SILS celebrates graduates, outstanding faculty, and distinguished alumnus at commencement

May 10, 2016

The UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) hosted its spring commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 8. Family, friends, faculty, and staff gathered at the Frank Porter Graham Student Union to celebrate the achievements of 40 Bachelor of Science in Information Science (BSIS) students, 32 Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) students, 39 Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) students, and five Doctor of Philosophy in Information and Library Science (Ph.D.) students.

Ashlee Edwards (BSIS '11, Ph.D. '16)

The event also included recognition for exceptional student research, excellence in teaching, and outstanding service to the school, as well as the presentation of the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award to Tim Shearer (MSLS ’97).

The ceremony opened with a welcome from Ashlee Edwards (BSIS '11, Ph.D. '16). Edwards praised SILS for providing students with a valuable education and marketable skills, while at the same time fostering a strong sense of community and collegiality.

“As of today, we are positioned to become leaders in the ever-evolving field of information and library science,” Edwards said. “Our dedication to excellence has led us to this moment. That same spirit will guide us through our careers, and I fully expect that years from now, members of this graduating class will be innovating and pushing the limits of our field.”

SILS Dean Gary Marchionini then offered his opening remarks, including best wishes to the mothers in the audience in recognition of commencement coinciding with Mother’s Day. He expressed gratitude to everyone who had supported the students on their journeys and conveyed his and the faculty’s pride in the graduates' accomplishments. 

“We hope you continue to challenge yourselves and others with whom you will work or collaborate to arrive at new ideas and solutions that will advance the profession,” he said. “You are our future.”

Commencement Address

Dr. Barbara Wildemuth

Barbara Wildemuth, SILS Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, delivered the spring commencement address, “Practice the Life that You Want to Live.”  She explored how graduates could practice being the type of person they want to be in their professional lives, their communities, and their personal relationships. She advised them to prepare for and embrace constant change, drawing some sharp contrasts between the year she completed her MSLS (1976) and today. She encouraged them to act “for the good of the order,” a term coined by former SILS Dean Edward Holley, by thinking of ways to strengthen their communities and then acting on those ideas.

Wildemuth concluded by imparting an important lesson about a finite resource: time.

“Be intentional about how you decide to use your time,” she said. “Learn from those occasions when you over-committed your time, so that it happens less in the future. Wholeheartedly take on the activities for which you have a true passion. Finding and maintaining the right balance of activities in your life will contribute to your health, and to the strength of the communities with which you’re engaged.”

Wildemuth has been teaching at SILS since 1988. She was instrumental in the creation of the BSIS degree program and previously served as associate dean for undergraduate studies. She has advised numerous master’s and doctoral students over the years, and her teaching and mentoring strengths have been recognized with the Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award from ASIST as well as the Award for Teaching Excellence from SILS. Wildemuth has also made distinguished contributions through her research, and the second edition of her book, Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library Science, will be published in fall 2016.

Wildemuth will be stepping down from the associate dean’s role this summer, in preparation for retirement in 2017. “She has been an invaluable resource and champion for SILS and its students, faculty, and staff, we will all miss her leadership and expertise,” said Dean Marchionini in his introduction.

Honoring Student Research

Meredith Hale and Dr. Stephanie Haas

Emma Boettcher

Justin Kreft

SILS Associate Professor Brian Sturm recognized Justin Kreft and Emma Boettcher for receiving the Elfreda Chatman Research Award, which is presented twice a year to master’s students who have demonstrated creative and scholarly vision in their research proposals. Kreft won in the spring of 2015 for his proposal, “Measuring the Impact of Body Worn Cameras (BWC) on Data Management and Record Retention for Law Enforcement Agencies,” and Boettcher won in the fall of 2015 for her proposal, “What is Difficulty? Estimating the Difficulty of Fact-Finding Questions Using the Jeopardy! Archive.”

SILS Professor Stephanie Haas announced that Boettcher and Meredith Hale were the two recipients of the 2016 Dean’s Achievement Award for the highest quality masters’ papers submitted during the prior academic year. Faculty on the awards committee praised Boettcher for “choosing a good problem and executing a textbook study” in her paper, titled “Predicting the Difficulty of Trivia Questions Using Text Features.” Hale was commended for writing with “authority and precision” and conducting a study that was “well executed technically and included practical recommendations” for her paper, titled “Searching for Art: A Log Analysis of the Ackland Art Museum’s Collection Search System.”

Teaching Excellence Awards

SILS students, faculty, and staff nominated seven adjunct and seven full-time faculty members for the 2016 Deborah Barreau Award for Teaching Excellence. SILS Assistant Professor Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi, the 2015 recipient of the award, announced this year’s winners.

Emily Vardell and Dr. Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi

Emily Vardell, a SILS Ph.D. student, won in the adjunct category. "She was flexible with students who struggled and pushed students who thrived,” Jarrahi read from the nomination by one of Vardell’s students. “But most importantly, she appeared to enjoy what she was teaching and demonstrated genuine care for her students."

Dr. Ron Bergquist and Dr. Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi

SILS Assistant Professor Ron Bergquist received the award for a full-time faculty member. Bergquist, who earned his MSLS and Ph.D. from SILS, had previously received the award as an adjunct instructor in 2007. Bergquist was described by students as “a very enthusiastic teacher with a clear passion for the subject matter,” “always willing to answer questions, explain things, and listen to student's ideas,” and “a phenomenal teacher and person who truly cares about his students,” among other superlatives.

Outstanding Service and Distinguished Alumni Awards

Emily Jack (MSLS '07), SILS Alumni Association Vice President/President-Elect, welcomed graduates to the SILSAA ranks and explained how the organization supports students, alumni, and the School, before announcing the recipients of the 2016 Outstanding Service to the School Award.

Emily Jack and Rachel Sanders

Emily Jack and Mark Riddle

Rachel Sanders was recognized for her work on the faculty search committee, contributions as an ILSSAA officer, and service as a volunteer coordinator for the Community Workshop Series, a partnership between UNC Libraries and local public libraries that provides weekly basic computer literacy skills classes to library patrons. Mark Riddle was commended for mentoring incoming SILS students and using his outgoing personality and storytelling skills to strengthen SILS ties to area libraries and highlight its impact on North Carolina communities.

Emily Jack and Tim Shearer

Jack then introduced the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Tim Shearer. After graduating from SILS in 1997, Shearer began a notable career path in the UNC Libraries that progressed from cataloging, to programming, to leading a team of programmers, to being appointed Director of Library and Information Technology in May 2015.

“Tim is a true leader, with a knack for inspiring his colleagues to do their best work, and we are proud to recognize him today,” Jack said.

Recognition of Degree Recipients

Undergraduate Student Services Coordinator Tiffany Harris announced the names of the BSIS graduates, and Graduate Student Services Coordinator Lara Bailey announced the MSIS and MSLS degree recipients. As their names were called, graduates ascended the stage, shook hands with Dean Marchionini, and then proceeded to shake hands and exchange greetings with a line of SILS faculty members.

Bailey also announced the five doctoral graduates, Amanda Click, Ashlee Edwards, Angela Murillo, Ericka Patillo, and Casey Rawson, who were hooded with the help of Dean Marchionini and their faculty advisors.

The ceremony came to a close with Dean Marchionini instructing graduates to turn their tassels. A reception was held in the lobby immediately following the ceremony. Click here for a pdf of the commencement program.

Visit the SILS Flickr album for more photos.

All ceremony photos by Christopher J. Moses, Dragon Photography

SILS Spring Commencement 2016 from UNC SILS on Vimeo.