5 Questions with 5 Class of 2017 Grads

Release date: 

May 15, 2017

Trent McLees and Sandra Hughes-Hassell
Dr. Sandra Hughes-Hassell & Trent McLees after
the SILS Commencement on May 14.

Trent McLees (MSLS ’17)

Master’s Paper Title: “Examining the Cultural Accuracy of Masculine Performances by Diverse Comic Book Superheros”

1. What was your favorite course, favorite faculty member, OR best experience at SILS and why?
My favorite courses at SILS were Sandra Hughes-Hassell’s Library Services for Diverse Populations course and Brian Sturm’s Storytelling course. Since it is the role of libraries and librarians to facilitate access to and use of all varieties of information, it is vital that librarians understand, respect, and work to meet the needs of all individuals, especially those who are members of marginalized and underrepresented populations. This involves being aware of the barriers, physical and otherwise, that stand between users and their use of library services, and applying that awareness to constant improvement of library service in an effort to create equitable access for everyone. The diversity course led by Dr. Hughes-Hassell is incredibly effective at preparing students to think critically about the ways these barriers come into being for diverse populations, and encourages students to both explore current best practices for library services and to develop their own philosophies and strategies for continuing to generate new ideas to improve libraries moving forward.

Storytelling was such an incredible opportunity to explore the various ways stories impact culture, as well as our individual self-perceptions. Through discussion and performance of folktales and personal narratives, I got an opportunity to explore what makes stories work and what it was about me and my perceptions and identity that made certain stories resonate and how that impacted my personalized retellings of them. It was wonderful to see how the stories impacted me and my telling impacted them in turn–exploring this almost symbiotic relationship between teller and story was remarkably gratifying, as the stories I breathed life into during performance in turn breathed life into me.

2. Outside of the classroom, what had the biggest influence on you while you were completing your degree?
I think the biggest influence on me outside of the classroom was the support and mentorship I received from some of the professors in the program. I was given exceptional opportunities to do more work, to explore professional communities, and to be engaged in stimulating discussion. The energy the faculty at SILS put into making sure learning and support didn't end each time I left their classroom was an asset that is hard to measure.

3. What was the most interesting thing you learned through your research (master’s paper or for a course)?
One of the most interesting things I found in my research is exactly how much teens are engaging with reading news media and taking digital political action. Librarians can play a huge role in helping teens develop the skills they need to effectively evaluate and interpret these sources, and to make their voices heard when they do take those actions. The research I found showing that this is something teens are already heavily involved in tells us that it is something they are interested in and is an information need of theirs. It's up to us to follow through on that knowledge and be librarians who are responsive to that need.

4.  What are your future plans (both immediate and long term)?
I am going to be a middle school media specialist, and plan to remain in the field of education as a teacher and librarian!

5. What advice would you give to someone starting at SILS this fall?
Don't be afraid to think big, to challenge your assumptions about libraries, and to reach out to the people around you.

Alena Principato (MSLS ’17)

Alena Principato crosses the stage
Alena Principato shakes hands with
SILS Dean Gary Marchionini.

Master’s Paper Title: “Perspectives on Presentation and Perception of UNC Libraries on Admissions Campus Tours”

1. What was your favorite course, favorite faculty member, OR best experience at SILS and why?
During my first semester at SILS I took a course called Cultural Institutions (INLS 554) which consisted of class field trips to libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions across North Carolina. Our excursions included seeing the archive inside the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, talking to a curator of horticulture at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, and getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the State Capitol building and North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Coming from out of state, this course served as an excellent introduction to North Carolina and to the many interesting career possibilities in the library and information science field. The class was also a great opportunity to bond with my classmates and form friendships that have lasted throughout SILS.

2. Outside of the classroom, what had the biggest influence on you while you were completing your degree?
I have loved being a part of the SILS community and forming relationships with SILS students, staff, and faculty through my classes, attending SILS social events and alumni mixers, serving on the leadership team of several student organizations, and working at the SILS Library. I am so grateful for the many friends, colleagues, and mentors I have found here.

3. What was the most interesting thing you learned through your research?
My master’s paper research involved observing admissions tours on campus to investigate the presentation and perception of the libraries by student tour guides. My paper served a practical purpose in establishing communication between the libraries and admissions department to provide revised talking points for the tours that emphasize what the library offers to prospective students, and helps them envision how the libraries are an integral part of academic life at UNC.

4. What are your future plans (both immediate and long term)?
In June, I will begin working as the Member Relations Manager at the Connecticut Library Consortium which is based in Middletown, Ct. The consortium has over 800 member institutions in different settings, including school, public, academic, and special libraries. I am excited for the opportunity to build relationships with these members and to work with the CLC team to impact library services on a statewide level.

5. What advice would you give to someone starting at SILS this fall?
As a residential program, one of the biggest benefits of attending SILS is the people--the faculty, staff, students, friends, alumni, and UNC librarians who are here to support you. Get to know the SILS community by attending professional development and social events. My second piece of advice is to take a field experience class. Getting practical experience working in the field helps you learn about the kind of work you want to do in a supportive environment with a dedicated mentor.

David Tenenholtz (MSIS ’17)

David Tenenholtz at the podium.
David Tenenholtz welcomes guests and
graduates to the SILS Commencement.

Master’s Paper Title: “A Complex Web: Upgrading Linked Data in Digital Repositories”    

1. What was your favorite course, favorite faculty member, OR best experience at SILS and why?
My favorite course was Understanding IT for Managing Digital Collections because it provided an opportunity to learn about a broad range of topics in digital collections and repositories, but also because it was so useful to me as I began looking for jobs in those settings. 

2. Outside of the classroom, what had the biggest influence on you while you were completing your degree?
I was able to attend two professional conferences, The Digital Library Federation Forum and Code4Lib, during my second year at SILS, and both of these experiences gave me a much better view of the opportunities that I could seek out in my career. It was also a wonderful chance to meet and get to know people!

3. What was the most interesting thing you learned through your research?
The risks associated with digital materials (like certain file formats and software becoming obsolete over time), and how digital preservation professionals work to ensure the long-term accessibility of digital objects was probably the most interesting problem for me to learn about. I enjoyed learning about the various strategies (like emulation of out-of-date computing environments) to be able to work with born-digital materials in ways that ensure that they have long lives.

4. What are your future plans (both immediate and long term)?
I have my sights set on professional librarian positions working with digital collections, and I hope to someday be involved at a leadership level as a digital librarian.

5. What advice would you give to someone starting at SILS this fall?
Make sure to ask questions of your fellow students, administrative staff, and faculty all together. We are all here as an inclusive community to provide support and guidance! It's through asking my classmates what they do in their student jobs, or what their classes are like, that I have formed my own path in SILS.

Earl Bailey (PhD ’17)

Early Bailey
Earl Bailey receives his hood at commencement.

Dissertation Title: “Measuring Online Search Expertise”

1. What was your best experience at SILS and why?
This is a very difficult question to answer, because I have had many great experiences at SILS. What I remember is my first meeting with Dr. Evelyn Daniel, who helped me take the risk of trying a new discipline. She is amazing! I loved many of my classes and the discussions we had in them. I also really enjoyed teaching for SILS and all the wonderful support Barbara gave me. But I will choose how supportive everyone at SILS was when I had to withdraw for health reasons and how much everyone just wanted to help me get back to the program when I was ready.

2. Outside of the classroom, what had the biggest influence on you while you were completing your degree?
I was not able to participate in many of the on campus activities, so much of my experience has to do with taking or teaching classes. I liked getting my masters at SILS but I also remember a feeling once I started the PhD program of being more part of SILS. It is hard to explain, but I always felt that the SILS faculty was interested in hearing about my progress.

3. What was the most interesting thing you learned through your research?
I learned that I could do something significant and practical, as well as personally interesting.

4.  What are your future plans?
We have to remain in this area, at least for now, so that will limit my opportunities. But I do want to continue teaching.

5. What advice would you give to someone starting the PhD program this fall?
Make it what you want. That is what the program is all about!

Kathy Brennan

Kathy Brennan hooding
Kathy Brenna receives her hood at commencement.

Dissertation Title: “Loan Me the Money: How Cognitive Abilities and Financial Knowledge Influence Consumers’ Online Searching Behaviors”

What was your best experience at SILS and why?
I have had so many best experiences, I couldn’t possibly name one single experience as the “best” one.  I honestly don’t know where to start.

Outside of the classroom, what had the biggest influence on you while you were completing your degree? 
In relation to SILS, my advisor, Dr. Diane Kelly and my friend and mentor, Dr. Evelyn Daniel.  Of course, meeting my wife and marrying her ranks above all of that.

What was the most interesting thing you learned through your research?
Since I haven’t reported out my findings yet (I am not defending until this summer), I will have to hold off on answering this question for now. If you’d like to find out the answer, please attend my dissertation defense! 

What are your future plans (both immediate and long term)?  
Continuing my research either through an industry research job or through an academic position, or some combination of both!

What advice would you give to someone starting the PhD program this fall? 
Regarding research, if you are interested in conducting research, look to do independent studies with your advisor as often as possible.
Regarding the process of becoming a real scholar, be prepared to check your ego and expectations at the front door when you get here and to work harder than you ever have. I learned the most when I gave myself the time and space to really grapple with difficult material and stretch my thinking in all kinds of new ways. Don’t be afraid to be wrong or make mistakes, that’s what you are here for and that’s why you are called a “student.” Try to meet as many of the researchers whose papers you read!  Go to conferences and meetings and seek those people out so you can meet them and get to know them a little.
In general, I was also given the good advice to steer clear of all negativity in your path, whether it comes from friends, peers, or others.  Seek to stay positive and enthusiastic from the very first minute of this program until the very last.  And remember, ABD is NOT a degree – seek to finish what you started, even if it takes you longer than you’ve expected.

Check out the other great SILS 2017 grad stories:

Equity and inclusion efforts earn Stephen Krueger (MSLS ’17) University Diversity Award

Work experiences have given Becca Greenstein (MSLS ’17) ‘special’ insights into future library career

Mother graduates from UNC with her son for Mother's Day
ABC11 News featured this story about Luthfi Bustillos (BSIS ‘17) and his mother Luzita Francis, who both graduated from UNC on May 14, Mother’s Day.