Life After the MARA

Many graduates of the fully online Master of Archives & Records Administration (MARA) program at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) have dynamic, exciting stories to share with the community as they put their MARA degree to work. These graduates are information archives and records professionals working in fruitful careers and environments that span the entire information spectrum. From energy companies, global cable companies, law firms and county governments to NASA research companies, MARA graduates are working in truly diverse and exciting settings.

One such graduate is Kristen Cook (’16 MARA), who works with ESPN managing projects for the internal creative agency that produces web banners, videos, advertisements and brand standards. The MARA program helped Cook develop a foundation in best practices for managing the information generated in her department and to cultivate a better relationship with the technology owners she works with. “The whole [of the program],” Cook (pictured right) says, “is greater than the sum of its parts.”  As she completed her ePortfolio, the culminating course for all MARA students, she found it to be an invaluable writing exercise that allowed her to reconnect with her course work and to meaningfully reflect on her knowledge of frameworks, models, standards, best practices and, most importantly, leadership. Cook developed a new understanding of the tenets of archives and records administration by taking ownership of these concepts and examining past assignments. It is this evolving perspective paired with skills she developed through library science electives in advanced technology tools and applications that will propel Cook to success as she seeks to transform digital and media asset management at ESPN. 

Jennifer Gavin at NASA

Another recent alumna, Jennifer Gavin (’16 MARA), started out in the field by reaching new heights in her career. Just before she graduated, Gavin (pictured left) found work with NASA on an internship basis through the iSchool internship database, looking to put her newfound archives and records management skills to good use. At the NASA-affiliated Ames Research Center in the heart of Silicon Valley, Gavin works in the Life Science Data Archive, where, under the direction of a NASA archivist (also an iSchool alumna), she performs general background research on the subjects represented in boxes that were on the missions to space. “I survey the boxes, verify the content, identify the document types and formats, [perform] preservational requirements, physically arrange and rehouse materials, update box numbers and create a new order of the content, and reshelve everything,” she explains. She was taught the theory in the program, and now she’s applying it in the physical world.

“I absolutely needed the MARA degree to get into this field,” Gavin affirms. “I’ve found that you can have the experience, but that only takes you so far. Your degree and certifications only take you so far. You need experience, continuing education through certifications or some manner, and you need the degree in order to really become successful and get that dream job. All three are essential to grab someone’s attention and become happy and content in your profession.”

MARA graduates’ careers extend beyond the Unites States border, as well. After graduating from the iSchool, Robert McLauchlin (’11 MARA) found work at Burnet, Duckworth, & Palmer, a sizable law firm in Calgary, Alberta. There, McLauchlin (pictured right) works as director of records management, a role that finds him continuously developing and maintaining an information and record management system for the entire firm. Although McLauchlin worked in records for Alberta’s oil and gas industry for over a decade before obtaining his MARA degree, he never had the opportunity to craft a management system, only to run one. Says McLauchlin, “I could finally put all the theories I had learned over the years in my previous position and at the iSchool into action.”Robert McLauchlin

McLauchlin has also taken his studies one step further with his recent certification as an Information Governance Professional (IGP) from the Association of Record Managers and Administrators. “I wanted to get the certification to further emphasize that I had all this knowledge and experience,” McLauchlin says, “rather than just have it only listed on a resume.”

Gavin, who also attained certification, hers as an Information Privacy Manager, agrees. “I’m a firm believer in continuing education even after getting your degree,” she says. Gavin is also looking to obtain IGP certification in the near future.

To learn more about life after the MARA degree, check out the community profiles and alumni career spotlights, which provide glimpses into alumni workplaces. Visit the dedicated MARA blog as well, where you’ll find more profiles highlighting students and alumni. If you’re a graduate of the School of Information at San José State University, please create your alumni career spotlight and share your news!

If you’re considering earning a MARA degree, check out the information page for prospective MARA students. There, you can find an overview of the program, explore the value of a MARA degree and find links to course descriptions and much more.

I chose the MARA program at SJSU because it specialized in my profession. I was interested in data classification and records retention and disposition. I was also interested in the archives aspect because it directly affects the accessibility of those records in the future. – Robert McLauchlin