Melissa Fraser-Arnott Becomes San José Gateway’s Tenth Doctoral Graduate


Melissa Fraser-Arnott successfully defended her dissertation to become the 10th graduate of the international San José Gateway PhD program. Congratulations! San José Gateway PhD candidate Melissa Fraser-Arnott successfully defended her dissertation to become the 10th graduate of the international doctoral degree program offered in partnership between the San José State University School of Information and Queensland University of Technology.

Her dissertation, Personalizing Professionalism: The Professional Identity Experiences of LIS Graduates in Non-Library Roles, looked at people who graduated with a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science but work in a range of roles outside libraries, including sectors such as IT, information and knowledge management, policy analysis, online retail, human resources management and vending (library and other). Fraser-Arnott examined how they experience professional identity given that their jobs differ from those traditionally associated with their education. 

Fraser-Arnott, a librarian at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in Ottawa, Canada, drew from literature in the LIS field as well as from sociology, psychology and management for her studies.

“I developed a model of the experience of professional identity in which individuals’ professional identities include both an internally experienced professional identity and an externally expressed professional identity and that there may be conflict between these two identities caused by the expectations of and interactions with others that the individual will develop strategies to resolve,” she said.

Her SJSU supervisor, Dr. Bill Fisher, said he believed Fraser-Arnott’s research is important for people with a LIS background who aren’t working in a traditional library environment as it can help them understand why they do or don’t identify with libraries. 

“It can also help non-library organizations, who need people with LIS skills, understand why a Master of Library and Information Science graduate might want to work in that type of environment and thus help with recruiting and the like,” he said.

Fraser-Arnott attributes much of her success to the formatting of the program: online, no mandatory classes, the ability to immediately focus on readings relevant to her research, and monthly web conferencing sessions with advisers who kept her on track.

“The students and faculty involved in the program were all really supportive, and I received valuable feedback throughout the process from faculty who were not on my supervision team. I also loved the residencies in San Jose every August,” she said. “My own supervisors were excellent and very accommodating. They were willing to let me take the lead on determining how often we needed to chat and were very patient with my many drafts.”

Fraser-Arnott said because of the doctoral program, she ended up pursuing more challenging projects at work and ended up receiving a promotion through the reclassification of her position to a higher level.

“Since I entered the program, I have started publishing articles and making more presentations at conferences. My résumé is now much stronger for having pursued a PhD and has opened the door for different types of positions in the future,” she said.

Articles by Dr. Melissa Fraser-Arnott:

For MLIS students who are considering a doctorate, Fraser-Arnott advised not to assume they need a fully developed study idea and wealth of research experience in order to apply. She recommends that students get in touch with a faculty member of the San José Gateway PhD program to discuss their research interests. “Every student who entered the program did so with some idea of what they wanted study, and their supervisors helped them over the first six months to refine it into a workable research question.”

Fraser-Arnott also stresses that earning a doctorate is a tremendous undertaking, but it is also a very rewarding learning experience. “I dedicated most of my evenings and weekends over the past four years to completing my dissertation, but the greater challenge was learning to think differently about data and research. I had to learn to consider what biases and assumptions were embedded in others’ thinking as well and to question what I was reading more critically. In some ways I miss working on my dissertation now because the work kept me very focused and engaged.”

Congratulations, Dr. Fraser-Arnott on earning your PhD!

The San José Gateway PhD program will hold an online open house on Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. PDT for interested candidates. Applications are accepted once a year for an August start, and current application deadlines are available on the iSchool website. Additional information about the part-time PhD program can be obtained by contacting Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom or by filling out an information request form.