MARA Student Profile: Catherine Folnovic

Published: January 13, 2016 by Anna Maloney

This week the MARA blog presents an interview with Catherine Folnovic, a sixth semester MARA student and the chair of SJSU's Society of American Archivists student chapter. Catherine shares with us her background in archives and discusses her experience so far in the program.

How long have you been working in archives and what interested you in the profession?

I was introduced to the archives and records and information management (RIM) profession when I received a student assistant position at my university’s archives and special collections in the second year of my undergraduate studies. My first task at the archives was to write administrative histories for campus units using sources in the archival holdings. I quickly fell in love with archives, which combined my interest in history with many of my personal strengths (organizational skills, attention to detail, research skills, problem-solving and writing). The institutional knowledge I gained by writing these administrative histories has proven to be a great asset in my current role and excellent justification for keeping me around :-). As a student assistant I worked on a few other projects inventorying records within the archives and around campus in support of the RIM program. As I was graduating with my BA (Honours) in Art History my project supervisor was leaving to pursue her passion, which inadvertently allowed me to pursue mine. I was internally appointed to her position of Archives Assistant (University Records) for a four month term and applied for the full-time permanent position once it was posted and got the job! In my current role I have the pleasure of conducting research and assisting patrons with their research; liaisoning with university personnel on records retention and archival transfers; accessioning, arranging, describing and processing new collections; supporting outreach and programming; supporting the young and evolving university-wide RIM program; and other special projects as they arise. Basically I love my job! The work is hands-on, satisfying and rewarding!

How has the MARA program helped you in your current role?

Although I started the MARA program with a wealth of practical experience I was thirsty for formal training. The MARA program has given me the knowledge and tools to perform my job with expertise and confidence.

What are your short- and/or long-term career goals?

This is a question I am struggling with at present. On one hand I see myself applying for archivist-level positions in universities or museums across Canada once I possess the academic credentials required of these roles. On the other hand I enjoy the hands-on nature of my current job, the daily challenges and mysteries I get to tackle and solve and the people I work with. Our friends and family are here, my husband and I have big travel dreams and eventually want to expand our family. At present I have job security and the opportunity to live a balanced lifestyle, which is everything.

What aspect of the MARA program do you like the most? What drew you to this program over others?

At first I really struggled with the decision to do a distance education program. We have some great archival studies programs in Canada in some beautiful cities I would love to live in. However, since our profession places such value on practical experience it seemed counterproductive to quit my wonderful and stable job in order to attend graduate school. After extensive research into both traditional and online programs I decided to apply solely to the MARA program at San Jose State University. The MARA program has a unique blend of archival studies and RIM (a rarity) and the online environment allows me to keep working while receiving the professional credentials I need to advance my career. Win win!

Have you had a favorite class or professor?

As you work your way through the MARA program you realize that each course plays a significant role in building your knowledge base and expertise. I believe this evolution is more important than any specific course on its own. Last semester I took MARA 284 Enterprise Content Management and Digital Preservation with Dr. Patricia Franks, which is a brand new course where you get the opportunity to work directly with SharePoint and Preservica. The practical and hands-on nature of this course really stood out to me and proved to be an extremely rewarding experience. Getting to learn from professors who are scholars and actively working professionals is also a valuable aspect of the MARA program.

Do you have any advice for current or future MARA students?

Get involved in the iSchool community, professional associations and your local community! A downside to distance education is not having as many opportunities to make meaningful connections with your colleagues, professors and larger archival and RIM community. The iSchool provides students with ample opportunity to fill that divide, such as travel awards for conferences, an internship program, guest lectureships and student-lead groups. I got involved in the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Student Chapter early on in the MARA program as their Technology Coordinator and now serve as their active Chair. I have honed my leadership skills through participating in this group and have made many meaningful connections. I also recommend joining professional associations and groups, volunteering at or attending conferences and getting to know the archivists and RIM professionals around you! New connections often lead to new opportunities.

Additionally, I recommend taking the time to apply for scholarships! This past semester I received an ARMA International Educational Foundation Graduate Education Scholarship and not only did it feel amazing, but it really helped with the financial burden that comes with graduate school!

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