More than $29,000 Awarded in Fall 2020 Special Session Scholarships


Funding totaling $29,862 was awarded to 21 students pursuing master’s degrees at the San José State University School of Information. Using software such as Prezi, Powtoon, or emaze, scholarship applicants creatively showcased themes of global impact or professional leadership through descriptive text, data points and visual elements.

The scholarships are open to both incoming and continuing students enrolled in the iSchool’s Master of Library and Information Science, Master of Archives and Records Administration, or MS in Informatics degree programs. Each award is valued at $1,422.

Special Session Scholarships for Incoming Students

Twelve incoming students received Special Session Scholarships for their innovative presentations that highlighted their skills and commitment to the information profession.

Ellen Bae's Presentation

Incoming MLIS student Ellen Bae chose to use Prezi for her winning presentation, COVID-19 & Racism. “When I was first planning my presentation, I was looking more into the role that public libraries play as safe spaces in our communities; specifically, for homeless populations, as this is a topic that I feel library staff are often at odds about,” said Bae.

“However, I could not ignore that the COVID-19 pandemic was at the forefront of my mind. I switched gears to develop a presentation on COVID-19-related racism and how historically, systemic racism has been directed toward all communities of color. I felt the need to address this topic as a person of Asian descent who was closely watching how libraries and LIS professionals were choosing to take action during this time.” 

Bae, who worked throughout her undergraduate studies, still feels the burden of student loan debt, and knew that pursuing a graduate degree would depend entirely on her ability to finance it. She began applying for scholarships as soon as she decided to fully invest in her goal of higher education.

“A digital presentation related to information science in exchange for the chance to increase financial aid for an MLIS degree seemed fitting, and more powerful than a written statement,” said Bae.

“This award will go toward my first semester of tuition, and it helps tremendously. Overall, I am extremely grateful that my scholarship presentation was seen and affirmed through financial support.”

Katherine Bunke's presentation

Katherine Bunker, who is beginning her MLIS journey this fall, was “surprised and thrilled!” to learn she’d been awarded the scholarship for her Powtoon presentation, Big Dream for Early Literacy. “Being a recipient of the Special Session Scholarship is a huge honor,” said Bunker. “It helps financially, and it boosts my confidence as I return to school after a 27-year hiatus. My Powtoon demonstrated how I went to an early literacy conference, came back with an idea, and made it into a reality at my library by developing and creating a bilingual interactive play center grocery store.” 

Bunker said she sought out scholarships during the application process, and was excited to find that the Special Session Scholarship was offered to incoming MLIS students. “I was intimidated about learning how to create a Powtoon, but l loved the opportunity to learn a new skill,” reflected Bunker. 

Special Session Scholarships for Continuing Students

Nine continuing students received Special Session Scholarships to help them fund their MLIS degree.

Lauren Davidson's presentation

MLIS student Lauren Davidson chose Powtoon to plan and create her winning presentation, after learning about the software in one of her classes. “I found this resource easy to use, relatable, and a beneficial way to tell my story,” she said. 

Being awarded the scholarship validated Davidson’s hard work and perseverance, and it diminished much of the self-doubt she attributed to the success of her older brother, a doctor from whose impressive academic and professional shadows she only recently emerged.

“Over time, I realized my brother may have been known for his brains, but I was always recognized for my heart, my passion, my patience, my desire to do better, and to be better,” reflected Davidson. “When I found out I had been awarded the scholarship I was excited, overwhelmed, and very proud. This scholarship, and this graduate program in general, is something I have worked very hard for, and something I have achieved all on my own. Receiving this scholarship, and even choosing to apply for it at all, shows how far I have come.”

Hailey Giczy's Presentation

Hailey Giczy, senior library technician at Paramount High School in Los Angeles County, effectively illustrated her leadership through initiatives related to libraries in her Powtoon  presentation, Leading in the Library. “I had started work on my Powtoon earlier in the spring semester, but when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, I had to alter my scholarship response to highlight the work I am doing from home to assist my students,” Giczy explained.

“I had to adapt to using remote services to be there for my students and colleagues. I am able to answer the school phone from home, but also communicate with my students and colleagues through Schoology (it’s like our Canvas), and through emails. It is a totally different environment, but I am still committed to my kids – nearly 4,000 of them!” 

Giczy enrolled in the MLIS program in 2019, 10 years after graduating from Chapman University, and wasn’t interested in taking out any student loans for her graduate degree. “I apply for as many scholarships as I am able, and I am so grateful that the iSchool has so many opportunities for students to apply for scholarships,” said Giczy. “I was thrilled to learn I had won a Special Session Scholarship for Continuing Students, especially with the uncertainty presented to us during this pandemic.”

Ahmed Jalloh's Presentation

Ahmed Jalloh, who works as a library clerk at the Redondo Beach Public Library, as well as a library assistant II for the Palos Verdes Library District, focused his Prezi presentation, Bridging the Divide in Harbor City, on highlighting some of the ways he has utilized his technology skills to bridge the digital divide in his community.

“My goal in pursuing a career in librarianship has always been rooted in the passion for supporting my community, and uplifting students who courageously embark on the path unknown to their families and peers in education,” Jalloh said.

Jalloh, who graduated from California State University Dominguez Hills before enrolling at the iSchool, has worked at CSUDH Cain Library as a library assistant, and as a “Cybernaut,” teaching Internet and software literacy, at Harbor City-Gateway Library. In addition to receiving the Special Session Scholarship for Continuing Students, Jalloh received a Leppe Scholarship.

Carol Ng-He's Presentation

Continuing MLIS student Carol Ng-He, exhibits coordinator at Arlington Heights Memorial Library, was proficient with Prezi after using it for several projects when she chose it to create her winning presentation, which highlighted her commitment to diversity, inclusion and community engagement.

Ng-He, who also received a Leppe Scholarship and is a 2020 recipient of the Harold T. Pinkett Minority Student Award given by the Society of American Archivists, said she was encouraged to apply after having previously received two Special Session Scholarship awards, and by the support she received from the iSchool faculty.

Ng-He said she felt “uplifted and honored” upon learning she had received the scholarship award again. “It is especially meaningful for me in these uncertain and challenging times due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Zoe Smolen's Presentation

Zoe Smolen, senior development and communications manager at Let’s Get Ready, a non-profit organization in New York City that provides free SAT prep, admissions counseling, and mentoring to students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation college students, said she realized she would be under-selling herself — and the organizations she works with — if she didn’t expand on the full scope of the work she’d been doing in her professional life for the past six years.

Her Prezi presentation, Supporting Communities from Kiev to Philadelphia, ended up taking “a completely different route” than she had originally planned, and evolved after conversations with colleagues and the input of a close friend. “I wanted a chance to showcase the work I’ve done for communities, while working toward achieving a debt-free advanced degree,” said Smolen. 

Smollen’s reaction to learning she’d won the award was “pure joy!” She exclaimed, “I saw the email on my lunch break, and I squealed. My husband said, ‘It’s the happiest I’ve seen you in months.’” 

Fall 2020 Special Session Scholarship Recipients

  • Ellen Bae
  • Charlene Brewer
  • Katherine Bunker
  • Carolina Covarrubias
  • Lauren Davidson
  • Rachel DeBoer
  • Sophia Fernandez
  • Hailey Giczy
  • Nique M. Grigsby
  • Courtney Hopkins
  • Ahmed Jalloh
  • Nicole Ann Johnson
  • Megan Kerpan
  • Destiny Martin
  • Lori A. Naylor
  • Carol Ng-He
  • Katherine Quigley
  • Zoe Smolen
  • Morgan Taylor
  • Susan Townzen
  • Heather Wiarda

To be eligible for a Special Session Scholarship, incoming and continuing students must have a GPA of at least 3.2, and be either actively enrolled or plan to take at least three units in the semester assigned to the scholarship award.