Incoming School of Information Students Recognized for Creativity and Potential with Director’s Scholarship for Excellence


Five new students will be starting the MLIS program this fall with a $1,000 credit after being awarded the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence. Their winning Pinterest applications demonstrated creativity in information organization and story telling.

Five students newly admitted to the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) have been selected as recipients of the fall 2016 Director’s Scholarship for Excellence recognizing “the potential of new students to serve as information professionals and take a leading role in shaping our profession.”

Viola Allo, Michelle Peralta, Megan Smith (seen below in a video pin introducing herself to the scholarship committee), Paula Fox, and Jessica Luhmann all demonstrated their creativity and enthusiasm for their chosen career path by creating a Pinterest board that “showcased [their] interest in pursuing a career in the information profession” which was then used as the primary criteria for their selection as recipients of the $1,000 scholarship.

Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom, chair of the Student Scholarship and Student and Alumni Networking Committee, explained that the unique form of the scholarship application allows incoming students to express their thoughts as they start their educational journeys and also demonstrate the skills they are bringing to the iSchool. “The Director’s Scholarship for Excellence not only recognizes those incoming students whom the faculty believe represent the most inspiring and promising applicants coming to the program,” she explained, “they also give the applicants a chance to showcase their creativity and interests as they wish to pursue them as a candidate.”

Noting that “the iSchool is also very pleased to be able to support these five recipients as they begin their candidature, and ease the financial burden of the first semesters’ fees,” Stenstrom also shared the scholarship committee’s support and encouragement for these outstanding students. “The committee hopes to see the names of these promising students at graduation time when faculty will have a chance to nominate them for awards showcasing their work,” she said.


Allo and Peralta were selected to receive the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence in memory of Nina Jensen, an iSchool alumna who worked as a librarian for the California State Department of Corrections. Allo (pictured left in a pin introducing herself to the scholarship committee) is a published poet originally from Cameroon who stated that she is “immensely grateful” for the scholarship in Jensen’s memory and found the scholarship application process rewarding.

“Creating my Pinterest board for the scholarship application was a very intense process, an experience I viewed as creating something I could always return to and re-read, as well as share with others,” explained Allo. “I decided on a Pinterest board that would be Afro-centric, which allowed me to honor my background as a poet from Cameroon, while also celebrating my love for libraries and my passion for librarianship. Once my board was complete, I could step back and deeply appreciate this wonderful opportunity to articulate how important libraries are and how thrilled I am to begin my journey toward becoming a librarian.”

Peralta expressed gratitude to the iSchool and to Jensen’s friends and family, who donated the funds for the memorial scholarship, for awarding her the scholarship. Like Allo, she also stated that she enjoyed the challenge of creating her Pinterest board.

“Using Pinterest as a way to visually present a personal statement forced me a bit outside my comfort zone and to get creative, she commented.  “I wanted to tell a story, but I knew it couldn’t be linear since Pinterest boards force your eyes to move around to different pins.”

The nonlinearity of Pinterest inspired Peralta to look to the Choose Your Own Adventure series of children’s books she loved as a child as a model for her story in pins. “Each pin gives the viewer the power of choice for how they can interact, absorb, and move about the board, without sacrificing any of the key points I wanted to get across for why I want to be an information professional,” she explained. “These points ended up being chapter markers to both drive the story and help the viewer maneuver through the board itself.”

Smith also looked to children’s literature for her board focusing on youth services, but she went back even earlier than Peralta and used a children’s alphabet book as her model. “Putting together a visually-based, varied media showcase of all the things that make me so passionate about youth services was a fun and rewarding experience,” she remarked, “and what better way to organize it than the ABCs? Three cheers for early literacy!” 

Smith’s first pin on her “ABCs of Youth Services” board is a video introduction (see video above) and each subsequent pin represents a letter of the alphabet and an aspect of librarianship related to youth services. For example, “D” is for “dance party,” which for Smith is a very important part of the job. “Who doesn’t love a dance party?” she wrote in the pin’s description. “I know I have the chops to make it as a youth services librarian because I AM NOT AFRAID to rock out to Laurie Berkner with my ridiculous dance moves!”

Fox stated that she was “shocked” to find out she had won a scholarship with her board because before completing her scholarship application she was “a virgin Pinterester” and had found the prospect of creating her very first board “a bit daunting.” Not one to shy away from a challenge, however, Fox looked to her own love of travel and an imminent move and chose a “road trip” theme for her application.

“[I]n starting my MLIS degree after so many years as an established high school teacher, I see myself on a new road of travel,” she stated. “While road trips are undoubtedly wayward and fun, the best of them serve as the ultimate learning experience of discovery. [My] Pinterest board supports the importance of recognizing that everyone is travelling—at different speeds, in different directions, but we are all moving forward.  This is life—the movement of it all.”

Among the “destinations” on Fox’s Pinterest road trip are New York City; Sacramento, California; and Monterrey, Mexico. Every destination is linked to a program, service, or feature of librarianship in that location, such as a program for ranch hands in a library in Chico, California.

Luhmann noted that the theme of her Pinterest board came from her motivation to pursue an MLIS degree. “I’m studying information science because I want to promote easy access to powerful ideas, cultural treasures, and inspiration,” she explained.  “This unique scholarship application afforded me an opportunity to explore this concept. I sought to create a visually alluring avenue to information that intermingles with the mainstream.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the poetry of Ezra Pound, the art of Roy Lichtenstein, and many other ideas and cultural treasures are featured on Luhmann’s board, which demonstrates the value of libraries and librarianship.

To date, 15 students have been awarded the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence to assist them as they embark on the MLIS journey at the iSchool. Like many iSchool scholarships, the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence is funded by donations from faculty, alumni, and friends of the iSchool. To support student scholarships at the SJSU School of Information, please visit the iSchool donation web page.

UPDATE 6/16/2016

Jessica Luhmann decided to not accept the scholarship award. The committee reviewed the scholarship applications once again, and selected new MLIS student Heather Bradshaw Dewsbury’s Pinterest board. Dewsbury accepted the scholarship award, and her winning Pinterest board can be viewed at