MARA Student, Archivist of African American Cultural Collections, Awarded ARMA Scholarship

Melissa Kemp

Melissa Prunty Kemp, a Master of Archives and Records Administration student at the San José State University School of Information, was awarded a 2020 ARMA Foundation Education scholarship in the amount of $500 to help finance her degree. The ARMA Foundation is a non-profit organization that embraces the practical and scholarly knowledge of information management by funding and promoting research, scholarship, and educational opportunities for information management professionals.

Kemp joined ARMA International during her first semester in the MARA program because she was interested in the research, professional development and networking opportunities. She is one of five scholarship recipients.

The self-employed independent contractor recently pivoted to a profession in archives and records management and is funding her education herself. “I was very pleased to receive the scholarship!” Kemp enthused. “All funds are helping me obtain a degree that is being used today in my current employment” as an archivist for a “highly regarded” cultural organization. Her current work involves digitizing and creating exhibitions from its collections and building exhibits for online display. 

Kemp chose the MARA program at the iSchool over a similar program in her state because of its technology focus, realizing that the MARA program would best prepare her for the work she’s doing. “The program is helping me professionalize my work as an archivist, learn about record keeping and archiving software that I need, and it is keeping my interest in archiving around the world high.”

Throughout her studies, several courses have stood out as especially beneficial “because their tech foci are exactly what I need to prepare for my job.” Those courses include MARA 283 Enterprise Content Management and Digital Preservation, and seminar courses covering blockchain, ethics, and navigating the job market.

In addition to her course work, Kemp is writing an entry in the Handbook of Archival Practice edited by Professor Patricia Franks, who is also the coordinator of the MARA program, and is planning to attend the ARMA InfoCon Conference in October 2020. Despite the uncertainty inherent in times of COVID-19, Kemp is determined to complete her MARA degree program by December 2021.

Before embarking on the MARA program, Kemp taught literature, composition, technical and business writing courses at various colleges and community colleges for nearly 30 years. She’s also worked as an art and history curator at the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, where the first show she curated was a collection of works by AfriCOBRA artist James Phillips. In addition, she edited and interviewed participants for an oral history project on African Americans in Roanoke with Virginia Tech called, “A Hidden History: The Black Experience in the Roanoke Valley.” She also created and conducted an oral history and constructed the accompanying exhibition titled, “The Nurses Station,” to capture the life and times of the nurses of Burrell Memorial Hospital—opened in 1915 as the only African American hospital between Washington, DC and Atlanta, Georgia.

Kemp earned a BA in Psychology from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and was the second African American to earn an MA in English from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. She went on to study Early American and Harlem Renaissance literature at Kent State University, and completed her MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina.