A Day in the Life of Dr. Sandra Hirsh– Inspiration from the iSchool Leadership

iStudent Blog

Published: June 30, 2016

iSchool Director Dr. Sandra Hirsh gives us a peek into her daily schedule and shares her tips on staying organized.

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen how several iSchool students manage a job, feed a family, walk a dog, answer discussion questions, have clean clothes to wear (ahem, most days) and put together a PowerPoint presentation—all without losing their marbles or their reading notes. Here, our iSchool director shares with us what her day looks like and how she manages to stay organized in the midst of travel schedules, school responsibilities and other professional commitments. We hope you too are inspired by our iSchool leader’s joys and successes.

Dr. Sandy Hirsh is the director of SJSU’s fully online School of Information. Approximately 1800 graduate students are enrolled in the school, and she is responsible for 13 staff, 25 full-time faculty and 100 part-time faculty – many of whom live in different parts of the United States and around the world. As the public face of the School, she travels regularly to talk to prospective students, meet alumni, establish partnerships, host school receptions and attend conferences. She also frequently gives invited presentations at conferences and events. While she doesn’t teach, she is expected to continue her research activities and to engage in various service activities. These commitments include board positions with the university, the ALA, ASIS&T and the Library 2.0 virtual conference. Here’s how she stay organized on a typical day both on and off campus.

6:15 am
After I wake up and let our two dogs out, I check my email on my iPhone to address anything urgent that needs attention. Working with people around the world, it’s essential I stay on top of my email! I then pack my lunch and eat breakfast during my 30-minute commute to San Jose State University while listening to NPR to hear what is going on in the world. 

8:15 am
During the regular school year when I get to campus, I often will stop in and chat with Dr. Linda Main, Associate Director of the School, about whatever is currently going on at the school. Dr. Main helps me make sure everything runs smoothly with courses, staff, faculty, technology platforms, university processes and paperwork, students, operations and the budget. I am also very lucky to have talented, knowledgeable and hardworking staff, faculty and research assistants! I have learned to balance highly varied responsibilities – none of which would be possible without the support of my team.

Once in my office, most of my time is spent at my computer. Running an online school and participating in many professional activities, I get lots of email! I also write reports, work on research papers and grant proposals, work on the school’s budget, sign paperwork, organize faculty meetings, review marketing collateral and plans, and prepare presentations.

I use a variety of tools in my work – Microsoft Office suite, Google suite, Dropbox, and Stickies.  I have developed my own system for keeping track of so many emails. I put emails that I have acted on in folders. Emails that I need to read and/or respond to (thus are “active” emails) remain in my inbox. Emails that are especially important get marked with a flag in the inbox.

I use Google Calendar for both personal and work purposes. I am subscribed to many different Google Calendars and use the calendar to set reminders about important deadlines and meetings. My family also uses a shared family Google Calendar.

In my office, I have a white board on my wall that keeps a list of major initiatives and timelines front and center – and also a list of dates for important School meetings and events. I draft up a “to do” list if I start worry that I am going to forget something important. Dr. Main and my staff are also good about making sure I don’t miss important deadlines.

I am always connected and reachable. Most of my meetings with other university administrators are held in person on campus. I always have my iPhone with me and often bring my laptop. Most of my meetings with iSchool faculty and staff are held via Collaborate. Most of my meetings for professional activities are held via teleconference, Skype or Google Hangout. I use my time on airplanes to catch up on emails (I work in Outlook offline and then sync up and send out the emails I wrote when I am back on wi-fi) and work on presentations and reports. Sometimes I use the time on an airplane though as a break and watch a movie or read a fun book.

12:00 noon
I often eat lunch at my desk and work through the afternoon. I sometimes close my inbox if I need to write a report, do a big project, organize my thoughts, work on a presentation or get work done that is not an email. Emails are always flooding into my inbox so I have to prioritize my work to determine what I need to focus on. To do this, I look at deadlines and take care in scheduling meetings to make sure that I leave blocks of time for doing other time-sensitive work. I also pay attention to time zones as I often collaborate on projects or meet with people in different parts of the world. This can complicate my work schedule.

5:30 pm 
Most days, I leave the office around 5:30 pm. Driving home also takes me about 30 minutes and I listen to NPR then as well. When I arrive home, I always get a joyful dog greeting! Then I change clothes and go to the gym. Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I take bootcamp class at 6:30pm.

8:00 pm
I usually have a late dinner with my husband after the gym, talk with our daughters who are both away at college and do household chores. I check my calendar for the next day and read through whatever is needed for meetings that require preparation. And I check email on my iPhone throughout the evening. I typically unwind after that by watching the local news and then Jimmy Fallon or The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I then put the dogs to bed.

Balancing work and home life can be hard – and making time for oneself is challenging. I am very lucky that my husband is hugely supportive and helps me keep everything running in our personal lives. I also try hard to spend our weekend time doing non-work things with my husband, such as biking in the Bay Area hills together, going to a movie or show up in San Francisco, walking the dogs together and getting together with friends. That said, I am always checking my email (all weekend long) on my phone so I am aware of what is going on at all times.

For related reads about the iSchool community, be sure to check out:
Teamwork and a Passion for Archiving Make the SAASC a Success at the iSchool

A Day in the Life of California State Librarian Greg Lucas

The iSchool’s Impact: Letter from Lea Takigawa

Photos courtesy of Dr. Sandy Hirsh



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