Love of Research Led Gates Scholarship Winner Giovanni Mejia to iSchool

Community Profile

Giovanni Mejia discovered his affinity for libraries during his undergraduate studies, although his newfound appreciation for the stacks sometimes came at the cost of his grades. “I just enjoyed the research aspect so much that I spent 90 percent of my time doing research and 10 percent of my time on writing. And that usually hurt me,” he said with a laugh.

Mejia is one of two Gates Millennium Scholars at San José State University School of Information, and among just three iSchool graduate students to receive the prestigious award this year. Mejia started his MLIS program in fall 2008, and plans on making a career out of library and information science.

Mejia won his scholarship during his senior year of high school in Richmond, Calif. He then majored in history and Latin American studies at the University of San Francisco, where he befriended staff at the university library and became intrigued with pursuing library and information science as a career. After graduation, he became interested in different aspects of the profession when he spent a year as a document clerk for a major law firm – often working closely alongside the firm’s librarian and database manager to prepare evidence for trial.

Now in his second semester of classes, Mejia is still figuring out what specialization he wants to pursue. But he’s already put his library science skills to good use with a new hobby: home brewing. Mejia frequents King Library to check out books on beer making, and he designed a database to track the fermentation cycle of each batch of porter, ales, and other types of brews. He’s currently taking INFO 240-Information Technology Tools and Applications, and is using the web design skills he’s learning to create his own home brewing website.

The Gates scholarship requires recipients to complete their graduate degree within two years, so Mejia is taking a full class load. In addition, he works as a student assistant on campus with the Urban Regional Planning Department and also does research for the African-American Studies Department. But Mejia credits the Gates scholarship with giving him the financial freedom to work part-time while earning his MLIS degree.

“The money has given me the time to grow as a person,” he said. “Growing up in a poor neighborhood, you’re very isolated. This scholarship has allowed me to spend time meeting people I wouldn’t have been able to meet and explore new interests that I couldn’t if I were working and going to school full time.”

The Gates Millennium Scholars program, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pays undergraduate and graduate school expenses for outstanding minority students who want to pursue opportunities in education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, or science. Some 12,000 individuals nationwide have benefited from the program since it began in 1999.