MLIS Student Selected as Finalist in SJSU Research Competition


MLIS student Angela Gates chose to complete a thesis for her culminating requirement and is now heading to the 30th annual California State University Student Research Competition to represent SJSU. Good luck Angela! 

Working in the California State Archives doing research for her thesis culminating requirement to complete the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) online degree program at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool), Angela Gates knew she had a powerful story to tell about Kate Foley, a home teacher for the blind who worked at the California State Library from 1914 to 1940. Now that Gates has been selected as a finalist to represent SJSU in the 30th annual California State University (CSU) Student Research Competition, Foley’s story is about to reach a wider audience.

Gates first discovered Foley’s work when she was doing research on national library services for blind and physically handicapped patrons for INFO 280 History of Books and Libraries taught by iSchool Professor Dr. Debra Hansen. Foley, who was blind herself since infancy, taught those with visual disabilities to read, fought against prejudice and social injustice, and advocated for the civil rights of the disabled. “Her work during the early twentieth century had a lasting impact on how social services are provided to blind adults and children,” explained Gates.

Hansen encouraged Gates to pursue further research on Foley as a potential master’s thesis topic. “What makes Angela’s biography of Kate Foley so powerful,” stated Hansen, “are the many letters typed on a braille typewriter that Angela discovered at the California State Archives in which Foley describes her experiences, ideals, and emotions as she fought to develop library services and other opportunities for the blind.” 

Gates really enjoyed the archival research she conducted for the project. “Numerous primary sources document [Foley’s] activities—including letters, published lectures, and newspaper articles,” she commented. “It has been an extremely rewarding experience to access them and use them to recreate Foley’s unique life experiences. She had a wonderful sense of humor.”

The experience of doing historical research has inspired Gates’ future plans as well. “The process of researching and writing my thesis has been fascinating and enjoyable,” she explained. “Although I am looking forward to completing the project, I also can’t wait to take on a new topic after this one, and am considering pursuing a PhD in History.”

Gates will travel to CSU Bakersfield for this year’s CSU Student Research Competition on April 29-30, 2016, and present “A (Blind) Woman’s Place is (Teaching) in the Home: The Life of Kate Foley (1873-1940).” Students selected to compete in the event will provide judges with a written abstract of their research and also give an oral presentation. Cash prizes will be awarded to the students with “the most outstanding performances.”

A thesis is one of two options students can choose for their culminating experience in the iSchool’s MLIS program. The other option is an e-Portfolio, which provides a program-based assessment to ensure that each student demonstrates mastery of all program learning outcomes for the degree before graduation.