Get to Know Your SJSU iSchool Info 203 Peer Mentors

iStudent Blog

Published: July 26, 2017

Beginning graduate school, especially in an online environment can be a daunting prospect, but you needn’t stress, because your instructors are there to get you off on the right foot.

The San José State University School of Information requires every student who enters the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program to enroll in an introductory course to familiarize themselves with the technology tools necessary to be successful in exclusively online course work. Info 203 Online Learning: Tools and Strategies for Success begins six weeks before the semester starts and is intended to get new students comfortable working and communicating in an online environment. To help make the transition a smooth one, every section of Info 203 comes with a peer mentor—a fellow iSchool student who has already been through some of the program, has recent experience of starting graduate school as well, and the perspective to reassure students that they are on the right track. A few of this fall 2017 semester’s peer mentors talk here about their experiences and how they’ve learned to successfully navigate graduate school online.


Lauren Frazier  
Los Angeles, California

Lauren has been in the program since fall 2016, and is planning to graduate by summer 2018. Her focus is in public librarianship, specifically on adult literacy and library instruction. She is currently a circulation page at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library in Monterey Park, California.

What made you want to become a peer mentor?
I remember being so excited and nervous my first semester at the iSchool, since I wasn’t sure what to expect. But taking INFO 203, and especially my Peer Mentor Monique, made the transition incredibly easy. I also love connecting with my fellow students at the iSchool, and being a Peer Mentor is like being a human information hub for new students. I truly believe having an introductory course like INFO 203 helps prevent “imposter syndrome” that grad students often feel early on, and I became a Peer Mentor to be a part of it.

What did you find most challenging when you started the iSchool program?
I think the thing I struggled with the most when I first started the iSchool was comprehending collaboration in an all-online program. I was concerned about group projects, especially since so many students in the program are juggling families, work and school and it can be hard to find a time to meet. However, all of the group projects I’ve had so far have been successful, due to open and frequent communication between group members and holding each other accountable.

As a peer mentor, how will you help new students navigate the sometimes overwhelming beginnings of graduate school?
Peer mentors are more than assistants to the professor, they are there to guide and inspire the new students. I try to connect students with resources that will help them on their iSchool journey, as well as tips and tricks that I’ve learned throughout my time at the iSchool that I wish I had known when I was first starting the program. Anything I’ve found particularly helpful in navigating iSchool, I’ll put in my blog posts or class discussions. The Peer Mentor meet-ups are also a great resource for new students to deep dive on topics that may be of particular interest to them, such as finding a library job while doing your MLIS, course planning, or time management!

What are your work habits? What works best for you?
My first suggestion is to set aside a certain amount of time every day to check-up and work on school. Setting aside the time in your schedule and creating a routine can also help, but I personally just make sure to log in to Canvas every day, even if it’s at a different time each day. Don’t be afraid to talk to your fellow classmates! You can swap study tips and practice “networking” at the same time. Folder organization, both on my desktop and on Google Drive, has been my best friend. It helps me keep from being overwhelmed and my desktop from looking messy. Have folders for lectures, articles, and assignments. Don’t forget to back up everything on a flash drive.

 

Sarah Edwards Obenauf
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sarah has been in the program since fall 2016 and planning to graduate in December 2017. She is focused on academic libraries and digital preservation/curation; also working on the Digital Assets Management Certificate

What made you want to become a peer mentor?
My own peer mentor was a great resource and always available to answer my questions. I think it’s important that all new students have that kind of support.

What did you find most challenging when you started the iSchool program?
I think for me, the most challenging thing when I started the iSchool program was my own apprehension about the online environment. I had taken several online classes before at different institutions and they were awkward and cumbersome at best—the interface wasn’t user friendly, and the technology used wasn’t always reliable. But only after a few weeks at the SJSU iSchool, I became more comfortable and confident. I find Canvas to be very intuitive and user friendly, and the Student Support Services Team is always there when I need help!

As a peer mentor, how will you help new students navigate the sometimes overwhelming beginnings of graduate school?
I am a peer mentor for the Post-Master’s Certificate section of Info 203, so I am in the unique position of working with students who have already been to graduate school and have an MLIS. I am not sure what to expect, but already having a graduate degree is something we will have in common. I hope they are as excited as I am!

What are your work habits? What works best for you?
Having a dedicated space where I do my work is a huge part of my success. I also make sure to import my Canvas calendar feed into my Google calendar. In addition, I use a paper planner (I like the Moleskin weekly planner) to remind me of deadlines. For day-to-day tasks, I use a bullet journal where I can cross things off as they get done and move items to the next day if needed. I take this one step further by writing the top 3 or 5 things I must do TODAY on a whiteboard, which is prominently displayed next to my laptop. And I try to never eat lunch or dinner while doing schoolwork. Even if it’s just 20 minutes, taking a break helps break the monotony and I’m usually more than ready to get back to work afterwards.

 

Crystal Van Dee
Las Vegas, Nevada

Crystal is a second year at the SJSU iSchool and planning to graduate next fall. She is focused on web programming, with a special interest in information architecture and user experience.

What made you want to become a peer mentor?
When I first started the program, I was terrified. Everything seemed to come so fast and my anxiety made things much more difficult than they should have been. I hope that by being a good peer mentor, I can help other students alleviate their own anxieties. Being a peer mentor will help me learn more about online instruction and user experience—something I’m really interested in. 

What did you find most challenging when you started the iSchool program?
The amount of information is staggering. I am very lucky that I have two friends in Las Vegas who are ischool graduates—both working librarians now. Their patience and wisdom definitely helped keep me grounded.

As a peer mentor, how will you help new students navigate the sometimes overwhelming beginnings of graduate school?
I’ll remind new students that it’s okay to ask questions. It’s easy to feel alone and lost when working in an online program, but asking questions and just talking to others helps take away a lot of that confusion. Students should definitely find ways to talk to each other.  I’m still friends with my group mates from INFO 202 and we talk to each other all the time. In fact, one of them just graduated!

What are your work habits? What works best for you?
I’ve learned that for me, being one week ahead is my version of on time. I’m at my most anxious when I feel like I’m playing catch up. I stay organized by using a combination of digital and analog methods. For example, I try to read all of my long school pdfs on a Kindle. That really helped me keep up on readings, especially because my Kindle doesn’t have that headache-causing glare of a computer screen. I also try to do as much as possible in Google Docs — not just because I can access it anywhere, but because it helps me keep me organized for my core competencies when it comes time to put together my Eportolio. Old-fashioned analog technology that involves the physical act of writing, particularly my bullet journal, helps me think and reflect.

I cannot stress how important it is to schedule time for yourself (mental and physical health) as well as time for your family. You can only lean in so much before you fall over. Even when school is in full swing, I have to read for pleasure or my brain doesn’t work. I try to read at least a chapter of fiction every night. I’ve also started reading more and more comic books for the same reason.

 

image courtesy of smarnad; peer mentor photos courtesy of the individuals