Newlywed Susan Duis Haigh, barely settled into a new home and her second semester in the Master of Archives and Records Management (MARA) program, learned in late September that she’d won a $3,000 scholarship from ARMA International, an association of information professionals.
The ARMA International Education Foundation (AIEF) awards nine graduate scholarships each year to students working toward a master’s degree or doctorate in records and information management disciplines. Haigh is the first student from the MARA program to be awarded one of these scholarships.
“It was a surprise to me,” Haigh said about winning the scholarship. “It’s exciting to get the award, but to know I’m representing my local ARMA chapter and also San José State University, that makes it more exciting.”
Haigh applied for the scholarship in spring 2013, even though she wasn’t sure she had a chance as a first-semester MARA student. With encouragement from MARA program coordinator Dr. Patricia Franks and letters of recommendation from MARA lecturer Jason Kaltenbacher, her local ARMA chapter president, and her boss, she decided to give it a shot. Haigh, who got to meet Kaltenbacher at a recent ARMA meeting, said she appreciated the support she received from the MARA program.
“Especially since I’m an online student, it makes me feel more connected to the university,” she said.
As a records and information specialist for the City of Bonney Lake in western Washington state, Haigh oversees the city's records management program, updates the city website and social media sites, and processes public records requests. With a bachelor’s degree in English literature, Haigh said most of what she’s learned about records management has been through State Archives and ARMA trainings, self-taught, or just picked up in her six years on the job.
Wanting more of a professional background in the field, she started checking into master’s programs. She felt SJSU’s fully online MARA degree program offered what she was looking for, and it came highly recommended by a colleague and fellow ARMA member who recently graduated from the program. Haigh said the MARA program seemed unique compared to what other information schools had to offer. The curriculum was a big draw for her and better suited to her professional interests.
She’s already been able to apply her graduate studies to her job. Last spring, she geared a records retention schedule assignment toward a workplace project. One department had a lot of new staff members who needed help handling their files. The project gave her an opportunity to talk with them about their needs.
“I actually came back to them with my draft assignment, got some feedback, and helped develop something I could use with staff members,” she said. “I’m hoping to do something similar with a couple of other groups at work. It was a good exercise to step back and have to go through that process as part of my coursework. It helped me re-think some of the stuff that I just take for granted at work and come at it fresh.”
Haigh says she loves her job, and sees earning her MARA degree as an important step in her professional development. She says it will allow her to accomplish even more and help advance her city’s records management program.
“I’ve had one class each with Jason Kaltenbacher and Lisa Daulby, and they have both been really good. I’ve enjoyed the content, and the foundation MARA classes have been really good just for giving me a place to start, because I had to learn everything piecemeal before this. Also, I took an MLIS elective this past spring semester, LIBR 240 Information Technology Tools and Applications with Amonty Parsons, that takes you through building a website and doing basic communications like blogging. I’ve done a little of that at work, but it was nice to have someone take you through the whole process, and that was really helpful for me.”
WAPRO annual conferences, NAGARA e-records forum