MLIS Student and NASA/Caltech Employee Presents at CA Collaborative Conference 2018

Community Profile

“The thing that I love most about the LIS field is its practical application to just about every part of our society. Regardless of whether you are working in a library for an obscure, secluded monastery with no access to email or advanced technology or working for a high-tech company like I do at NASA and Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the skills are useful and practical.”

Jonathan Christensen
iSchool Student Graduating 2019
Pasadena, CA

During his undergraduate program in history at Cal State Fullerton, San José State University School of Information student Jonathan Christensen, learned quite a lot about himself. “First,” he says, “I learned that my passion for books, learning and education was stronger than ever.” Second, he learned that he was an excellent writer, receiving awards for pieces published in student journals. “And third,” Christensen says, “I learned that I REALLY wanted to be employed and a BA in history with a minor in anthropology was probably not going to do it.” Christensen knew he needed something else to supplement his hard-earned degree—he needed to vary his options. “The MLIS seemed like the right way to get myself employable skills,” says Christensen, “while moving into a field I could be passionate about and still keep my end goal trajectory of a PhD in history.”

Christensen chose SJSU’s School of Information to pursue his MLIS for some of the usual reasons many students do: its flexibility, its affordability, etc. “But more than all of that,” says Christensen, “was the school’s reputation, decades of experience, variation/customizability of program options and pathways, and the ability to get an advanced certificate while pursuing my MLIS.” Considering all these benefits, the iSchool proved to be a perfect fit for Christensen.

Students: Organize!
Today, Christensen works at NASA and California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a records management specialist in the library, archives and records section. Explains Christensen, “I am primarily responsible for the digitization of paper and microfilm records, disposition and destruction of records, records archiving, electronic records management and care of engineering drawings. This is just a broad overview of the major responsibilities but [they] tend to take most of my time.”

To obtain this position, Christensen leveraged his skills gained from his ongoing time here at the iSchool and his connections made through the various organizations of which he’s a part: Special Library Association (SJSU Student Chapter – President, Southern California Chapter – Student Liaison, and the Leadership/Management Group), NASIG, the SJSU iSchool’s First Generation Student Group (President/Founder). “The greatest benefit [of these organizations],” says Christensen, “is the ability to network and meet new people. The best opportunities do not come from list serves and job posting sites, but getting out there, meeting people and getting engaged! This is hard in an introverted profession, but if you do it, you will not regret it! It is how I got my job at JPL, and I highly recommend that everyone at least try it!” Indeed, having these connections allowed Christensen to jump on the job opening at JPL and begin his career in the field proper.

A Natural Presenter 
At CA Collaborative Conference this year, an annual conference that brings educators from California’s public higher education institutions to discuss the system and provide transparency in the process of degree  completion, Christensen had the opportunity to present alongside the iSchool’s Sheila Gurtu (pictured right, with Christensen) to more than 30 attendees including administrators from other colleges. “The definite highlight of the conference was presenting with Sheila Gurtu,” says Christensen. “She was wonderful to work with and a fantastic presenter.  The feedback that we received was incredibly constructive, a great morale booster and provided for a fantastic learning opportunity.” Christensen hopes to have more opportunities to present at future conferences and, considering the response to this one, he’ll surely get them.

For now, though, Christensen will be continuing his tireless work in his roles with the various student organizations of which he’s a part and in his courses here at SJSU. Looking ahead, Christensen sees himself staying at his job at JPL for many years, as well as pursuing his PhD in history after graduating from the iSchool in 2019. “In addition,” he says, “I would love to someday use my MLIS (and future PhD) to teach. Perhaps I might even be so lucky to teach a few courses at the iSchool myself!”