Graduating Students Recognized for Top Academic Performance and Exceptional Promise


With the inaugural virtual convocation ceremony just around the corner, the San José State University School of Information announces the seven recipients of the 2015 Awards for Excellence for Graduating Students. Congratulations!

With the inaugural virtual convocation ceremony just around the corner, the School of Information at San José State University (SJSU) announces the recipients of the 2015 Awards for Excellence for Graduating Students. Seven students graduating from the iSchool’s Master in Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program stood out, explained Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom, “not only for their top academic performance at the iSchool, but also for their exceptional promise to contribute to the field.”

As chair of the Student Awards and Scholarship Committee, Stenstrom delivered the good news to Rebecca Lynn Baker, a youth services specialist at the Paul Sawyier Public Library in Frankfort, Kentucky. Baker received the Stella Bunch Hillis Award for Youth Services and was “truly honored” by the award. She stated “I have learned so much from outstanding professors and fellow students during my time in the MLIS program, and will take that knowledge with me as I continue in the youth services field.” In addition to developing library programs and services that meet the needs of the Frankfort community, Baker will also begin teaching Children’s Programming at Northern Kentucky University in the fall and will be delivering professional development workshops for a new school readiness credential for public libraries. Baker’s book, Counting Down to Kindergarten: A Complete Guide for Creating a School Readiness Program for Your Community, will also be available from the American Library Association (ALA) this summer.

James Hicks was awarded the Outstanding Thesis Award for his thesis, “Impacts of Scholarship and Publication on Entry-Level Hiring: Public Service Applicants in Academic Libraries in the United States,” and found the thesis journey to be an especially valuable part of his professional development. “My year-long thesis project profoundly impacted my understanding and appreciation of the research process and triggered a deep desire to extend my efforts to encourage and facilitate quality research output as a researcher, editor, and teacher,” explained Hicks. “I fully expect to use this essential graduate study experience as a springboard for continuing publication, presentation, and networking opportunities as I seek full-time work in academic librarianship.”

“Surprised and honored” were the words Julie Williams used to describe her thoughts when she found out she had been chosen for the Leslie Janke Award in Teacher Librarianship. “Being a school librarian truly marries my love of teaching and interacting with students and my passion for literacy,” said Williams, who especially appreciated the MLIS program’s technology emphasis. “My library program is a work in progress,” explained Williams, “as I seek to add more technology, a makerspace, and change the way our physical and virtual spaces are organized to better meet the needs of the students.”

The MLIS curriculum was also noted by Brittany Austin, winner of the Shirley Hopkinson Award in the Organization of Information, who said, “I wouldn’t be where I am now without the skills and knowledge that I learned in this program!” In March, Austin landed her “dream job” as the project archivist at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Western Massachusetts. Austin’s new job has her managing digital projects, migrating archival records to a new collections management system, and processing and describing collections and archival materials, as well as providing reference and access services during the festival. Austin originally got involved with the festival when she served as an archival fellow during the summer as part of a fellowship program through the Dance Heritage Coalition.

The graduating student recipient of the Edna B. Anthony Award in Reference and Information Services, Lindy Hall, said that she “loves reference service” and that she “hopes to be fortunate to continue serving library patrons for a long, long time!” Hall recently completed 3.5 years working in reference for Pikes Peak Library District, and plans to work in reference in the future.

Vanessa Holm, who is currently CEO of Bancroft Public Library in Ontario, Canada, was awarded the Jean Wichers Award for Professional Practice. Holm remarked that she is “passionate about delivering the very best in library user experience.” According to Holm, the skills she learned in the MLIS program at SJSU allowed her to “implement new library policies and procedures, renovate our children’s room, apply for and successfully secure a series of grants, and redevelop marketing strategies in order to better promote our library programs.” Holm is also the editor of HoOPLA, the Ontario Public Library Association’s quarterly publication, and a volunteer for Librarians Without Borders.

Darren Ilett, who is currently working at the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library in technology instruction, reference, circulation, and programming, was selected for the Ken Haycock Award for Exceptional Professional Promise. According to Ilett, the Ken Haycock Award is “a great honor” and especially meaningful, since “[Haycock] framed my experience at SJSU as a guest speaker on successful group work in LIBR 203 and as editor of The Portable MLIS, which I quoted often in my e-Portfolio.” As part of his learning journey at SJSU, Ilett served as a research assistant for the Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) program in spring 2015 and completed internships at ProQuest and at the University of New Mexico Fine Arts and Design Library. Ilett said that for him, the award is “really humbling” and that he plans to use his MLIS degree to “work to improve people’s lives through service.”

As the recipient of the Ken Haycock Award for Exceptional Professional Promise, Ilett will give an address at the iSchool’s virtual convocation ceremony on May 16, 2015, and will receive a $1,000 award and a citation. All other graduating student award winners will receive a gift certificate and a citation. More information on graduating student awards is available on the iSchool Scholarships and Awards web page. Congratulations to all award winners!