Hack Your Program: University of Washington – Information School
30/05/2011 § 12 Comments
You may remember my post asking for help to Save the UW iSchool. Well, the all clear has sounded and the iSchool is safe for another year. Here’s my hack into the program itself rather than the politics that put it into jeopardy. As always, these are my views and opinions and I’d love to hear other UW students and alum’s experiences as UW iSchoolers.
The University of Washington iSchool is located on a beautiful campus in Seattle. It is housed on the third and fourth floors of Mary Gates Hall which is conveniently located near Suzzallo Library. The iSchool currently offers several degrees:
- Undergrad program – Informatics
- MLIS – Master of Library & Information Science (residential and online)
- MSIM – Master of Science in Information Management
- PhD in Information Science
There’s also a one-year Law MLIS program which accepts maybe 8 students every year. To be completely honest and open, I am going to focus on the MLIS residential degree because that was my niche in the iSchool. I wish I had more knowledge of the other programs, but I don’t (see Criticisms below).
The UW iSchool is on the quarter system, so we start in October and finish in the middle of June. A small number of classes are offered in the summers. Nine core requirement courses exist for the program – they are “organized around the lifecycle of information” (direct quote from the website and several instructors). Along with these core courses come some absolutely fantastic (according to me) electives like Marketing and Planning for Libraries and Advocacy in the Public Library and Adult Reader Services with Nancy Pearl or David Wright and Intellectual Freedom in Libraries. Ok. I’ll stop there, but here’s the link for all the other electives offered. They’re really wonderful!
These electives (and required courses) are offered online and residentially; however, it seems that more and more classes are being offered online more often than residentially and it is somewhat disappointing to have moved across the country and sit at my computer to listen/watch/interact with classmates who live nearby. My personal preference is to sit in a classroom and have a great discussion – I haven’t been able to do that online yet.
Along with the electives, there are opportunities to do independent studies as well as Directed Fieldwork – DFW - (essentially, and internship or practicum). Personally, I think the DFW should be a requirement and I would even go so far as to say that an MLIS student should be required to complete a DFW in a library setting as well as a non-library (yet still IS) setting.
Simultaneous (dual-degree?) programs exist at the iSchool, however, they are not “common”. A couple of people enter the iSchool and the Evans School of Public Affairs. Others work toward their MLIS and Museology degrees.
Last but not least, there is a Culminating Experience. This could take many forms including a thesis, capstone project (with a group or solo), professional portfolio, or research project. The capstone project is the newest option and the option I would have loved to choose had I not been graduating early. It requires you to not only design and plan project but also put it into motion, evaluate it and then present about it. In any event, I did the professional portfolio and this is mine.
Along with the typical loans offered by FAFSA, the UW iSchool and UW itself have several Fellowships, Graduate Assistantships and Work Study positions available. These range in areas from sitting at the front desk to being a research assistant for a professor to teaching classes to undergrads at the library to maintaining the course web sites. Email are sent out to announce open positions and they’re a wonderful financial support and resume booster.
The people. My colleagues at the iSchool are absolutely amazing. When I shared the photo of the iSchool above, I really wanted to put this picture — this is the iSchool, folks. Where the classes, lectures, readings, etc., fall short, the discussions, informal study groups, Facebook posts, somewhat nerdy happy hours and coffee breaks make up for it. The passion I see in iSchoolers is second to none. They really are the best.
Close proximity to strong, well-supported (by the community) academic, special, corporate libraries and public libraries is an absolute boost to this program. With the UW Libraries employing many iSchoolers part-time, we have the opportunity to work with some of the best academic librarians around. And along with the academic library experience, many of us also find time to volunteer at special libraries (Seattle Art Museum) or the public libraries (such as Seattle Public Library or King County Library System).
And, for those who pursue their MLIS and decide working in a library might not be their best option, the school is in close proximity to IS institutions in Seattle. When I say “close” I mean – they’ve got the “connections” to get you in there for DFW opportunities and eventually jobs.
Because the University of Washington iSchool is an iSchool, it’s main focus is information. This has its strengths and weaknesses. I appreciated it because I had the opportunity to have conversations broader than Libraries, but when it was time to focus on something like (let’s say Library management), my instructor had never worked in a library! This is not the case all the time, but it does happen (and I know it happens in other schools).
I’m a huge advocate for big tent librarianship and big tent library school, and I want to be an advocate for iSchools, but there’s a disconnect between the programs in the UW iSchool. MSIM students don’t share classes with MLIS students and Informatics students do something else completely. If our passions all lie within the lifecycle of information and its role in other people’s lives (whether we deal with that directly or indirectly doesn’t necessarily matter), shouldn’t we have some sort of unity? I’ve seen reason to hope the UW iSchool is moving in that direction, but I want to see more.
And with that, I leave it up to my colleagues (all of you) – what questions do you have? And hopefully my colleagues at the iSchool will give their perspective!