Meet Dr. Darra Hofman, Ph.D, J.D.
Our New MARA Program Coordinator
Published: November 2, 2021 by Melissa Prunty Kemp
After the retirement of our former MARA program coordinator, Dr. Patricia Franks, you might have wondered who would replace her? Perhaps you have even taken a class or two with our new MARA program coordinator, especially if you began course work in the MLIS program. Our new program coordinator, Dr. Darra Hofman, assistant professor, is taking the helm of the MARA program. She offers our students a wealth of unique knowledge, academic, and professional experience that is exceptionally poised to propel our students in technology and information governance.
Who is Dr. Hofman?
Here are just a few of Dr. Hofman’s amazing accomplishments:
A Conversation with Dr. Hofman
MK: Personally, I am extraordinarily interested in your time at UBC. Last semester, I wrote a strategic plan with the group about the library. What was your assessment of working there? What were your greatest challenges and achievements?
DH: I feel incredibly privileged to have done my doctoral studies at UBC – I actually “met” the iSchool at SJSU through my experiences as a graduate research assistant at UBC (with InterPARES and Blockchain@UBC). It would be difficult to overstate how lucky I was to train there; I had the opportunity to learn archival science from world-leading scholars, to participate first-hand in cutting edge research, and to do so while surrounded by incredible support. Perhaps the greatest challenge – which I think is pretty universal for graduate students – was balancing the work with my personal life; I have three children, two of whom have disabilities and all of the appointments and meetings attendant thereto. Finishing and defending my dissertation was especially hard! I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in March 2020 (though I had been ill for a couple of years), my children were home and dissertation stress was compounded with pandemic stress – yikes! But, I successfully defended that dissertation (which later won the ALISE/Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation Competition) and was able to join SJSU iSchool as an assistant professor.
MK: As per our MARA program, what is your vision for our students and our department?
DH: My vision is to build on the many strengths the MARA program already has to ensure our students come out “future ready.” I will admit that I can be a bit evangelical about records and archives, because they have so much power to be either sword or shield, and I feel incredibly privileged to be working with future professionals in this field that I love so much. The future of MARA – like the future of archives and records – is one where we’ll be tackling big, hard questions with deep intentionality. My goal is to equip MARA students with both the technical know-how (including archival knowledge and technology skills) and the critical perspectives to take on any number of archives and records and information management roles - including those that don’t yet exist – and make the world better through their work.
MK: What sorts of innovations in MARA and MLIS do you believe our students should academically explore?
DH: Our students have an incredible diversity of opportunities to explore, both in MARA and through MLIS electives. Within MARA, we offer five elective clusters, letting students specialize in everything from cultural heritage to digital curation to data analytics. MARA students are also well positioned to earn a Digital Assets Certificate in Information Governance, Assurance and Security. We have an exceptional pool of faculty in MARA, with whom I am always working to develop new courses and opportunities for our students – I’m very excited that, this spring, we will be able to offer a new course on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Because our students have the opportunity to take MLIS electives, they can extend their knowledge based on their passions. Pre-approved MLIS electives include everything from Metadata and Cybersecurity to LGBTIQ Resources and Services. If students can make it work, I also recommend they consider one of our professional experiences, which can be an internship, an organizational consulting project, or a professional project. Hands-on experience is invaluable!
MK: Can you share your most rewarding academic and career experiences related to our field? How did these experiences prepare you to innovate, educate and dream in this field?
DH: I love teaching and feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to help train future records professionals. Perhaps the greatest feeling is when a former student emails and says, “Just so you know, I’ve started a job, and I still use the notes from your class in my job!” I’ve also had students come to me about really challenging circumstances in their lives, and I’m always honored that they trust me to try to help them find solutions – and so very proud when they overcome. The connection with students always inspires me to continue trying to improve my teachings, and the perspectives and insights they share drive new approaches and open new doors in my research.
MK: As you step into your new role, do you have any opening statements or advice for MARA students?
DH: My advice would be to embrace your “why,” because there are going to be times where graduate education - regardless of how talented you are, regardless of how committed you are to the field – feels like a slog. But you came into MARA for a reason, so remember that reason when it’s hard. Our mantra in my family is, “We can do hard things!” and if you’re the kind of self-driven, motivated person who joins MARA, you, too, can do hard things! Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to the folks in the program (including me) and the broader profession; it’s our privilege to teach and mentor you!