The UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) hosted its annual spring commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 14, to celebrate its 2017 Bachelor of Science in Information Science (BSIS), Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS), Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS), and Doctor of Philosophy in Information and Library Science (PhD) graduates.
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 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award to Donna Shannon (PhD ’94).
Student speaker David Tenenholtz (MSIS ’17) welcomed guests and graduates to the Great Hall of the Frank Porter Graham Student Union just after 1 p.m. Sunday. Tenenholtz thanked SILS faculty and staff members, as well as family and friends, for the vital role they played in the success of all the students preparing to cross the stage. He then addressed his fellow graduates.
“It is with immense pride that I get to call you all my colleagues, and I look forward to seeing the contributions you all will make to bettering our world,” Tenenholtz said. “Ahead of us lies the always-uncertain future, but we take our growth, our accomplishments, and our knowledge from SILS as our guide to weather this uncertainty. As we now embark on the next chapter in our lives, we are more than ready to take on the challenges, seek out the opportunities, and build the next innovations.”
SILS Dean Gary Marchionini offered his opening remarks, including best wishes to the mothers in the audience in recognition of commencement coinciding with Mother’s Day. He conveyed the confidence and optimism he and the other SILS faculty members have for the graduating class, and reminded them to take advantage of every opportunity.
“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 and positively impact humanity,” he said. “Keep learning, keep experimenting; don’t be afraid to try new things.”
Marchionini then introduced Barbara Moran, the inaugural Louis Round Wilson Distinguished Professor at SILS, to deliver the spring commencement address.
Moran joined the SILS faculty in 1981 and served as dean of the School from 1990 to 1998, during which time she enhanced technical resources, added an undergraduate minor program, and increased graduate enrollment by 32 percent. She expanded the international involvement of SILS and began the very successful London and Prague summer seminars, a legacy that SILS is working to continue and expand through the Barbara B. Moran Fund for Global Programs. After her deanship concluded, Moran again became an active member of the SILS faculty. She will retire from the University, effective July 1.
Moran opened her commencement address, titled “You’re Off to Great Places! You’re Off and Away,” by reflecting on how much had changed since she arrived at SILS, when the School relied primarily on typewriters, print books, carbon paper, blackboards, and chalk. She recalled the excitement when the School purchased its first two “personal computers,” Apple II Plus models that boasted 128K of memory.
“Although much has changed, the core values of service, excellence, leadership, and community that existed in the School when I arrived are still present,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have had a rewarding career here at UNC and to have worked with the students, staff, alumni, faculty, and university administrators who have made SILS the great place it is today. I must admit, once I arrived in Chapel Hill, I never wanted to go anywhere else. It’s going to be hard for me to leave such a special place, and I know it will be difficult for a lot of you graduates, too.”
Searching for words of wisdom, Moran told the audience she had reached back to the early part of her career, when she worked as a children’s librarian, and found inspiration from Dr. Seuss. She shared several rhymes from the famous children’s author and expounded on how they applied to the next phase of the graduates’ lives.
“You are poised at the start of a new professional life,” she said. “Take charge, go out and make a difference. I am confident that you have ‘brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own and you know what you know, and you are the ones who will decide where to go.’ ”
Honoring Student Research
SILS Associate Professor Brian Sturm recognized Rebecca Tatum (MSLS ’17) for receiving the Elfreda Chatman Research Award for the creative and scholarly vision demonstrated in her master’s research proposal, “Finding the Special in Special Libraries: An Analysis of Their Inspiration, Education, Career History, and Job Satisfaction.”
SILS Professor Cal Lee announced the two recipients of the 2017 Dean’s Achievement Award for the highest quality masters’ papers submitted during the prior academic year. Natalie Ornat (MSLS ’17) won for her paper, titled “Reading for Your Life: The Impact of Reading and Writing During the Siege of Sarajevo,” which faculty on the awards committee described as “a thoughtful and meaningful story, with a flowing manner that lets the voices come out. It tells the story of the bonds of humanity, even in the worst of humanity's behavior.”
The second recipient, Erin Dickey, is an MSIS student completing a dual degree in art history and will graduate from UNC in 2018. Her paper, titled “Her Own Version of History: A Case Study of the Guerrilla Girls Oral Histories at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution,” was praised for taking a “different academic path, through areas not usually noticed, and one that resulted in an insightful awareness of practices.”
SILS Diversity Advocates
SILS Professor Paul Jones recognized three students for earning the SILS Diversity Advocate Certificate, which offers formal recognition to SILS students who are active participants in making the School and the field of information and library science more diversity-friendly.
This year, the certificate requirements were revised and became more demanding, asking students to not only increase their own cultural competence, but to also organize an event that would help others do the same. Stephanie Ryan, an information systems minor, Stephen Krueger (MSLS ’17), and Rebecca Greenstein (MSLS ’17) completed all the necessary steps to receive the certificate.
Teaching Excellence Awards
In addition to recognizing the achievements of it graduates, SILS takes time at its annual spring commencement to celebrate a long-standing tradition of excellence in teaching by presenting the Deborah Barreau Award for Teaching Excellence to one full-time faculty member and one adjunct faculty member.
SILS Professor Stephanie Haas received the full-time faculty award, marking the fourth time she had received the honor at SILS, more than any other faculty member in the School’s history.
SILS Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ron Bergquist, himself a two-time teaching excellence award recipient, introduced Haas by quoting from some of the students who had taken her courses. One student wrote, “Every day is a treat. She is the most enthusiastic teacher I have had in four years at Carolina and clearly loved both the subject and teaching.” Another student said Haas “exemplifies what a professor should be. I felt I was being educated by a true expert who had a devoted passion to the field.”
Casey Rawson (MSLS ’11, PhD ’16), Postdoctoral Research Associate at SILS, won the 2017 teaching excellence award for an adjunct faculty member. Emily Vardell (PhD ’17) shared comments from some of Rawson’s nominations. One student wrote, “I have been a student for 20 years, and never have I been simply blown away by an educator before. This person is caring, articulate, creative, attentive, passionate, and extremely knowledgeable. She instills in her students a sense of excitement for research methods (something I did not know was possible), and I cannot think of anyone who deserves this award more.”
Outstanding Service and Distinguished Alumni Awards
Emily Jack (MSLS '07), SILS Alumni Association President, welcomed graduates to the SILSAA ranks and explained how the organization supports students, alumni, and the School
She then presented Meggie Lasher (MSLS ’17) with the 2017 Outstanding Service to the School Award.
“Though there were many worthy nominees this year, the decision on who should receive this award was absolutely unanimous,” Jack said. “This student showed incredible determination and selflessness in the face of what could have been a demoralizing setback. When the Community Workshop Series abruptly lost its funding, this student lost her salary as the program coordinator, not to mention the resources to administer the program. She could easily have stepped away, devoted her time and energy to other projects. But she persevered. She made sure the program continued to provide much-needed basic computer literacy skills classes to community members in the Triangle, and that her fellow SILS students had the opportunity to develop their teaching skills through this rewarding volunteer opportunity.”
Jack then recognized the achievements of 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Donna Shannon (PhD ’94). Shannon was a member of the University of South Carolina School of Information and Library Science faculty for 18 years prior to her retirement in 2015. Her outstanding contributions to South Carolina school librarianship and the South Carolina Association of School Librarians earned her the 2015 Distinguished Service Award at the SCASL annual conference. In addition to her educational contributions, she published various works, aided in the development of several South Carolina Department of Education documents for school librarians, served in numerous library organizations, and completed research on education and library reform. Shannon was unable to attend the ceremony.
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, Earl Wayne Bailey, Kathy Brennan, Rachael Clemens, Sheryl Grant, and Emily Vardell, who were hooded with the help of Dean Marchionini and their faculty advisors.
Before the ceremony came to a close, Dean Marchionini saluted SILS Director of Information Technology Aaron Brubaker (MSIS ’06), who had recently been presented the 2017 Good of the Order Award for his seemingly tireless efforts to meet the technology needs of SILS students, faculty, and staff.
Marchionini then instructed graduates to turn their tassels, and after a warm round of applause, invited everyone to join a reception in the lobby.
Visit the SILS Flickr album for more photos.
Click below to watch a video with highlights from the ceremony.