Current and Incoming iSchool Students Awarded More Than $50,000 in Scholarships


The San José State University School of Information has given dozens of scholarships to new and matriculated students for their studies in the Master of Archives and Records Administration or Master of Library and Information Science degree program.  

Scholarship committee chair Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom said 40 students received scholarships totaling $52,706 to be applied toward course fees during the fall 2018 semester.

“I think I can speak for all the members of the committee when I say this work is very rewarding. We know the students applying are able to focus more closely on their studies when they receive an award because of the reduced financial burden. For some of our continuing students, it makes a difference of whether or not they’re able to attend during a given semester,” Stenstrom said.

Lead committee member Dr. Lisa Daulby reviews all of the scholarship applications and helps to select the recipients, a duty she describes as “a great pleasure and honor.” Daulby is impressed with the caliber of students accepted to the iSchool’s master’s degree programs.

“The scholarship recipients from the MARA and MLIS programs are truly amazing learners; they are community-focused, professional, driven, and goal-oriented,” she said.

Daulby noted the creativity of content and designs of submissions were imperative. A solid focus on community, library service and leadership in the student’s current and previous work was also important in the scholarship selection.

“I, and other faculty members, find it personally very gratifying to serve on the committee. During the review process, I enjoy seeing, first hand, the learners’ clear intelligence and knowledge, as well as innovative and creative spirit. I feel privileged to be part of the recipients’ academic journey,” she said.

Director’s Scholarship for Excellence for New Students: Fall 2018 Recipients

The Director’s Scholarship for Excellence was created to recognize the potential of new students to serve as information professionals and take a leading role in shaping the profession. Applicants created infographic/digital posters that highlighted their desired career paths using creativity and research to share either their thoughts on issues that will be important to them in their career or what drew them to the information profession.

Scholarship recipient Cathryne Ramirez said she carries a journal with her for when ideas strike, and that’s where she began putting down her thoughts on what motivates her to work in a library.

“I discovered that what I enjoy most is helping people to find the information that they need, but I found that I don’t just enjoy pointing them in the right direction. I enjoy teaching them to utilize the tools that the library offers,” she said.

In her research, she discovered her interests align with academic librarianship, which is where she sees herself in the future. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Chapman University in 2016, Ramirez considered a Master’s degree in English Literature, but knew she’d ultimately want to work in the library profession.

“SJSU came recommended to me by many influential people in my life. Both former coworkers and current coworkers have gained their degrees from SJSU. Also, the ability to shape the program based on what sort of library work I want to get into was a great draw to me.

“I am so thankful to have won the scholarship. It gives me a firm foundation from which to start my MLIS degree knowing that SJSU believes in both my work and my dream for my future. The scholarship also gives me a bit of breathing room to focus on my studies and not worry as much about the financial cost for the first semester,” Ramirez noted.

Ariana Varela wanted to make her scholarship submission about her own experiences with academia and issues that are prevalent in academic libraries. She wanted to create an infographic around “bridging the education gap” and the need for diversity in library staff.

“It is well known that academic libraries are white and cater to white students. Gradually, students of color are being allowed into spaces (like universities) that have historically excluded folks of color. I think libraries have a great opportunity to assist and develop curriculum that is sensitive to different disadvantages or life experiences,” she said.

Her effective infographic impressed the committee to award Varela a scholarship, but she admits she was surprised when the email arrived announcing she’d won.

“I had to read it a few times because it felt surreal. I am very grateful to be one of the incoming students chosen for this scholarship. It greatly reduces the financial burden of pursuing secondary education and allows me to focus on the important aspects of graduate school like content, networking, and assignments,” she said.

Special Session Scholarships for New Students: Fall 2018 Recipients

Special Session Scholarship for Current Students: Fall 2018 Recipients

Special Session Scholarship recipients (for new and current students) had to create videos using programs such as Powtoon, Prezi and Emaze that illustrated their commitment to “impacting global and/or diverse communities and organizations or showing leadership through initiatives related to libraries or records or information environments or external professional associations.” Entries were judged based on creative presentation in the form of descriptive text, data points, visual elements, and their overall ability to convey their thoughts.

Newly admitted MLIS students Erin Weaver and Erin Fussell found the process of creating their presentations to be fun and enjoyable experiences. Kristen Veiga and Kasi Allen spent considerable time researching their subjects for pertinent information to include. Carrie Kitzmiller, Emily Mercer, Christie Hwang, and Jennie Tobler-Gaston drew from personal skills, and others like Sarah Wilson and Renee Torres were able to use talents from different parts of their lives to put together their winning submissions.

“My four-year-old daughter’s obsession with dresses and princesses helped spark the idea of shaping my piece as if I was going to attend a fancy dance for librarians. And I am a former singer/songwriter, so I was able to arrange one of my original compositions for the audio,” Wilson said.

“When creating my presentation, I thought about the happy memories I had of going to my city’s public library as a child,” Hwang noted.

Fussell said, “The process was a lot of fun going over experiences in my life — it seems that I’ve been preparing to be a librarian since grade school without even realizing it!”

Even before receiving a scholarship, Kitzmiller knew her decision to attend the iSchool was right for her.

“I researched and applied to four different programs, but SJSU was my first choice. I was so impressed with their reputation with the American Library Association, as well as the accessibility of staff and faculty when I had questions. I then attended the online open house, and that sealed it for me. When I was accepted to SJSU, I stopped applying anywhere else and knew that I had made the right choice,” she said.

For many of the incoming students, receiving the scholarship was not only an endorsement of the time and energy spent on their projects, but also affirmed they have chosen the right field of study.

“Having an outside voice tell me that my project was worthy was rewarding … it affirmed my belief that archival studies and information sciences are both worthwhile pursuits, and that something I’m passionate about can also lead to a fulfilling career,” Weaver explained.

Mercer concurred: “It was also very validating to know that the committee sees potential in my ability as a student and a professional. I feel inspired to prove them right.”

“To obtain a scholarship before starting any course work at the school reaffirmed that I’m making the right decision going back to school. The confidence boost and the monetary award will help me start off strong this fall,” Torres expressed.

In addition, the scholarship is a much-appreciated assistance with the costs of graduate school.

“This scholarship will help ease the financial burden of going for my master’s — allowing me to focus on my studies. It also helps since my husband is currently working full time on his bachelor’s degree,” Tobler-Gaston said.  

Veiga shared a similar sentiment: “Working part time and living independently can be difficult and the option of picking up a second job to pay for school has been considered. However, because of this generous scholarship, I can dedicate more time to my studies and continue to gain some experience working part time for my library district.”

Indeed, finances are an important consideration when deciding to pursue an advanced degree. “Starting graduate school is such a big decision, and much of that decision is a financial one. Having the scholarship to help alleviate some of that financial burden felt like a huge win,” emphasized Allen.

Current MLIS student Lauren Frazier wanted to draw from her experiences in both graduate school and her career working in Los Angeles-area libraries for her presentation. She used Emaze to create “Serving Diverse and Global Communities.”

“I have made it one of my goals to cater to underserved and marginalized populations. I have also tried to do this with my school work as well, using diversity and global communities as a lens through which I complete many of my assignments at the iSchool,” she said.

She notes putting together the presentation for the scholarship committee helped put her graduate studies in perspective.

“It was an incredible feeling to have my path to librarianship validated. Winning the scholarship has driven me even more to continue focusing on diverse communities, both in the iSchool and beyond.

“My iSchool experience has been phenomenal, and I would absolutely recommend SJSU’s iSchool to anyone with a passion for libraries and/or information science. It makes getting an MLIS possible for so many who would not be able to go to a brick and mortar school, and the professors and classes are amazing. There are so many different disciplines within library and information science, and so many different avenues to try out. I cannot recommend this program enough,” Frazier enthused.

A recent promotion as operations manager of archives and special collections was made possible by Laura Doublet’s progress toward her MLIS degree. She felt particularly honored and deeply appreciative to be selected for a scholarship, and for the support of Drs. Sandra Hirsh and Stenstrom.

“As I’m reaching the end of my time as a graduate student in the iSchool, this scholarship has provided me with a boost both financially and emotionally,” she said.

Jessica Clark was watching her son perform in the Wizard of Oz when she learned she’d won a scholarship. As a first-generation college graduate, being recognized twice with Special Session Scholarships for Current Students is a source of pride.

“After almost 15 years working in entertainment legal, I decided to branch out and educate myself in other areas, and this scholarship is helping me do that with a little bit less stress. 

“This year I started a new job at Disney in publishing legal working with archival material, so my MLIS degree is applicable for my current work. However, I am also interested in studio archives and librarianship, as well as public and university librarianship. I was very pleased to find out that there are a number of archives and libraries on the Disney campus. They make for great lunch time study spots,” she said.

MARA current students Anna Belle Rosen and Alisa Chen desire to make archives and libraries more diverse and inclusive. Growing up, Rosen frequented the San Joaquin County Historical Society in her hometown of Stockton, Calif. and later volunteered for several years at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, which helped shaped her decision to pursue a career working for historical societies. Those influences shaped her scholarship presentation.

“I decided to feature concepts that I had come across in my course work that I believe are truly furthering the idea of creating a more inclusive archival space for all people, all over the world. It was actually a great opportunity to consider what I would like to focus on in my future career and what parts of the archival profession I connect to the most,” she said.

Chen considers herself a supporter of global and diverse communities, and sharing those values with others. She said it stems from her younger “bookworm years” and working for the Los Angeles County Library system.

“I wanted to convey in my presentation that all those experiences of meeting people from different communities and varying backgrounds has helped to solidify my mission in giving back and to ultimately have a better understanding of the beautiful diversity within our communities,” she said.

When she graduates, Chen wants to work in a multitude of sectors and organizations while benefitting her community.  

Endowed Scholarships for Current Students: Awarded in Spring 2018

  • Alejandra Alfaro – Leppe Scholarship
  • Marie Faye Barrera – Blanche Woolls Spectrum Scholarship
  • Sarah DeWitt – Terry Crowley Scholarship
  • Amy DiBello – Thea Estreicher Scholarship
  • Julian Jaravata – Alumni and Friends Scholarship
  • Farima Kafai and Karen Bliss – Friends of Leisure World Scholarship
  • Katherine Kurlys – Zasio Scholarship
  • Joy Peterson – Global Impact Scholarship
  • Cassandra Smith – H.W. Wilson Scholarship
  • Margaret Snyder – Kaiser Permanente Medical Scholarship and the Librarian Opportunity Scholarship
  • Kate Steffens – Graduate Student Scholarship
  • Paizha Stoothoff – Faculty Scholarship

When MLIS current student Alejandra Alfaro finds her dream job either as a high school or youth services librarian, she wants to help others in turn for the support and validation she feels as the Leppe Scholarship recipient.

“In addition to being excited and happy to win this scholarship, I mostly feel an immense amount of gratitude for this award. I am very aware that others have donated money for my benefit and I cannot wait to pay this deed forward when I become a librarian,” she said.

Marie Faye Berrera is set to graduate in spring 2019 and wants to find a position that involves digital curation and metadata, particularly processing and preserving digital collections of marginalized communities at an academic or art library’s archives and special collections. She’s also interested in collections information specialist jobs at museums since it combines her interest and educational background in art history with her MLIS degree.

“I was extremely excited and honored to learn that I was selected for the Blanche Woolls Spectrum Scholarship. The Spectrum Scholars at the iSchool are brilliant, incredible, passionate people, and so it was a privilege to be chosen from such a group. This scholarship will allow me to finish my MLIS in the timetable I mapped out and lessen my financial stress,” she said.

Farima Kafai is currently enjoying her work in a public library, and after graduation she hopes to find a position as a children’s or teens’ librarian because she loves being a part of her community and giving back in positive and enriching ways. 

“I felt elated to learn that I was chosen as one of the recipients of the Friends of Leisure World scholarship. I am so grateful to The Friends of Leisure World for supporting my education. This generous scholarship lightens my financial burden as I begin my final year of iSchool,” she said.

Working in an international setting furthering the education of displaced women and children is Joy Peterson’s career goal, and winning the Global Impact scholarship reaffirms the literacy efforts she’s already carried out.

“I was absolutely thrilled to receive the scholarship. It made me feel that the university really cares about global issues, and helped me to feel validated about the work we did in setting up a library for Syrian refugees,” she said.

As a former piano teacher who led a musical program for preschoolers, Cassandra Smith wants to become a children’s librarian, but admits graduate school has been difficult juggle between the costs of raising a family and wanting a career change.

“Being awarded a scholarship is kind of like a gift to my husband and my children so that we can worry less about how we’re going to pay for another semester. With just one more semester to go after the summer term, I’m excited that I don’t have to worry about making another tuition payment,” Smith said.

Margaret Snyder was awarded two scholarships for the fall term, which will go a long way toward her pursuit of either academic or special health/medical librarianship.

“I want to support and contribute to innovations in research and collaboration between information communities,” she said.

Snyder attributes her success at the iSchool is due in large part to the program’s emphasis on virtual collaboration and conversation, which she feels is “extremely vital” for success in the future.

Wanting to explore non-traditional job pathways for LIS graduates, Kate Steffens is interested in the archives profession caring for and sharing historical materials.

“Using social media to promote archives and archiving is just one way that I am attempting to expose the public to the importance of primary sources, as well as sharing archival materials from people and communities that are not always given the exposure they deserve in a traditionally white male profession.

“I would love it if more students visited and used SJSU’s Special Collections and Archives (King Library, 5th Floor), which contains a wealth of incredible documents, art, books, and other materials available for the public and students to use for research,” she said.

The Faculty Scholarship has allowed Paizha Stoothoff to transition into part-time work in order to focus more on her studies. It will also support a conference attendance in November.

“As MLIS students, we put in a lot of time and hard work to our studies and professional development. Being recognized by faculty was validating and it motivated me to keep up and do my best,” she said.

The funds help Stoothoff as she studies to become an academic librarian working specifically with English literature with interests in scholarly communication, research support services, and instruction. This fall she will begin an internship at a research university in Southern California.

Congratulations to all of the scholarship recipients!