Your Faculty Advisor — A Great Human Resource at the iSchool

iStudent Blog

Published: April 28, 2016

Faculty advisors can help you plan your program and decide which courses are best for your career focus.

Need some good advice? Your iSchool advisor is even better than Dear Abby, especially when it comes to your graduate school education and career goals. Every student is assigned a full-time faculty advisor upon admission to SJSU’s School of Information and will receive information on how to contact their advisor through the Canvas Advising and Administration site. 

Advisors are great sources of information about career pathways, planning your program, and deciding which courses are best for your career focus. My advisor, Dr. Mary Ann Harlan explained the difference between Cataloging and Collection Management to me and gave me the go-ahead to take a STEM in Libraries course that I’d been itching to take but wasn’t sure if something else might be required for my career goals. 

The School of Information web page has a lot to say about the role of full-time faculty including their role as academic advisors. The most important information is this: Faculty advisors are available; faculty advisors will not pursue you. In other words, this resource of incredibly knowledgeable people with resources and experiences in your area of study is only available if you pursue it. Sadly, many iSchool students go through their entire graduate school careers without contacting their academic advisors even once. Ack! Don’t let this opportunity slip away. Talk to these faculty members; pick their brains. Then of course, connect with them on LinkedIn.

Get their advice as soon as you start the program, but if you’re already in the midst of your studies reach out and connect with your advisor anyway. Get to know them and let them get to know you. iSchool lecturer, Beth Wrenn-Estes suggests that new students map out their program. “Sit down at the beginning and create a semester-by-semester grid and then fill in your courses by name and course number,” says Wrenn-Estes. “Use it like a strategic plan—a living document that guides you through your program.”

Associate professor Dr. Lili Luo recommends that new students get engaged in their professional community. “In addition to coursework,” says Luo, “students may consider joining student organizations, going to conferences and networking with professionals which could be quite helpful for them to keep up to date with the development of the field.” Luo is a faculty advisor to graduate and post-graduate students and has also served as part of several students’ thesis committees.

Assistant professor Harlan is the Teacher Librarian Coordinator, so she’s the one you want to go to if teacher librarianship is your goal. “I work as an advisor with people interested in being a teacher librarian,” says Harlan, “because there are required courses, and certain licensing issues. I answer a lot of questions about what courses to take, how to handle licensing, and what to expect in the process of getting your credential.”

Some of your questions may get redirected, including those having to do with academic standing, probation, scholarships and financial aid. These questions are better answered by Student Services Coordinator Vicki Robison or the SJSU financial aid office. Online Student Advisor Sheila Gurtu is another great person to contact with questions about coursework. She can answer questions and point you to resources on the Canvas Advising Site.

Harlan reminds new (and continuing) students,  “Get familiar with the iSchool website and all of the amazing resources.”  This includes reading through all the career pathways as you plan your coursework according to your career goals and keeping track of course rotations to see which classes are offered in the fall and which are taught in the spring. This is important, especially as you reach the end of your required units. You don’t want to be stuck without a course to take in the spring because the class you need isn’t offered until fall. I speak from experience.

Faculty advisors have been at this for a while and they get all kinds of questions. They do their best to guide and direct students to the appropriate resources but they won’t tell you what to do. “The decisions about what classes and what track students want to specialize in is up to them,” says Wrenn-Estes. “But I stress that I am here to help so they can contact me as many times as they want.”

For interesting and related content, check out these posts:
INFO 285 Research Methods- A Required Course with a Wealth of Opportunities

Links to Your Best Resources as You Start the SJSU iSchool

One of Your Best Resources at the iSchool- The Advising Site on Canvas

image courtesy of fotographic 1980

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