MARA Program Advisory Committee
The Program Advisory Committee for MARA is comprised of six leading professionals in the fields of Archives, Records Management, and Information Governance. The Committee works with MARA faculty regarding curricular issues to ensure that the program remains up-to-date with current professional developments.
MARA Program Advisory Committee Member Jim Merrifield is an Information Governance Professional (IGP) and Certified Information Professional (CIP) and currently serves as Records and Information Governance Manager with Robinson and Cole LLP. Jim is also cofounder of the Information Governance Conference (InfoGovCon), an IGI (Information Governance Initiative) event.
After studying Prelaw, Jim began working at a law firm as a records manager and paralegal. He was drawn to the field because of the many opportunities in Records Management and Information Governance. He has enjoyed experiencing and helping to shape the exciting developments in these fields in the last decade, such as the emergence of eDiscovery, the recent emphasis on cybersecurity, and the development of Records Management from an isolated silo to an integrated part of every department in an organization.
In his work with Robinson and Cole, Jim oversees the information governance initiatives of the whole firm. His is a more horizontal role in that he educates stakeholders across the organization about IG best practices. He ensures that the information captured by departments is managed, protected, and disposed of according to best practices. Jim’s top priorities include email management, launching firm-wide IG initiatives that will bring standardized policies, and managing and streamlining file shares.
Jim particularly enjoys using his leadership skills to mentor others in the department and to convince people at all levels of the organization of the efficacy of IG best practices. This involves demonstrating the impact they can have in improving productivity and efficiency and ultimately making the firm more profitable.
Jim also enjoys the challenges of Information Governance, such as keeping up with new technologies and choosing the best techniques and platforms for a particular organization’s needs. Since each organization is unique, the challenge is to get to know its culture and manage change accordingly, not just at the upper levels but throughout the organization.
For those entering the fields of Records Management and Information Governance, Jim stresses the importance of creativity and thinking outside the box. Traditional ways of conducting business are insufficient to meet current and future needs. In particular, he recommends that upcoming professionals focus on privacy and cybersecurity, which he sees as essential to staying relevant. Further, in this area, partnering with IT is key. Finally, Jim recommends getting involved with professional organizations, including ARMA International, the Information Governance Initiative (IGI), The Information Governance Conference (InfoGovcon), and the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). These organizations offer opportunities to gain knowledge and skills, earn professional certifications, and network.
Contact information for Jim Merrifield:
State Archivist and Director, Vermont State Archives and Records Administration
MARA Program Advisory Committee Member Tanya Marshall serves as State Archivist and Director of the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration (VSARA). She is also the current president of the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), serves as a member on the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) Board, and previously worked as part of ARMA’s International Standards Development Program RIM Review Group.
The Vermont State Archives and Records Administration is a small division within the Vermont Office of the Secretary of State. The 15 employees there are responsible for administering (1) the State Records Center, (2) the State Archives, (3) the State Records Management Program (which establishes the records retention and other recordkeeping requirements for all public records in the state, including records created and received by public schools, all local government offices, and all three branches of state government), and (4) numerous statutory filings, including vital records, notary public appointments, legislative acts and resolves, administrative rules, municipal charter changes, and state oaths and appointments. Annually, the staff performs an average of 72,000 records-related transactions.
The Vermont State Archives and Records Administration’s mission statement is to “provide, protect, promote, and preserve Vermont public records, in collaboration with other public agencies, for the benefit of the public we collectively serve.” Tanya finds every aspect of her work supporting this mission rewarding. She enjoys talking with members of the public as well as public employees to understand their records and information needs and then turning those needs into a collaboration with staff to enhance and improve programs and services. Tanya also finds participating in larger efforts and programs with others in the field to be very rewarding, such as her work with NAGARA and the MARA Program at SJSU.
As one might imagine, there is no typical workday or workweek, although Tanya has weekly standing meetings, including one-on-one check-in meetings with staff members who directly reports to her. Within a “typical workday,” it would not be uncommon for Tanya do any or all of the following things: work on administrative and statistical reports; run a space analysis for VSARA’s paper storage facilities; map out a metadata schema with staff for classifying records with their systems; finalize draft reports to the Secretary of State for submission to the Legislature; address building security issues or concerns; meet with various project managers; review legislative bill drafts and formulating “talking points” for future testimony; meet with prospective applicants; collaborate with other officials on state programs and initiatives; complete a staff member’s evaluation; draft position statements; talk with town clerks not only within her own state but other states as well (through her role as NAGARA’s president); review invoices related to current service agreements and contracts; review and approve proposed record schedules; and much more!
The biggest challenge of Tanya’s work is that there are not enough hours in the day or days in the week to address all the records and information needs of Vermont citizens and public employees. Staff cuts in the last five or six years mean that government agencies, including the VSARA, have fewer employees but sometimes double the amount of work. While having to “get creative” on how she aligns staff, offers programs, and develops new services is a rewarding aspect of her work, knowing that you have to “expect the unexpected” is definitely the most challenging aspect of her work and something that Tanya deals with almost daily.
According to Tanya, the greatest thing about working in the field of records and information management is that every organization has records and information that need to be managed. She believes that if you harness your interests, the opportunities will follow. This is something that she knows from experience. In November 2003, shortly after leaving graduate school and moving to Vermont for family reasons, she was called “out of the blue” to direct a temporary project with the Vermont State Archives; it was the best unexpected call she had ever received. Since then, she has been able to put her archives and records management knowledge and skills to great use and much has been accomplished, including the creation of the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration. Tanya highly recommends keeping your options open and looking for unexpected possibilities – you never know where you might find them.
Contact information for Tanya Marshall, State Archivist
Vermont State Archives & Records Administration
1078 U.S. Route 2, Middlesex
Montpelier, VT 05633-7701
MARA Program Advisory Committee member Linda Muller currently serves as the Vice President of Records and Information Management of IST. She is a Certified Records Manager (CRM) and Information Governance Professional (IGP).
Early in her career Linda was drawn to RIM by the challenge of managing information in an industry driven by very intelligent, smart, and creative lawyers requiring a high degree of responsive client service. In such an environment, Linda enjoys finding ways to make organizations and their ways of working more efficient and effective. She finds it particularly rewarding, for instance, to present the Findings and Recommendations report after an exhaustive current state analysis. The typical reactions of senior executives, such as “I had no idea that was happening” or “How can we fix that situation?” still amaze her. Many remain unaware of the current business processes that daily impede the competiveness of simple information management. Linda believes that providing a roadmap and timeline that take an organization from current state to future state is both rewarding and challenging. Whether a “quick win” or a complex workflow redesign involving significant technology migration, Linda describes developing the solution for positive impact as a consultant’s dream.
Although no two days in her work are alike, Linda’s “best” days are those days that she spends at client sites working with her customers building solutions for information compliance, improving productivity, reducing cost, or educating people about the merits of an effective information management program.
The most challenging component of her work is change management. Even though organizations acknowledge that their information management requires an overhaul with refreshed policies and procedures or greater automation, not everyone embraces change with the same level of acceptance. Thus, this remains a consultant’s biggest challenge and requires patience and persistence—two characteristics that Linda has learned to nurture in herself and in others.
Finally, Linda would like to offer the following advice to up-and-coming Records and Information Management professionals:
Try to get as much practical “hands-on” experience as possible—put the theory and concepts to work
Stretch your current knowledge into areas that are unfamiliar—learn and explore
Maximize technology—be creative and resourceful
Find your passion—work it forward
Make every minute count!
Contact information for Linda Muller, CRM, IGP
Vice President, Records and Information Management
934 Glenwood Avenue SE, Suite 250
Atlanta, GA 30316
MARA Program Advisory Committee member Geof Huth has decades of experience in the field of Records and Information Management and is an authority on best practices in records management in government. He currently serves as the Chief Records Officer of the New York State Unified Court System, ensuring that records support the efficient functioning of the court system as a whole. His office provides direct advisory services, retention scheduling, records center services, publications, and workshops to the thousands of individual courts in his state. Geof speaks frequently across the state and around the country about records management and archives. His publications include Preparing for the Worst: Managing Records Disasters and Conducting Needs Assessments for New Recordkeeping Systems. He has worked on the editorial boards that created the Glossary of Records and Information Management Terms (ARMA) and the forthcoming online Dictionary of Archives Terminology (SAA). Forthcoming in 2016 is his Appraising Digital Records, a module in SAA's Trends in Archives Practice.
As a manager and administrator, Geof’s daily responsibilities consist largely of human interaction. He points out that, contrary to what some might think, the field of Records and Information Management is not a way to avoid humans. On the contrary, Geof spends much of his time working with staff, in both scheduled and unscheduled meetings, to manage whatever challenges they are facing.
In the field of Records and Information Management Geof values information not for its own sake but for its importance in human interaction and communication. He is interested in the ways in which information is recorded and delivered, not primarily for its historical value but in order to serve the human enterprise. Geof understands his work as the codification of knowledge, that is, to develop order, procedure, and regularity. Beyond the tools used to effect these results—such as retention and disposition schedules—he looks at systems broadly and how they could work better, so that they meet the information needs of his agency as well as the agencies it serves. Taken together, the governmental agencies with which he works can be understood as an archive or storage area for information, all tangibly and directly connected in complex ways through information.
As part of a government entity and as a Records and Information Management professional, his ultimate goal is service to people. In the end, the organizations with which he works are conglomerations of individuals. Geof argues that in order to succeed, information and knowledge professionals must focus on service.
Geof advises prospective Records and Information Management professionals to have dreams and work to realize them but to also be open to opportunity. Opportunity may not always align closely with one’s initial plans—and may be on the other side of the country—but being flexible and taking advantage of the opportunities that arise can lead to unexpected success. He also recommends diversifying in terms of knowledge and skills. In knowledge professions such as Records and Information Management, having broad rather than narrow interests can help you understand more types of industries, including their ways of communicating and their particular information needs. He believes that these two traits of openness and diversification can open up new, unexpected professional opportunities.
MARA Program Advisory Committee member Connie “CJ” Rodriguez has worked for a “Big 4” public accounting firm for over 18 years. In her role as Records and Information Management Services Program Manager, she works as part of a national management team of 9 leaders, which oversees the firm’s records and information management function and approximately 95 records management personnel. CJ serves as an advisor and subject matter specialist in records and information management to the firm’s many internal departments. CJ implements processes and procedures that reduce risk and ensure compliance. She also develops policy directives, records retention schedules, standard operating procedures, and technical guidelines related to the creation, storage, retrieval, protection, preservation, and destruction of the firm’s electronic and physical records. Further, she analyzes statistical data in order to recommend areas for improvement in records management systems and procedures.
CJ appreciates working with her colleagues, who are intelligent and open-minded thinkers committed to empowering a diverse workforce. In her position, she finds encouraging others to integrate records management practices into their workflows both challenging and rewarding. The bulk of her work involves liaising with business leadership, building relationships, and educating to ensure compliance. CJ believes in forming a governance committee comprised of leaders from the various internal departments to assist in developing good records management governance. A key method of ensuring compliance with corporate policies is to incorporate compliance steps into the service line process and procedures, as well as compliance measurements into the employee’s performance review.
In addition, CJ is the current President and Treasurer of the Southern California Inland Empire ARMA chapter. As a board member she collaborates with her fellow board of director members to coordinate a series of educational speakers and develop webinars for chapter members. She especially enjoys engaging with chapter members who are eager to learn the best way to engage in records and information management, and collaborating to solve problems.
As a MARA Program Advisory Committee member, CJ consults with Dr. Pat Franks concerning curricular issues and makes recommendations based on current developments in the records and information management field. For example, she suggested that MARA courses should focus more on electronic records and related concerns such as data privacy, new ECM platforms, big data or ROT (redundant, obsolete, and trivial) records, and cloud computing.
CJ is not only a MARA Program Advisory Committee member; she was also a student in the first MARA cohort (graduating class of 2011). The program appealed to her because it is entirely online. She felt it was an efficient use of time, which was particularly important given that she was a full-time practicing professional as well as a student. The fact that students from all over the world could virtually participate in the same courses was also an appealing feature of the program. As a tip for current MARA students, CJ suggests having meetings with classmates outside of regularly scheduled class sessions in order to brainstorm and learn from each other. In this way, coursework can parallel the teamwork typical in the Records and Information Management workplace. As demonstrated by her experience, collaborating with others beyond what is expected yields positive professional results.
MARA Program Advisory Committee Member Robert McLauchlin is a certified Information Governance Professional (IGP) and currently serves as the Director of Records Management at Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer (BDP) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has also held several positions in the Calgary chapter of the Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA), including Secretary, Program Director, Vice President, and, most recently, President.
Robert has worked in records and information management for over 20 years. After obtaining his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 1993 and a Master of Library and Information Studies in 1995, Robert held positions in records and document administration in Alberta’s oil and gas industry. In 2011 Robert completed the Master of Archives and Records Administration program at San José State University, which he had pursued as a complement to his MLIS degree and to enhance his understanding of records and information management. After completing his degree, Robert actively sought opportunities that would allow him to create a records management program, as opposed to just run one. At BDP Robert is able to put theory to practice in developing the information management program, and much of his role involves cultivating information management strategies and fostering a culture of information governance.
In addition to a dynamic role in records and information management, Robert has embodied professional leadership through involvement in various organizations (including the Association of Legal Administrators and the Archival Society of Alberta) and in the academic community. Robert has taught courses and advised on curriculum development for records and information management courses at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Now Robert will serve in a similar capacity for MARA, by working with the Program Advisory Committee to guide the program’s curricular future.
During his career, Robert has worked with both paper and electronic records and emphasized the importance of having information management supported within an organization. Robert has been involved with administering enterprise taxonomies and retention schedules, as well as overseeing records and information management policies, standards, and procedures. After two decades in the field, Robert offers the following words of encouragement to future information professionals: “Being in the information age, the records field is genuinely exciting right now. There are really no limits to what your career path can be. [You’ll] never run out of things to do, to investigate or to implement.”