SILS celebrates graduates, teaching excellence, and distinguished alumna at commencement

May 16, 2018

The UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) hosted its annual spring commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 13, to celebrate its 2018 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 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award to Mary Jane Petrowski (MSLS ’78).

Click here for a pdf of the commencement program

Ryan Theurer (BSIS ’18)

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Student speaker Ryan Theurer (BSIS ’18) welcomed guests and graduates to the Great Hall of the Frank Porter Graham Student Union just after 1 p.m.

“I don’t know about all of you, but I’m very tired,” Theurer joked. “What with finals and final projects, I’m pretty sure the rest of you are as well. But that’s good, that tired feeling. It means that we’ve worked tirelessly to be our best and achieve excellence in everything we did. It means that we took advantage of every opportunity that was offered so that we could mold the futures that we dreamed of since we started here.”

Theurer praised SILS students and faculty for their “curiosity, teamwork, leadership, and fearless forward thinking,” and their ability to maintain a close-knit community in the midst of a large university. He expressed optimism for the futures awaiting him and his fellow graduates, and reminded them of the important roles they are going to play.

“We here at SILS hold the distinct duty and honor of being stewards of information in a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on the quality and security of its information,” he said. “And more than anything I believe this; we will be successful out there, because we were successful here.”

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 reminded graduates to be confident in their knowledge and skills, but to continue to grow and take advantage of every opportunity possible.

“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. “Alumni who have gone before you have demonstrated that with a SILS education and their own unique and varied interests, great things can happen.”

SILSAA President Doug Diesenhaus, 2018 SILS Distinguished Alumni
Award recipient Mary Jane Petrowski, commencement speaker
Jaime Teevan, and SILS Dean Gary Marchionini.

One of the alumni who has shown how far a SILS degree can take you is Mary Jane Petrowski (MSLS ’78), who received the 2018 SILS Distinguished Alumni Award during commencement. Petrowski is the Associate Director of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the largest division of the American Library Association. An active SILS alumna, she is currently a member of the SILS Campaign Committee, helping to lead the School’s efforts as part of the University’s historic Campaign for Carolina.

“I’m really confident that the class of 2018 is going to represent SILS well,” Petrowski told the graduates.  “I’ve met so many of you over the past couple of years, and I’m just floored and astounded with the talent in this class.”

Microproductivity and the Science of Transitions

Jaime Teevan, Technical Advisor to the CEO of Microsoft, delivered the spring commencement address, sharing details of her own personal and professional journey, and advising students on ways to avoid distractions and detours, both in their workday and in their lives.  

“You’re going to encounter a bunch of distracting opportunities and challenges, along whatever path you follow, and one solution is to protect yourself from too much randomizing noise,” she said.

Teevan suggested trying to limit interruptions to times when you’re transitioning from one task to another, and when that isn’t possible, to set reminders for yourself so you can pick up where you left off. 

“That works on both a micro and macro level,” she said, before sharing her “homework” assignment with the graduates. “Sit down today, and write down your goals. That way you can revisit them in the future when you’re done exploring as a way to reorient yourself.”

Teaching Excellence and the Good of the Order

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 announced that Assistant Professor Mary Grace Flaherty was the 2018 recipient of the full-time faculty award. Haas said Flaherty had earned many students admiration and gratitude by always being willing to help when they didn’t understand something. One student said Flaherty provides “constructive feedback, but in a way that makes you feel optimistic” about the work. Another commented “She has set a standard. I now compare all of my courses and instructors with her performance.”

Leslie Thomson and Casey Rawson after Rawson
announced Thomson was the Teaching Excellence
Award Winner (adjunct) for 2018.

Flaherty could not attend the ceremony because she was in Luwinga, Malawi, along with SILS Associate Professor Cliff Missen, completing work on a project to establish an information resource center at a kitchen that serves food to children orphaned by AIDS.

Casey Rawson (MSLS ’11, PhD ’16), winner of the 2017 teaching excellence award for an adjunct faculty member, presented the 2018 honor to SILS doctoral candidate Leslie Thomson. One nominator described Thomson as “the embodiment of what it means to be able to teach people about information science.”

“Her students have consistently described her as enthusiastic, caring, and knowledgeable,” Rawson said. “And they also like the fact that she sometimes brings cookies to class.”

Following the teaching awards presentation, Dean Marchionini announced that Professor Cal Lee was the recipient of the Good of the Order Award. The honor, which gets its named from a term coined by former SILS Dean Ed Holley, is given occasionally when a SILS employee has gone above and beyond their normal duties.

“After chairing our complex faculty search a year ago, Cal stepped up this year to chair our search for two teaching faculty–in addition to continuing his regular SILS committee work,” Marchionini  said. “Cal has represented SILS in the UNC Faculty Council for several years and is always ready to lend a hand to support school operations even given his extensive research and travel responsibilities.  I congratulate him on exemplifying the spirit of giving that Dean Holley inspired many years ago.”

Student Awards and Recognition

Dean Marchionini and Julia Gootzeit

SILS Associate Professor Melanie Feinberg announced the two recipients of the 2018 Dean’s Achievement Award for the highest quality masters’ papers submitted during the prior academic year. Julia Holubec Gootzeit won for her paper, “The Zine Scheme”: A Comparison of Five Institutions’ Methods of Zine Description and an Assessment of the xZINECOREx Metadata Schema for the Creation of a Zine Union Catalog," advised by Feinberg. Jesse Broders Moore won for his paper, “Product, Process and Photographs: Archival Workflows and More Product Less Process (MPLP) in Large Film Photography Collections,” advised by Cal Lee.

“The awards committee recognized both of these projects for their focus on concrete practical problems that equally informed upon larger theoretical issues, making them projects compelling and significant beyond their immediate contexts,” Feinberg said. “In looking at the intersection between archival products and MPLP, Moore’s project holds interest for anyone interested in archival work processes, not just with photographic collections. Similarly, in examining Zinecore as a means of facilitating interoperability, Gootzeit’s project has significance for anyone interested in data aggregation, and not merely the description of zines.” 

Dean Marchionini and Jesse Moore

SILS Professor Paul Jones recognized 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. Six students earned the distinction this year: Brittany Burchett, Ellen Cline, Jennifer Kim Embree, Melissa Ferens, Jeremy Sutton Frye, and Matthew Weirick Johnson.

Doug Diesenhaus (MSLS '12), SILS Alumni Association President, presented the Outstanding Service to the School Award to Amelea Kim.

“The potential of this year’s winner was recognized early on with an American Library Association Spectrum Scholarship and a Carolina Academic Library Assistantship,” Diesenhaus said. “I am happy to say she fulfilled all of that early promise and then some.”

Amelea Kim accepts the Outstanding Service
to the School Award from Doug Diesenhaus.

Kim played an important role on the SILS master’s committee, led the Information & Library Science Student Association as its president, and represented SILS at national conferences, as well as at alumni and development events.

With the awards and honors concluded, 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 2018 doctoral graduate, Samantha Kaplan, whose dissertation is titled “The Everyday Life and Information Practices of a Natural Immunity Advocate.”

Marchionini then instructed graduates to turn their tassels, and after a warm round of applause, invited everyone to join a reception in the lobby.

SILS graduates on the steps of Manning Hall
SILS graduates pose on the steps of Manning Hall before commencement.