iSchool Scholarships Support Students’ Career Dreams


This fall 76 new and continuing students enrolled in the master’s degree programs at the San José State University School of Information are starting their courses with reduced fees and affirmation that they chose the right school and career path for their goals. The Scholarship Committee awarded more than $200,000 in three scholarship categories to a passionate and diverse selection of aspiring information professionals, a group that offers a kaleidoscopic snapshot of the iSchool’s student body, and the wealth of talents, experiences and aspirations they bring to their new profession.

A Welcome Surprise

Disbelief is the most common reaction to winning—demonstrating that these students are an exceedingly modest bunch. “I was completely taken by surprise as I do not usually win anything,” says Michelle Yang, a continuing student whose application focused on preserving Hmong culture. Classmate Julia Tyson echoes the sentiment, adding, “I was not sure that my presentation would be impressive enough compared to Prezi presentation snippetentries from full-time professionals in the field.” Tyson described a photo scanning project at the East Hampton Library in East Hampton, N.Y. where she is a part-time assistant. Yet experience did not equal assurance: Jason Bond, who was recently promoted to branch manager at his library, was equally surprised. “I had no belief that I would win it,” he says of his Special Session Scholarship for new students, which details his experience providing services for homebound patrons of the Mid-Columbia library system in Eastern Washington where he works. 

Although united in their shock at receiving the scholarship, recipients differ dramatically in their career goals, reflecting the wide range of potential pathways librarianship offers. They aim to be public librarians, academic librarians, law librarians, or school librarians; some aspire to management positions, others to marketing, still others dream of a career in archives.

“The impact of this scholarship is enormous for me.” — Erin Mundy, Special Session Scholarship Recipient

Following a life-changing internship, Faculty Scholarship winner Jillian Underwood-Jenkins developed an interest in working with incarcerated populations, while new student Kenari Lee, winner of a Special Session Scholarship is fascinated by data: “I want to work in data science, big data, data management…I’d like to help companies manage their data, extract select intel, and arrange it so that it’s easily accessible to the appropriate parties.” Leppe Scholarship winner Stephanie Duran describes her dream job: driving a bookmobile as an outreach librarian. “Growing up in Los Angeles, there wasn’t a local library where I was able to go to and visit,” she remembers. “My best memories were of waiting for the library bookmobile.”

Making Dreams Reality 

There are scholarships to support every dream—and support for those students who are still figuring out their information science goals. Students applied for three different kinds of scholarships through the iSchool website. Endowed scholarships worth $750 to $1,000 were awarded to 10 currently enrolled students who have completed their core courses and maintained a GPA of 3.5. “Applying was a breeze because I was writing about my passions in librarianship and what I hoped to achieve. It came out naturally,” says Underwood-Jenkins.

School Librarian infographic snippetThe Director’s Scholarship for Excellence is given to five newly admitted students each fall and spring and recognizes potential leaders in the profession. Candidates create an infographic about their career path that showcases both creativity and research skills. “The hardest part for me was trimming down all my ideas into one idea,” says recipient Rebecca Hunter, who used Star Wars imagery to present statistics about millennial readers. “I made multiple drafts before I was finally satisfied.” Her advice: “Start early!” The Director’s Scholarship for Excellence award means $1,400 applied to tuition—“much-needed breathing room,” notes Hunter.

Most numerous are the Special Session Scholarships, which are awarded each fall and spring to both new and continuing students enrolled in Special Session who have maintained an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.2 or hold a current GPA of at least 3.2. The 61 total Special Session Scholarship fall semester winners created presentations that explored one of four themes (diverse communities, leadership, web interfaces, or data set presentation) using Prezi, Powtoon or a similar tool and showcasing their technology skills, organization, and research ability.

“It was more challenging than writing an essay, but allowed me to highlight my creativity and my technical skills in a way that writing an essay does not,” says Jennifer Hillsey, who received one of the 21 Special Session Scholarships awarded to new students. Melony DelReal agrees, adding that the application “embodied the essence of the MLIS program,” requiring innovation, creativity, and the use of new technologies. Jessica Kim, one of 40 continuing students who received a Special Session Scholarship, described the application process as fun, and admits, “I loved that it didn’t require a letter of recommendation!”

“Being recognized for this scholarship has given me such a sense of pride and assurance that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” — Jillian Underwood-Jenkins, Faculty Scholarship Recipient

With a $3,000 award, the Special Session Scholarships are the most impactful, but any financial assistance is a huge boon to scholarship recipients. Almost all members of this winning cohort are working full or part time, and many of them are balancing child or elder care, as well. “With childcare for two small kids to worry about, it’s not like I’m flush with cash,” says Kim. “So this relief is a big deal, and my kids can stay in daycare another day.” First generation student Janeida Turbi, who received a Special Session Scholarship for new students notes, “Scholarships were part of the reason that I was even able to achieve my BA, and I truly don’t know what I would do without them.”

More than Just Money

In addition to typical budget constraints, many of the scholarship winners have felt the pandemic’s economic pinch. “The impact of this scholarship is enormous for me,” says Erin Mundy, who received a Special Session Scholarship for continuing students. “I have been out of work for the past year and a half due to the pandemic, facing rejection after rejection in whatever job openings that I could find.” The scholarship instilled a new sense of optimism, she says, and she credits her new outlook with her success in finally finding a position at a nearby public library. The scholarship “has changed my life. Thank you!” she adds.

Infographic snippetThe encouragement the award provides to students can be as meaningful as money. For some, the award provides reassurance that they can succeed when returning to school after a long hiatus. For Blanche Woolls Spectrum Scholarship winner Hana Kadoyama it means belonging: “I feel so connected to the SJSU community and to the community of Spectrum scholars.” Whether beginning or continuing their degree program, most recipients agree that the scholarship provides an invaluable boost of energy. Carlos Bugarin says that his endowed Librarian Opportunity Scholarship has him “feeling eager for the future,” while Special Session Scholarship recipient Hillsey exclaims, “What a vote of confidence! I needed that,” adding, “Can’t wait to make the committee proud!”

Finally, the scholarship award offers crucial validation. When the pandemic prompted Matt Lapointe-Smith, who received a Director’s Scholarship for Excellence, to pivot to a new career, he thought hard about what he was leaving behind. He’d enjoyed freelancing as a footage researcher in the entertainment industry, but says, “I really had to evaluate whether I was up for going back to freelancing.” The scholarship, he says, signified a “real confirmation that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

Underwood-Jenkins agrees. “Being recognized for this scholarship has given me such a sense of pride and assurance that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” She adds, “To be grouped with the other outstanding students who have won is such an honor and will remain one of my proudest achievements.

Please consider making a donation to an endowed scholarship and help the next generation of information professionals learn and grow in their chosen field.

Scholarship Recipients

Endowed Scholarships

Carlos Bugarin
Brittany Butler
Stephanie Duran
Hana Kadoyama
Annalee Hickman
Tabitha Hilliard
Sarah Lounsbury
Nadia Montenegro
Hope Saldivar
Jillian Underwood-Jenkins

Director’s Scholarship for Excellence

Crista Castro
Rebecca Hunter
Matt Lapointe-Smith
Elizabeth Tapia
Yuan Yao

Special Session Scholarships – New Students

Jason Bond
Mynda Camphouse
Melony DelReal
Amara Green
Samantha Harteau
Jennifer Hillsey
Alex Joj-Escun
Rachael Kowalski
Kenari Lee
Kathryn Manis
Heather Mason
Jessica Middleton
Natalie Moller
Meagan Alene O’Reilly
Victoria Ortiz
Agatha Rupniewski
Sandra Solache
Heather Swinford
Janeida Turbi
Claire Williams
Zhicheng Xu

Special Session Scholarships – Continuing Students

Ellen Bae
Katherine Bunker
Nicole Daly
Jade Dean
Lauretta Dolch
Jordan Evans-Boyajian
Sophia Fernanadez
Natasha Finnegan
Laura Gaskill
Max Gonzalez
Alessandra Gonzalez
Benjamin Jenkins
Brianna Kelley
Justine Kessler
Jessica Kim
Tiffany Kwok
Alicia (Ali) Lauer
Michael F. Le
Brianna Limas
Sarah Lounsbury
Ann Mahlik
Destiny Martin
Amen Mibaraka
Allison Michel
Erin Mundy
Indira Nauth
Lori Naylor
Katherine Perry
Ruth Prendez
Stephan Robley
Rebecca Schneider
Chelsea Simpson
Jessica Stoner
Doreen Thomas
Julia Tyson
Kelsey Waggener
Barbara Whitehead
Sarah Wilson
Silvia Wu
Michelle Yang