International Doctoral Program Graduates its 18th Student
Congratulations Dr. Cherry-Ann Smart!
This June, Cherry-Ann Smart became the 18th doctoral candidate to earn her PhD through the Gateway PhD program, an international doctoral program at San José State University School of Information, conferred by Queensland University of Technology in Australia.
Smart’s dissertation, Towards transformative engagement: The international and foreign student stakeholders in the academic library; a view from the subaltern, investigates the extent to which international and foreign students, who are often valued for their contributions while their needs are ignored, see themselves as stakeholders in the academic library.
“The topic was based on my own personal experiences as a foreign student when I traveled to Jamaica to pursue my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science,” says Smart, who is a native of Trinidad and Tobago. “Some of the students I met on campus would relate similar experiences of isolation, miscommunication, disempowerment, xenophobia, etc.”
Smart earned her MLIS degree from the University of West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica and her BA in History from UWI, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago. After her first stint at graduate school, Smart worked as head of the public library of Montserrat, another island in the West Indies that is a British Overseas Territory. Smart then returned to Jamaica to take a position in UWI’s library, and continued working there while pursuing her PhD through the international gateway program, eventually serving in three different library departments.
“The reason I got into libraries in the first place is because I did not like librarians,” Smart says, half-joking. She loved to read as a child, but had difficulty accessing library services and encountered librarians who discouraged her reading choices. These experiences inspired in Smart a desire to change the profession for the better, an urge that has informed both Smart’s career and her scholarly research.
For her 300-plus page multidisciplinary research study, Smart surveyed 274 students and also conducted focus groups of foreign, international, and domestic students. The study examines library policies and practices through a social justice lens, looking at issues of power and influence. Smart found that foreign and international students perceive themselves as necessary but insignificant, and calls for libraries to adopt evidence-based practices rather than relying on traditional ways of working. The research is particularly valuable for Smart’s unique perspective as an Indigenous researcher investigating academic life in a post-colonial, developing country.
Smart’s research was guided by her faculty supervisors from both universities. Professor Emeritus Bill Fisher at the SJSU School of Information acted as principal supervisor for Smart’s dissertation, and Professor Sylvia Edwards at the QUT School of Information Systems was an associate supervisor. “Bill allowed me that space to grow and explore,” Smart explains. “Through it all he was always patient and calm. He shared his knowledge and expertise, and I am and continue to be grateful.” Smart describes Edwards as “the yin to Bill’s yang,” calling her “a champion.”
In addition to her faculty supervisors, Smart also appreciated her cohort and found the program’s virtual monthly meetings helpful. She benefited from this exposure to a wide variety of research methods. “I can talk quantitative, I can talk qualitative…I mean, bring it!”
In 2019, Smart left the library at UWI, Mona Campus to start her own business. She provides editorial and consulting services, continuing the kind of work she did at UWI, for a much larger client base. In addition to students working on theses, Smart provides writing, editing and research assistance to corporate clients, university faculty, and has worked with a children’s author, as well as bidding on government contracts. “When you submit these bids and you submit your CV, that PhD helps,” she notes.
Smart also continues to add to her growing list of publishing credits, which include scholarly articles and book chapters. She credits the Gateway PhD program for its support and encouragement to publish. “One of the things that I loved about the program is that you had to publish before you graduated,” raves Smart.
Although colleagues have encouraged her to return to academia, Smart is happy with the position she has carved for herself as an independent scholar and businesswoman. She compares it to “finding the gap” when performing a literature survey, that is finding the topic or angle that hasn’t yet been explored. “I realized I needed to create my own space,” she says.
The Gateway PhD program was offered through a partnership with Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia from 2008 through 2021. Beginning in July 2022, the partner university is Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, England.