What was your educational and professional background before coming to SILS?
I had majored in English at UT-Austin and had looked at going into secondary education before deciding work in libraries might be more rewarding and interesting professionally based on my career goals and love of literature and books (I've always had the long-term goal of becoming a poetry professor). I had worked as a student page at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at UT-Austin as well as the UT-Austin Law School Library prior to starting at SILS.
How has your career progressed since you graduated SILS?
My MSLS from SILS helped me climb the ladder as a higher education professional focusing on student services and direct student interaction (having a master's degree really helps in a applicant pool that is deep and talented). I was able to get my first full-time job as Program Coordinator at UT-Austin working on some grants aimed at improving the college readiness of Texas high school students, as well as helping secondary school teachers use data more effectively in their classrooms. The research skills I learned at SILS really came in handy in that role. My long-term goal has always been to teach poetry at the college level, and after working at UT-Austin I ended up being a Writers in the Public Schools Fellow at NYU while studying to get my MFA in Poetry in New York City. That was a fantastic experience that I was able to link to my past work experience by staying in higher education afterward and getting into academic advising.
While still doing my MFA, I worked as a Preprofessional Academic Advisor for prelaw and prehealth undergraduate students at NYU, and then joined the College of Arts and Science as a full-time Academic Advisor and Assistant Director of the University Learning Center. After a year in that position, I relocated to Philadelphia with my girlfriend, who is a full-time Wharton MBA student at the University of Pennsylvania. When we moved I started a role here (my current one) as Admissions Counselor for the Executive MBA Program. I still get to stay engaged as a teacher of poetry as well as a core faculty member for Brooklyn Poets, a NYC-based nonprofit I teach online courses for. I've continued to write and publish poetry throughout my career as well and regularly tour in support of my writing, which focuses on rural Texas. My first full-length collection, Requiem for Used Ignition Cap, came out last year.
In your current employment, what are your job duties and responsibilities?
I interview hundreds of candidates every year and read a large portion of the applications and also help with day-to-day program logistics in the office. I see my role as an "information giver" more than anything else and enjoy connecting prospective students to program resources and helping them navigate the application process.
What projects have gotten you most excited and/or what accomplishments have made you the proudest?
I think the accomplishments I'm most proud of come in the poetry space. I've published one full-length collection and three chapbooks the past few years (my website www.jscottbrownlee.com covers them in more detail).
What were some of your best experiences at SILS??
I really enjoyed Ron Bergquist's Info Tools class, which was the first class I had while a SILS student. He taught me how to make websites, and it's a skill I use every day. I also really liked working with Wanda Monroe, the Director of Communications while I was a student at SILS. We were close friends throughout my time in the program, and I always enjoyed walking in to work and seeing her big smile and catching up.
How did your time at SILS prepare you for the future?
I think SILS helped make me a Swiss-Army-knife, jack-of-all-trades millenial employee. I didn't get a specific skill that translated into a specific job, but I feel like I could have if I had wanted to work into academic or public libraries right out of school. I never imagined I'd be doing communications work as part of my graduate assistantship while a SILS student, but the Web development work I did has come in handy in every job I've had since. I also feel like the courses I took in reference librarianship and how to connect users to information have a big impact on how I interact with students today and think about my work as a higher education professional.
What inspires or motivates you?
All kinds of things--though I guess poetry most specifically! I came to SILS, in part, because a poet I deeply admire, Dorianne Laux, was teaching at NC State, and I got to work with her and her husband poet Joseph Millar while living in Chapel Hill. They remain close mentors and inspirations to me today.
Is there any other information you would like to share, or any advice you would like to offer current or future SILS students?
I think a SILS degree can be incredibly useful and wouldn't hesitate to get one again. I should have learned how to code and taken more courses in the Information Science track, though, while a student at SILS--that skill-set is so invaluable, and I wish I knew more about that world.