m originally from Daetu, a city in the southern part of South Korea, but I went to undergrad in Seoul at SKKU, where I was a library and information science major. I came to UNC in the fall of 2014 as an iSchool exchange student. Looking back now, that was one of the most fun times in my life. I was learning what I wanted to learn, the food was great, and the weather was good. I really like Southern food, especially grits and biscuits. I tried to find a place back in Korea that makes grits and biscuits but I didn’t succeed. The air here is so much more breathable, too.
Throughout undergrad, I did a lot of train travels. I would get a train pass for 5-7 days and travel around. It was a great experience. Whenever I went on a trip, I would include a long day of walking along the seashores, up to 80 miles of walking each day. Walking lets you experience places at a different pace than driving or taking another type of vehicle. That’s what I liked about it. 

MSIS or MSLS? MSIS with a concentration ARM (Archives and Record Management)

What made you decide to pursue this degree?
For me, the whole thing started because I like organizing stuff. When you think about organizing information, you’re adding value by enabling people to find what they need easily and quickly. Having the power to classify things is also appealing. The other thing, back in 2010, when smart phones first came out, this seemed like the right time to pursue this type of degree. It’s good for the job market, but I can also help people around me, my parents and classmates, and teach them how to find information more easily. I enjoy helping people.

Why did you choose SILS?
My previous personal experience here was very positive, but from an academic perspective, the archive component really intrigued me. Going into archives is about helping people from the past, as well as the future, so it broadens the whole spectrum. Also, around the time I was considering applying, the South Korean president was altering the previous president’s archive. From a historical perspective, that’s very dangerous. It made me realize how much power there is in the archival field that not everyone recognizes.

Did you receive an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far?
I’m currently working as a SILS IT Help Desk assistant. It’s a great way to be part of the SILS community.

What inspires or motivates you?
Helping people, learning something new, and passing on what I experience to other people in a way that inspires them to go out and try different things.

What do you hope to do with your degree?
Something with archives, but I’m keeping my options open for now.

Any other information you’d like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors? 
I’m a minimalist, I try to throw away anything I don’t need.


What is your full name? Yu An Li

What do you like to be called? You can call me Yuan (juːən). It might help you remember my name if you think of the Chinese currency (Chinese Yuan).

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS? I volunteered at Richland Library, the biggest public library in Columbia, S.C., for four years (2012-2016) in various departments, including the Material Department, Circulation Department, Reference Desk, Career Center, and so on. Before that, I worked as an academic librarian in China.

MSIS or MSLS? MSIS

What made you decide to pursue this degree? I have a broad range of interests in information science, library services and users. While interacting with different parts of the whole library system, I am becoming eager to figure out the theoretical aspects behind the human computer interactions for providing better services. Systematically learning knowledge from the academic researchers appears to be the best way.

Why did you choose SILS? SILS has good reputation, plentiful resources, and so many distinguished scholars. In addition, Chapel Hill is a nice city to live. Last but not the least, my husband is working as a postdoc here (LOL).

Did you receive an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far? I found an assistantship maintaining webpages for the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program. I am having fun so far, working while cracking some information technology tools.
 
What do you hope to do with your degree? I enjoy critical thinking and doing research. So, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. at SILS afterward.
 
Any other information you’d like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors? I like reading all kinds of biographies. If you also enjoy cooking, then we will definitely have plenty to chat about.


What is your full name? Jaffa Panken

What do you like to be called? Jaffa

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS?  My family moved around a bit, so I grew up in Baltimore, MD, and Rochester, NY. I received a B.A. in history from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania.
As for my adventures, my family and I biked from Vienna to Budapest. Traveling by bicycle was physically difficult, but I think that we saw more of people’s everyday lives by biking through their villages. Along the way, we shopped in markets, picnicked in parks, and stopped for drinks in biergartens. It was a great way to travel.

MSIS or MSLS? MSLS

What made you decide to pursue this degree? Obviously, I took a roundabout route to get here. As an undergrad, I wanted to get experience working with primary sources, so I got a job in the Rare Books and Manuscript Collection and the Maryland State Archives. My time in the archives convinced me to pursue history. While conducting research for my dissertation, I found myself drawn to the archives themselves. So history led me back to the archives.

Why did you choose SILS? I wanted a rigorous program that emphasized digital skills and career placement. SILS was the best place for me.

Did you receive an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far? I’m a CALA and I’ve been assigned to the University Archives. It is helpful to have a practical outlet for some of the theoretical concepts that I encounter in class. My job also reminds me that there is a world outside of school and for that I am grateful.

What inspires or motivates you? My mother is a Pediatric Oncologist. Her knowledge is often the difference between life and death. I can’t help but admire the way she integrates her academic interests with her emotional desire to help others.

What do you hope to do with your degree? I hope to work at an archive or academic library. At SILS, I’m trying to pick up enough skills to work in the digital humanities.  I’d like to make the archives accessible to the public and even more useful to scholars.

Any other information you’d like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors? I am a self-taught milliner, specializing in felt berets and cloches. I also do a lot of hand draping so that many of my designs are one-of-a-kind.


What is your full name? Elizabeth Morris Weiss

What do you like to be called? Beth

What were some highlights of your life before coming to SILS? Living in Japan ages four to seven, attending Wesleyan University and spending my junior year in Kyoto, driving cross country in 1993 to live in Seattle for a year after graduation, getting a master’s degree in Museum Education at GWU, and the biggest adventure of all, parenting.

MSIS or MSLS? MSLS, but I continue to evaluate MSIS

What made you decide to pursue this degree? I love history. While researching two exhibits as a volunteer curator at the Museum of Durham History, I realized what interested me most was working with archival materials. I saw that a degree in information and library science would build on my training as a museum educator focused on visitor experiences.

Why did you choose SILS? I wanted to pursue formal training with SILS’ faculty because they are leaders in the field of archives and records management. I wanted to study at SILS so I could learn while using UNC’s archival collections. And, SILS graduates have interesting jobs.

Did you receive an assistantship or scholarship? Or have you found a job placement related to your degree? How has that affected your experience so far? I’m grateful to work as a Carolina Academic Library Associate, which includes a tuition assistantship. Working in Preservation Services at Davis and at the Digital Production Center in Wilson helps me see how current professionals apply the ideas I’m studying.  To get real world experience working alongside library staff while learning how to meet the challenges of multiple responsibilities and projects is a huge benefit.

What inspires or motivates you? The ways librarians and archivists can potentially improve people’s lives motivates me.   Access to information and being able to complete your own historical research using original sources is empowering. On a personal level, I’m asking myself, “How do you pursue justice actively in your life?”

What do you hope to do with your degree? Work with community archivists, help create a digital humanities public history resource, and assist researchers at university and or museum archives.

Any other information youd like to share? Unusual hobbies, hidden talents, favorite colors, foods, authors? When I’m not reading for class I’m currently reading Lynda Barry’s Syllabus and Jacqueline Wilson’s Brown Girl Dreaming.