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Incoming SIS Students Catch the Volunteer Spirit

Fall 2018 Orientation New ClassIt’s all about helping people. This message of service was a running theme throughout the Fall 2018 School of Information Sciences orientation Aug. 16. Incoming master’s program students heard the message from SIS faculty and panelists who spoke about how their professions aid others. Whether it be preserving historical data, making websites easier for users to navigate, or creating programming for children at a school library, helping people was the underlying theme.

“One of the reasons that I chose [UTK] was their dedication to volunteerism. At today’s SIS orientation, they said that there are opportunities for distance education as well, which I’m excited about,” stated incoming student, Valerie Craft, on her Instagram on the day of orientation. “Helping others find and use information to achieve their goals is one of the reasons that I want to pursue a career in Information Science. Libraries do so much in their communities; I want to be a part of that.”

A large percentage of the 95 incoming SIS students are distance education, so orientation is often a singular opportunity to meet in-person with each other and faculty. The day is designed to give students a playbook about what to expect from the program, and an opportunity for facetime with their faculty advisors and other students studying in similar focus areas.

“I absolutely loved every aspect of orientation. Being there today felt like I was a part of a family who truly cares about each and every student’s wellbeing,” stated student Mary Parker in an email.

While the orientation may be intense in its content, the crowd of students emanated a spirit of possibility and excitement. The panelists were especially illuminating in sharing real-life applications of their degrees, as well as the journeys they took to get where they are now.

Kris Bronstad, Mary Beth West, Natalie HansenThe first panel featured three people who work in IS positions outside of libraries; these three highlighted how translatable their skills are in a variety of settings. They were:

  • Kris Bronstad is a Modern Political Archivist at the Betsey C. Creekmore Special Collections of the University of Tennessee Libraries. She has a master’s in Information Science with a specialization in Archival Records from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and also worked at the Wisconsin Historical Society and the LBJ Presidential Library.
  • Mary Beth West graduated from the UTK School of Information Sciences in 2011. She is the Applications Team Lead for Information International Associates (IIA) at the DOE Office of Science and Technical Information (OSTI). Before working for IIA, Mary Beth was the Director of User Experience and Quality Assurance for The Tombras Group, a full-service advertising agency headquartered in Knoxville.
  • Natalie Hansen is the Manager of Digital Assets and Digital Archivist at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. She graduated from the UTK School of Information Sciences in 2013.

Sarah Culp Searles

On the second panel were four people who work in more traditional library roles – though each took very different paths to get to where they are today in their field. They are:

      • Chris Durman, Coordinator of the George F. DeVine Music Library at the University of Tennessee. He is an almost-native East Tennessean and a graduate of UT SIS. His career in UT Libraries began as a student library assistant, and progressed until he reached his current faculty appointment.
      • Ingrid Ruffin is a U.S. Air Force veteran with bachelor and master’s degrees in English, and a master’s in Library and Information Studies from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She started at the University of Tennessee Knoxville as Diversity Resident Librarian 2012-2014 and is currently the (Interim) Department Head of Learning Commons at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
      • K.C. Williams has her bachelor’s in library science and master’s in library and information science from the University of Southern Mississippi. She relocated to Tennessee in 2003 to assume directorship of the Sevier County Pubic Library. In 2011, she accepted the position of Public Library Services Director for the Cayman Islands Government on a two-year expat contract. K.C. returned to Knoxville in 2013 and became the director of the Blount County Public Library in January 2014. Additionally, she is a lecturer at SIS.
      • Sarah Culp Searles is the District Specialist in Library Media Services for Knox County Schools in Knoxville, Tenn. She earned her master's degree in Information Sciences and graduate certificate in Educational Administration from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Prior to working at the district level, she was librarian at Knoxville's West High School.