iSchool Awards Scholarships to 34 Students for Fall 2019


The San José State University School of Information has awarded 34 incoming and continuing students scholarships totaling $48,348 to assist them as they pursue graduate degrees. Each award is valued at $1,422.

Students pursuing their Master of Library and Information ScienceMaster of Archives and Records Administration, or Master of Science in Informatics were encouraged to apply for three scholarship opportunities: The Director’s Scholarship for Excellence, the Special Session Scholarship for Incoming Students, and the Special Session Scholarship for Continuing Students.

The scholarship applications highlighted creativity and visual storytelling using graphics and software applications like Kizoa, PowToon and Prezi. New students applying for the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence conveyed in their infographics why they want to pursue a career in the information profession and the issues that are important to them. The presentation applications for the Special Session Scholarships expressed the applicants’ understanding of how the library and archives professions impact communities globally and reflected the importance of professional leadership.

According to Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom, the scholarship committee chairperson, the scholarship applicants came from all over the U.S., showcased a variety of experiences, and all demonstrated exceptionally strong academic backgrounds.

Director’s Scholarships for Excellence

Endowed with donations from faculty, alumni, and friends of the iSchool, the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence recognizes the potential of new students to take leading roles in shaping their professions as they embark on their master’s degree journeys. Five incoming students received the Director’s Scholarship of Excellence, totaling $7,110 in award funding. The scholarship recipients’ infographics can be viewed on Pinterest.

Excerpt from Renee Cashmere's infographicFormer 8th grade teacher and aspiring teacher librarian Renee Cashmere’s infographic, “Knowledge is Power,” effectively communicates her love of books and her fascination with research. It also outlines her career goals: to assist students with acquiring research skills, to add cultural relevance to library materials, and to serve a population that traditionally lacks resources to advanced learning.

Cashmere, who is starting her MLIS journey during the fall 2019 session, said she felt “relief, gratitude, and happiness,” upon learning of being awarded the scholarship.

Alejandra Magallon titled her winning infographic “Journey of a Future Librarian.” As an incoming student, she said that she initially found the idea of creating an infographic daunting, and didn’t know where to start.

“But I quickly realized that this method of expressing myself came naturally. The experience of introspection on my dreams while applying for this scholarship helped solidify my desire to pursue my master’s degree at SJSU’s iSchool,” she said.

Receiving the scholarship has given Magallon added encouragement as she embarks on her educational journey. “I am so grateful for what the committee saw in me. This scholarship is a huge relief, and I am so excited to start my courses!” she said.

Devon Simpson’s infographic, “Every Picture Tells a Story,” colorfully shows how as a library assistant, she helps provide vital services to patrons with a wide variety of information needs. Her decision to pursue her MLIS sprang from her stint as a barista, when she first realized how much she enjoyed interacting with the public and connecting people with the resources they seek.

“I planned my infographic by looking around the library where I work for inspiration. It’s a place full of magic and books and useful information, and as a staff member I see all the hard work that goes into making those stories and information accessible to the entire community. I knew that my infographic had to be about that work, and about how I want to be a part of it,” she explained.

Excerpt from Susan Widule's infographic“I was thrilled and extremely grateful when I found out I’d received the scholarship — it’s a wonderful feeling to be starting out my degree on such a positive note,” Simpson said.

As a returning student without a lot of experience using technology, Susan Widule wondered whether the online environment would work for her and worried the technology expectations would be too high.

“But I took a chance. I can’t imagine a better way to welcome in a new student. And I learned a new way to use my Bitmoji app,” she said after her infographic, “Blueprint for an Academic Librarian,” won her the scholarship. “Receiving the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence is an amazing way to start my librarianship journey.”  

Special Session Scholarships for Incoming Students

Hailey Giczy, who works as the senior library technician at Paramount High School, one of the largest public high schools in the nation, was one of 18 students who received a Special Session Scholarship for incoming students.

About planning her presentation, “High School Library Starter Kit,” Giczy said, “Once I knew I was going to be making this presentation about my work at the high school, I made a list about the most important factors, in my opinion, that contribute to expanded readership and involvement in our school library. Once the premise was there, everything fell into place.”

Excerpt from Hailey Giczy's presentationExcited to be returning to graduate school after 10 years in the workforce, Giczy said she doesn’t plan on taking out any student loans, and that receiving the scholarship will allow her the opportunity to take an additional class this fall without worrying about making ends meet.

Max Gonzalez, a future librarian dedicated to bringing information literacy to diverse communities, said receiving the scholarship made him feel the work he put into his presentation was “appreciated and validated.”

“I was investing a lot of time into learning astronomy, so I wanted to be entertaining and make the theme around a space navigator introducing you to ‘Max’s universe.’ In this universe, there were rules about how to improve diverse communities and organizations through literacy and interpersonal skills. Once I created this theme, the presentation was very fun and exciting for me that I felt the creativity flowing naturally,” he explained.

Katherine Rae Kurnick’s PowToon presentation, “Meet Kate K.,” demonstrates her deep commitment to education — as a former teacher, as a student, and as a future teacher librarian.

While she’s looking forward to starting her first year as an MLIS student in the fall, she said she initially doubted her chances of getting a scholarship and deliberated about applying for one.

Eager to share her love of books and learning with others, Kurnick said she finally decided to “just go for it,” and is glad that she did. “I am so honored to accept this scholarship, and I feel very welcomed by SJSU,” she said.

This fall is the first time a scholarship for a student starting the new MS in Informatics program was awarded. Michelle Majstorich, a first-generation college student, was the first Informatics student to receive the Special Session Scholarship.

Majstorich said she was “thrilled and surprised” to learn of the award. “It’s a generous scholarship, and I’m so thankful,” she said.

Special Session MLIS Scholarships for Continuing Students

In her presentation, “Leading the Way for Libraries,” Samantha Cayo emphasized the importance of digital literacy and creating spaces where all patrons feel included, regardless of their sexual orientation, socio-economic or religious background.

“Incredibly grateful” for the opportunity to apply for a scholarship for continuing MLIS students, Cayo said receiving the scholarship funds will mitigate the challenges of balancing work, school, and her personal life, and will help alleviate concern this upcoming year.

“I feel so encouraged to be attending an institution that is so supportive of its students, and look forward to continuing on in the program,” she said. “It was refreshing to design a presentation using Prezi instead of writing the traditional personal statement, as it allowed me to be more creative while learning a new software program!”

MLIS student Micah Kehrein knew they wanted to become a librarian at the age of 15, when they started working as a library aid at their local public library in Seattle, Washington. They said they began researching MLIS programs five years ago, but finances, health, and time constraints kept them from applying until this year.

“During those five years, I researched how I would be able to afford school while still working and taking care of my health. I realized that the more financial support I had during this program, the easier it would be for me to balance the rest of my responsibilities. The due date for this scholarship was in my planner before it even opened!” Kehrein said.

For their presentation, Kehrein said they “wanted to create an artifact that could be used to support other library workers to push for change, inclusion, and equity in their libraries.” They shared concrete examples of the work they’ve done to make libraries safer spaces for transgender and non-conforming people, citing their experience effecting positive changes to library practices and culture.

Excerpt from Micah Kehrein's presentationGetting the message through about the need for transgender inclusion in libraries hasn’t always been an easy path to forge, Kehrein acknowledged. “I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in transgender inclusion in libraries, often while being harmed by the status quo that is in place. I appreciate that the SJSU iSchool sees the value in this work and has provided me with funds to keep doing this work moving forward,” Kehrein said.

Receiving the scholarship clearly meant a lot to Kehrein. “I felt incredibly grateful to receive this award. It felt really wonderful to be seen and honored,” they said.

For Joshua Sanchez, applying for a Special Session Scholarship for continuing MLIS students was a way of expressing gratitude.

“Between what I was learning in my classes this past semester (285 – Research Methods, 261A – Library Services to Teens, and 250 – Instructional Design) and projects I was juggling at work, I felt compelled to share with faculty and staff how I was applying my knowledge to everyday practice,” he said.

Sanchez works in the Community Services Department of the Long Beach Public Library, where he develops programming for a diverse community and forms partnerships with mental health organizations to better serve library patrons who are homeless or in need of social services. He also started a volunteer-led ESL tutoring program.

This year, Sanchez was one of 10 winners of a California Innovation Lab grants from California Humanities, recognizing his work in programming for immigrant communities.

“I am lucky to have had amazing professors during my first year at San José State, as well as immensely supportive coworkers at the Long Beach Public Library who have provided me with unique opportunities to grow professionally,” he said.

Special Session MARA Scholarship for Continuing Students

For first-generation college graduate and now first-generation graduate student Emily Mercer, being awarded the Special Session Scholarship was “an incredible honor.” She said she knew she wanted to apply for the scholarship even before she enrolled as a student, when she was still researching the possibility of enrolling in the MARA program.

Opting to use the online interactive tools offered by Prezi for her stand-out presentation that highlights her academic accolades and professional experience as a records manager, Mercer said she wanted to incorporate more than just facts, but also quotes from previous assignment feedback and letters of recommendation.

“After I felt confident with the tool, I chose a template that most fit with my desired flow and personalized it with my own color and transitions,” she explained.

“It is incredibly validating to know that the scholarship committee sees not only my success as a student, but also my potential as a future information professional,” Mercer said.

Scholarship Eligibility

Special Session students who have been at the iSchool for at least one term are eligible to apply for the Special Session Scholarship awards. Newly admitted students are encouraged to apply for both the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence, as well as the Special Session Scholarship awards.

Applications for the Director’s Scholarship for Excellence and Special Session Scholarship (incoming and continuing students) for the spring 2020 semester open August 1, 2019.

To learn more, visit the Financial Aid and Scholarship web page.

Fall 2019 Scholarship Recipients


  • Renee Cashmere 
  • Susan P. Widule 
  • Lizette Lizardi 
  • Devon Simpson
  • Alejandra Magallon 


  • Earl Jason Bowen 
  • Megan Carbiener 
  • Lauren Davidson 
  • Rachel DeBoer 
  • Hailey Giczy 
  • Alexis Gomez 
  • Max Gonzalez 
  • Karen Guzman 
  • Jessica Hall 
  • Lauren Kozyra 
  • Katherine Rae Kurnick 
  • Vivian Luu 
  • Stacey Mitzel 
  • Sarah Moore 
  • Carol Ng-He 
  • Ashley Tolmasoff 
  • Holly Kathleen Trott 


  • Michelle Majstorich


  • Samantha Cayo
  • Natasha Finnegan
  • Gretchen Gallagher
  • Dorothy “Annalee” Hickman
  • Micah Kehrein 
  • Sophia LaMonica
  • Brianna Limas
  • Joshua Sanchez
  • Morgan Taylor
  • Timothy Reese Worden


  • Emily Mercer