Saturday, September 25, 2010

And now the real work starts...

Today was, sadly enough, the last day of my iSchool orientation. These have easily been four of the most intense days of my entire life, and while I'm really sad to have to leave the happy little library bubble I've been in this whole time and return to the outside world, at the same time I'm pretty relieved that it's over, because that means we can finally get to work. Our sessions this morning were, for me anyway, by far the most intense of the entire orientation, which I definitely wasn't expecting. The rest of our sessions have covered everything from the tech tools we'll be using throughout our program (I'll do a post on them all later...right now I'm just trying to figure out how the hell to actually use them) to managing group work in an online setting, but today, the focus was on our futures.
At the culmination of our program, we will be required to complete what is called a Culminating Experience (CE). Going into orientation, I knew very little about these except that we'd have a few types of projects to choose from, and that if at first we don't succeed, we get to try try again until we do. We've got four different types of projects to choose from, and I'll give a breakdown of each along with my initial (and slightly overwhelmed) thoughts on them:
Option #1: Professional Portfolio
Of our four CE options, building a Professional Portfolio seems to be both the easiest option, but also the most time consuming, and most requiring of significant forethought. In essence, our professional portfolios will be like a resume on crack - a digital record and presentation of everything we've done and accomplished in the field of library science, both within our program and outside as well. These digital exhibitions will help showcase our work, skills, and overall potential to future employers, and as an added plus, they’ll also net us three credits and fulfill the CE requirement. In order to do a decent job with these, we’ll be creating and utilizing a “Digital Repository”, which will serve to hold all kinds of useful artifacts from every stage of our grad school experience in an online storage space that we can access anytime. I’m definitely going to be starting mine up within the next couple days, since class is officially starting up next week.
My immediate reaction to listening to Marie talk about the portfolios was excitement. I’m taking a Website Design elective this quarter, and ideally, even if I don’t wind up choosing this to fulfill my CE requirement, I’d like to design and build a portfolio from scratch. It'd be insanely useful in my future job-hunting to be able to tack on a URL to any resume, cover letter, or business card I'll be handing out (and I'm suuuure there will be resumes aplenty that get sent out into the void before I find something that works best for me), and even though it'll be a lot of work to develop a portfolio in my own time in addition to my official CE choice, I think I'm up for it!
Option #2: Thesis
Ahhh the thesis. A beast I managed to successfully avoid in undergrad, despite being an English Lit major (still not quite sure how that happened). As far as I could tell from the presentation, this wouldn't be all that different from a typical undergrad thesis, save the fact that as a Master's thesis, it'd be of a higher caliber and much more likely to get published. Student-directed research, student-written scholarly paper, and the definite CE priority for anyone looking towards a future PhD.
It's been a goal of mine for a while to eventually pursue a doctorate in whatever field I decided to pursue career-wise, but I was definitely taken aback when Joe Janes (our program chair) flat out warned us away from it if we aren't planning on focusing our career on research and teaching. I'd always considered a doctorate as a way of maxing out in our field, but from what we were told today, I don't think it's something I should pursue, since it'd put me on a drastically different path from where I'd like to head. No thesis for me!
Option #3: Research Project
Collaborating with a faculty member or two on their independent research, something I'd been hoping to be able to do, has apparently been recently declared CE-worthy. Being part of a faculty-directed research team, and potentially being able to aid the prof in publishing, definitely holds some appeal for me, but I’m not sure I’d like this to be the end all and be all of my time in the iSchool. Plus, in order to collaborate on something, I’d have to be really damn sure I’m interested in whatever research was going on, and there's no guarantee right now that any of the profs will be engaging in research that will be interesting enough for me personally to prompt me to want to jump in headfirst. This is definitely an option, but it doesn't top my list. Which brings me to...
Option #4: Capstone Project
Imagine you have an information idea. It could be anything from improving the information gathering/storage/retrieval process of a business to establishing a teen outreach program in your local library. Now imagine proposing it to that business/library/organization and with their help, and that of the iSchool, being able to implement that idea and watch its effect on the organization.
Going into undergrad, I had no illusions that my academic work, unless it was exceptional beyond all belief (it definitely wasn't), would be most relevant to my own personal development, and not necessarily to the community at large. This CE option holds the most initial draw for me because it would allow me to begin to leave my footprint in not just my school community, but in the field I've chosen to pursue, which is something I've never really had the opportunity (or drive) to accomplish before. My goals are big, I'll admit that freely, and they aren't going to be easy by any means to achieve. For all I know, I may be seduced by a different area of library and information science than what I've initially pointed myself towards. But despite all that, I see this Capstone as a real opportunity to make my first mark in the library world, even though I had to mentally slap myself for feeling compelled to brainstorm Capstone ideas four days into orientation. I'm slightly crazy, if you all hadn't figured that out already. :)
After these culminating project options were all outlined to us, we sat through another thirty-minute talk on Directed Fieldwork, and our options for that area of our degrees, but by the time DFW popped up, my mind was already completely engrossed in daydreaming about how I'm going to spend the latter half of my degree pursuit. A definite fault/virtue of mine is that I'm very future-oriented - I tend to focus my energies and excitement more on what's to come than what I've experienced in the past and what's around me at the moment. The thing that alternately excites and terrifies me about listening to our options for Culminating Experiences is this feeling that the iSchool, more than anyone or anything else in my life up to this point, is going to equip me with the skills and resources to take over the world. This is the real deal, people. It isn't something to just float through, like undergrad (yeah, don't kid yourselves...we all skated through and managed to pop out with a degree that in most cases just isn't useful or applicable to what we're doing right now). Being made to realize all of this is why today, of all four amazing days of orientation, was by far the most intense and overwhelming, yet at the same time, the most inspiring and validating.
Hokay. I am exhausted. It felt really good to get all this out of my head, but it's definitely time to go do something brainless for a while (Netflix ho!).


  1. Thank goodness you wrote about this...things kind of slipped out of my head until all that was left were the titles which sounded purely ominous.