iSchool Scholarship Supports Student Theresa Putkey’s Studies in Information Architecture

Community Profile

Student Theresa Putkey is the winner of the 2011 San José State University School of Information Alumni and Friends Scholarship, an award which will help her earn an MLIS degree while continuing her work as an information architect.

Putkey currently works as an independent information architect, creating online information structures that meet her clients’ business needs and support the user experience. She started her own consulting business in 2004 after working as a technical writer and in software design.

“As a technical writer, my job was more about creating documentation on how to use poorly-designed software, instead of figuring out how to improve the design,” Putkey said. “I started freelancing because I wanted to organize information and help people find what they need, and I also wanted the freedom and independence of being my own boss.”

Putkey now works with companies to build the structure behind software programs and websites, creating wireframes (or layouts) that organize information according to an intuitive, user-centered design. “Before you start putting all the colors and visual design on a website, you have to decide where each information component should be placed, to be most helpful to the user,” she explained.

Her job involves interviewing clients and their users to discover the precise information needs that must be met, and then collaborating with programmers and designers to create a product. Putkey also works to build customized metadata systems for her clients.

Putkey, who lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia, enrolled at the iSchool in fall 2009. The distance education program appeals to her because she doesn’t need to travel or schedule her work around in-person classes.

Having the opportunity to focus her MLIS courses on information organization and retrieval has supported Putkey’s work and goals in information architecture. In particular, INFO 247: Vocabulary Design with Dr. Judy Weedman, INFO 281: Seminar in Contemporary Issues: Metadata with Dr. Mary Bolin, and INFO 282: Digital Asset Management with John Horodyski, were “extremely useful,” Putkey said.

In fall 2010 Putkey put her content writing skills to work by signing on to the editorial board of the new Student Research Journal. The team is working on launching the publication’s first issue.

Putkey finds the experience valuable because she’s learning more about how to critically evaluate research papers. “I’d really recommend to anyone who’s interested in becoming a better writer or researcher to try to work on the editorial board,” Putkey said. “It’s also really interesting to see what research our fellow students are doing.”

Putkey plans to graduate in spring 2012 and hopes to one day teach a class in Information Architecture and User Centered Design to iSchool students.

“The scholarship will really help me with tuition,” said Putkey, who has completed five semesters in the MLIS program. The annual $1,000 scholarship is endowed by the iSchool Alumni Association.