Building Relationships and Community at the iSchool
Published: February 13, 2023 by Kesheena Doctor
Hello, fellow iSchool students! I hope the start of the spring semester is going well for all. For both new and returning students, building an online community is often a concern. Having community while in school not only enriches your social experience but can help you perform better academically and foster connections with future professional peers. I’d like to share some tips and advice for doing so while at the iSchool.
Building Community in the Classroom
Every iSchool class will provide a discussion forum for introductions. When writing your introduction, mention if you are interested in forming a study group or want a study partner. Make sure to include your study schedule and how to contact you best. You can also reply to specific students if you have similar career goals or common interests and ask if they would like to form a study group for the class.
Additionally, the online learning management system the iSchool uses, Canvas, offers an internal mailing system. Students can also add their personal website info to their Canvas profile, such as LinkedIn, making connections easier. Being proactive about connecting with other students is a great strategy for meeting fellow students and creating a thriving community with classmates.
Fostering Community Out of the Classroom
iSchool students can join the many student groups at the iSchool. If you are unsure about the direction to follow with your MLIS, attending a student group meeting can help you learn more about particular professions. Since student groups are available to all iSchool members, you’ll also have an opportunity to interact with students further along in the program. I’ve found that students are happy to provide advice to those newer to the MLIS program and have gotten so much useful information when I attended First Generation Student Group meetings last semester.
iSchool students also have a significant presence on social media, particularly Facebook. The SJSU iSchool Students & Alumni and SJSU iSchool Class Recommendations pages have hundreds of members, including current students and alumni, all eager to offer advice. All iSchool student groups also have social media pages, so it is easy to connect with other students off the iSchool platform.
Tips for New Students
While starting the iSchool’s MLIS program can be very daunting, one aspect of the program I loved was INFO 203, which is a requisite 1 unit course students take before other classes. Since INFO 203 starts early, students have time to complete the course before the semester begins and get to know other students without the added pressure of finishing assignments from other classes. I suggest taking the time to get to know the students, as the likelihood of being in other required classes is high. Since all iSchool classes have an element of group work, getting to know fellow students can make the group-forming process much easier.
INFO 203 also has a peer mentor component, with the peer mentor nearing the end of their time at the iSchool. There are many peer mentors for the class, and they all offer an online session on particular topics for student success. These online sessions are an excellent opportunity for all new students to meet new students and ask a peer mentor questions about the program.
Tips for Returning Students
As returning students, we have an advantage by having a better understanding of online learning and what to expect for coursework. With this comfortability, comes assertiveness, so be sure to be more engaging and open with other students to build connections and have a great semester.
On the first day of classes, I also suggest looking up the class roster for all of my classes to find any students I previously had a class with. For my Spring 2023 classes, I made sure to comment on all of the introduction posts of students I had a class with to rekindle a rapport and texted students I built closer relationships with. If there are students you’re close to but do not have classes together, I recommend connecting with them and getting to know what classes they are taking and their opinions on them.
Let Positivity Lead the Way
It might go without saying, but I also urge everyone to represent themselves in the best way possible in whatever forum you choose to build community with. In my short time in the library world, I have found that it is incredibly small, and there is very little separation between you and a future colleague. Putting your best foot forward with every interaction can only benefit you at the iSchool and in your impending career as a librarian.
If you have any questions about building community here at the iSchool, want to share your suggestions for building community, or just want to say hi, please comment below.