The San José State University School of Information’s Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) fully online degree program was founded a decade ago to prepare students for careers in archives, electronic records and information governance.
What began as a cohort has grown into a focused program that is the first of its kind in the United States. iSchool instructor Lori Lindberg helped found the master’s degree program in 2008 with former iSchool director Dr. Ken Haycock, who she said was heavily influenced by his previous position as director of the Archival and Information Studies program at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
“Dr. Haycock saw the strengths of [the UBC program] and recognized we really needed something like that in America. Dr. Haycock has always been a good visionary. He sees the big picture,” Lindberg expounded.
Haycock appointed Dr. Patricia C. Franks the MARA program coordinator in 2008, in time to welcome the members of the first cohort. Franks, with her background in business organization and management, promoted a new vision for the MARA degree that resulted in numerous changes over the years.
“We would not be where we are today if it weren’t for Dr. Franks. My background is archival in nature, and hers is digital. Good strengths work together,” Lindberg said.
The catalyst for the growth of the MARA program over the last decade was the change from a cohort model to a more flexible model that allows students more freedom to tailor their studies.
According to Franks, significant changes made to MARA since its inception in 2008 include:
- Allowing students to enter the program during either the fall or spring terms.
- Restructuring several required MARA courses to allow for three three-credit elective courses from the iSchool’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program or the MARA program.
- Introducing two new courses in response to the rise of a third knowledge domain: information governance. The three-credit courses are Developing an Information Governance Strategy and Information Assurance.
- Introducing a course, Enterprise Content Management and Digital Preservation, to provide students hands-on experience with two popular web-based programs, Office 365/SharePoint Online and Preservica.
- Introducing one- and two-credit MARA elective courses. To date, topics include: Advocacy and the Professional Image of Archivists & Archives in Popular Culture, Digital Forensics for Archivists, Ethics for Archivists and Information Management Professionals, and Health Information Management.
- Partnering with the Institute of Certified Records Managers to provide students, if they satisfy the work experience requirement, the opportunity to become a Certified Records Analyst immediately upon graduation or become a Certified Records Manager upon successfully passing the sixth part of the ICRM exam.
Diverse and Dedicated Faculty
A major strength of the MARA program, as reported on graduating student exit surveys, is a diverse and dedicated faculty who bring their unique perspectives and professional experiences to the online classroom.
Franks (pictured left) has always had two passions: business and education. Her education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Business Education, a Master’s degree in Social Science with a Business Administration emphasis, and a Ph.D. in Organization and Management with a concentration in e-business. Franks is a Certified Archivist, Certified Records Manager, Information Governance Professional, and a member of the ARMA Company of Fellows.
“Anyone with a business background will tell you that records and information are generated and must be managed. It was this understanding that led to my desire to become certified, to teach students about records and information management, and to assume responsibility for the Master of Archives and Records Administration degree program,” Franks said.
Lindberg, a certified archivist, earned an MLIS from the iSchool in 2000 and began teaching in the MARA program when it was founded eight years later. She said the program provides a holistic way of looking at record keeping.
“The school offers such a quality program because its uniqueness, quality, and focus make it so great. I’ve taught at other schools, but the San José State University iSchool has an international board with members who are prominent in their fields, so it gives us nice perspectives with real-time advisers,” she said.
An instructor in the MARA program since 2009, Dr. Lisa Daulby has taught every MARA graduate to date. “The learners are amazing!” she said. “The students are passionate about the profession whether currently working in the archives or records/information management fields or those new to the profession. The students are driven, goal-oriented, intelligent, innovative, and creative scholars. I am privileged to be a part of their academic journey.”
Daulby (pictured right) holds a Ph.D. in Information Technology and her research interests include emerging technology trends, big data, cloud computing, social media, and mobile application use. She teaches master’s-level courses on information governance, electronic record keeping systems, health information management, and other topics. She is also a supervisor for the internship program. “I’ve seen students work on developing retention schedules and policies and procedures. I’ve seen them implement SharePoint applications and systems. Our students have completed internships at the FBI, NASA, Sony, and other companies,” she stated.
Describing the MARA program as “one of a kind,” Daulby expressed, “I think one of the best things about the MARA program is that it covers both the archives and records management side of the professions. Our students are much more skilled when they graduate.” Daulby discussed the career advantages in a video.
Jason Kaltenbacher began teaching in the MARA program more than six years ago. He has witnessed the student population growth and the tireless adaptations of the curriculum to keep it current with professional trends, in order to support students entering relevant professions, as well as those already working in the field.
“I find that our students have a tremendous amount of dedication and passion for this field, and the program benefits from that energy,” Kaltenbacher said, “and I learn tremendously from our students, which helps me with keeping current and learning about the latest applications of the MARA skill set.
“I think MARA offers students a wonderful opportunity to study at the graduate level from a convenient location, while also building a global network of industry peers that the online learning format enables. I’m excited to be part of MARA and am looking forward to the future,” Kaltenbacher enthused.
One of the newer faculty members, Josh Zimmerman, joined the MARA program in 2015 and soon thereafter earned the certified archivist distinction. He was drawn to the program because “it’s a smart mix of records and information management and archives.”
Zimmerman teaches Research Methods in Records Management and Archival Science and said “the students really make the MARA program.” He elaborated, “I’ve really enjoyed hearing about the different backgrounds, experiences, and interests of the students, who are all working on different research topics.”
For a recent faculty spotlight on the MARA blog, student Katie Kuryla interviewed Zimmerman and shared: “What really makes Josh’s research methods class great is the professor himself. He is an excellent lecturer and his class was by far one of my favorites.”
Passionate, Career-Focused Students
Dedicated faculty and an outstanding program provide the foundation for learning, but the students themselves transform that foundation into a true learning community. Their enthusiasm, energy, passion for learning and openness to new ideas are illustrated in the following stories.
In an effort to help her law firm create a better retention policy plan, Kuryla decided to enroll in the MARA program, but what she hadn’t planned on was finding a whole new passion.
“If it weren’t for this program, I would be working as a file clerk wondering what the next step in my career would be,” Kuryla said. “I’d been working in law records for more than five years when I started. I came to the realization that I wanted a career that enabled people to access documents and artifacts.
“I have a love of preservation, and this program helped me realize that I want to be in that career. My goal is to work in an archives or museum. I would definitely recommend the program to others. In fact, I already did: My coworker was considering enrolling, and I just gave her the nudge she needed,” Kuryla said.
Kuryla currently works as a graduate student assistant for Franks and is the editor of the MARA blog. She plans to graduate in 2019.
Tiffany Knight chose the iSchool because it offers the only archival science and records and information management master’s degree program in the nation, rather than certification or specialization through another discipline. She noted it prepares information professionals for synchronous and asynchronous work and learning environments, which augment digital literacy skillsets. She particularly appreciated the wide array of technology education—from Web 3.0 to wearable tech—and the number of additional certifications students can earn during their time in the MARA program.
“Each course I mastered during the MARA program actively constructed and molded my foundational knowledge of how archivists and records and information managers conduct one’s duties,” she said. “As archivists and records and information managers, we influence the right to remember and the right to be forgotten while being mindful of the information assurance, security, and privacy requirements of organizational assets. Information professionals power the global knowledge economy because we create valuable data opportunities out of data chaos.”
While Knight is new to the field of archival science and records and information management, in order to successfully complete the course work, she depended upon her knowledge from her three previous degrees: Paralegal Studies, Anthropology, and Education.
Knight earned her MARA degree in May 2018.
After an unsuccessful stint in an online library science program through a different university, Anna Maloney realized she was more interested in archives and records management than in librarianship.
“Although the program I started in offered several tracks, it was clear that the focus was on public and academic librarianship,” Maloney said. “A quick Google search led me to the MARA program, and I was intrigued by the opportunity to focus solely on archives and records management. Since there are no programs like MARA, it was an easy choice to make.”
Prior to starting and during her time in the MARA program, she held several part-time positions and internships in various archival settings: archival projects for two community colleges; a special collections fellowship at a historic site in Columbus, Ohio; and an internship with the cultural resources records management division of the National Park Service. (The finished product at Mississippi National Recreational River in Yankton, South Dakota, pictured left). She also helped a company develop a corporate archive for its 150th anniversary. According to Maloney, these rich experiences in the field complemented the theoretical background provided in the MARA program.
“In my last year of the MARA program, I attained a full-time position in a corporate records management program,” Maloney said. “The MARA program helped prepare me for the real world challenges that a lot of records programs face, most notably technological infrastructure that cannot adequately support business and regulatory needs.
“Most importantly, MARA taught me to understand the importance of a records management program that is supported and championed by executive leadership, and how to develop those relationships and advocate for records and information management,” she said.
Maloney graduated in May 2017.
Each fall, the iSchool conducts a jobs report, analyzing job announcements and qualifications. The data is used to inform the MARA curriculum and provide tips for job seekers. “We look at the technology skills that employers are seeking in job candidates. We look at the education requirements and even the soft skills. Then we compare that information with our program,” Franks explained.
In the Archives and Records Management Jobs Analysis report, most recently updated in fall 2017, data revealed a majority of the positions were concentrated in archival management, a job alumnus Edward Sumcad, ’18 MARA, said he “kind of fell into.”
Sumcad, a records and archives manager for Los Angeles County, is featured in a video (screenshot right) where he talks about his job and the MARA program: “My role is to help coordinate the preservation of county records, as well as inventory them, so that our citizens can use them,” he said.
The self-proclaimed “accidental archivist” juggled a full-time job, family responsibilities and school. He particularly appreciated the fully online program for its flexibility and “having the ability to apply the skills right away.” He also noted the diversity in the faculty. “One of my professors is from Canada, and she talks about different issues related to records management in her country. Being able to have this broad perspective of practitioners in the field has been greatly beneficial,” he affirmed.
Leadership and Research Opportunities
MARA students have the opportunity to enhance the knowledge they acquire in the classroom, build leadership skills and expand their professional networks through a variety of activities, including the following:
Most students enroll in the Professional Internships or Organizational Consulting Projects course to gain practical work experience. These experiences result in credit toward the master’s degree and can be completed in a physical location or virtually. However, other students gain valuable work experience by engaging in internships outside of those two courses.
For example, during her last semester in the program, Tara Haghighi, ’16 MARA, relocated to New York City to spend more than two months working as an information management intern at the United Nations headquarters. Haghighi’s story can be read on the MARA blog.
Since its foundation, the Society of American Archivists student chapter (SAASC), currently supervised by Lori Lindberg, has hosted dozens of in-person and virtual events where members have learned from professionals in the archives field. (SAASC members toured the SJSU Special Collections & Archives in October 2017, pictured left.)
The student chapter has developed a social media presence, created a ScholarWorks site where online events are archived, and created an open-source biannual digital publication titled Archeota, which promotes and highlights the chapter’s activities, discusses happenings in the archival profession, introduces professional responsibilities, and functions as a platform for students to create original content.
MARA students have participated along with their colleagues from the MLIS degree program in this student organization both as members and in leadership positions. Catherine Folnovic, ’16 MARA, commented about her experience as chair of SAASC: “I have honed my leadership skills through participating in this group and have made many meaningful connections.” Folnovic’s profile can be read on the MARA blog.
Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration (VCARA)
VCARA is a space and community based in the virtual world Second Life (SL) that offers many resources both in SL and online, including annual conferences, events, exhibits, trainings, and webcasts. VCARA is open to all students, alumni, educators, and other professionals interested in virtual worlds and any aspect of information science, including archives, education, libraries, records, and special collections.
Since its inception in fall 2009, a number of MARA students have participated in VCARA. Kevin Dompier, ’14 MARA, honed his organizational skills by serving as a graduate student assistant for Franks. He planned activities, conducted orientations, and helped to plan the 2014 Annual VCARA Conference in Second Life. Dompier’s profile can be read on the Community web section.
MARA students are invited and encouraged to become involved in research projects undertaken by iSchool faculty members. Findings are shared through panels, presentations, articles, and publications. Two recent examples are the InterPARES Trust Research Project and the International Directory of National Archives.
In his August 2013 profile, Mark Driskill, ’14 MARA, commented on looking forward to working as part of the InterPARES Research project under the direction of Franks, team lead for research on Social Media and Trust in Government. A tangible result of his work as InterPARES Trust research assistant is an article co-authored by Driskill and Franks, Building Trust in Government through Social Media: An InterPARES Trust Research Project. The article was presented at the 2014 European Conference on Social Media at the University of Brighton in the UK, and published in the conference proceedings.
Alumna Pamela Lutzker, ’17 MARA, utilized her course work and her previous technical experience while serving as the student project coordinator for The International Directory of National Archives. The result of the IDNA project (https://idnaproject.org/), which was formally launched in the fall of 2016, is the first comprehensive source of information about national archives around the globe. Lutzker’s profile is available on the MARA blog.
In recognition of International Archives Day, student and alumni researchers of the IDNA project shared insights from their research of national archives around the world and the national treasures the archives govern, preserve, and make accessible during the MARA program’s lectures series. In addition, members of the Council of State Archivists, National Archives and Records Administration, and other guest speakers have presented on issues related to archives, records management, and information governance. The webcasts are available on demand.
According to Franks, by 2020, the digital universe, which incorporates all data that is created, replicated and consumed, is projected to add up to more than 5,200 GB per each person on the planet.
“This has major implications for our profession,” she said. “In addition to mastering theoretical concepts and learning to manage physical records and artifacts, our students are being trained to become leaders in professions that must provide answers to the question of how vast amounts of digital data created by a multitude of devices regardless of location can be captured, stored, managed, preserved, accessed, and retained/destroyed in compliance with existing laws and regulations.”
Technological advances—including machine learning, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, blockchain technologies, augmented reality, and the Internet—bring new challenges, and the MARA program will continue to evolve along with the profession.
“Our ongoing efforts include revising our curriculum as necessary to ensure our students are capable of operating in this changing technological environment and are able to assist the organization for which they work in leveraging the economic value of information to achieve their goals,” said Franks.
Biannual meetings with the MARA Program Advisory Committee help to shape the program’s future and relevance. Discussions include an analysis of the current job market; an analysis of emerging technologies and trends; and changes in core competencies identified as essential by the Academy of Certified Archivists, the Institute of Certified Records Managers, the Society of American Archivists, and ARMA International (certifying body of the Information Governance Professional designation).
10th Anniversary Celebration
In celebration of the MARA program’s 10th anniversary, the iSchool will be holding special events during the 2018 joint annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, NAGARA, and CoSA in Washington D.C. (August 12 – 18); and ARMA Live! in Anaheim, California (October 22 – 24). More information about those events will be posted on the iSchool’s event calendar as the dates near.
Faculty, staff, alumni, students and friends are also encouraged to show their MARA pride with 10th Anniversary merchandise now available on the iSchool’s Zazzle store.
In addition, students and faculty members will be featured throughout the year on the MARA blog and social media. For example, the MARA Facebook group will celebrate "Wordy Wednesday" (What does this word mean to you?) and "Faculty Friday." Fun trivia questions will also be posted on Facebook and Twitter.