San José Gateway PhD Welcomes New Students at Annual Summer Residency


The San José Gateway PhD program recently held its ninth annual residency, where students and faculty from all over the globe met to prepare for the coming academic year and welcome three new doctoral scholars.

The San José Gateway PhD program held its ninth annual residency Aug. 1 – 5, 2016, where students and faculty from all over the globe met to prepare for the coming academic year and welcome three new doctoral scholars.

Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom, assistant coordinator for the international doctoral program, said the goals for the week included showcasing new student work and progress, developing research and other scholarly skills. Time spent at the residency is designed to maximize face-to-face communication and help lay the groundwork for the online program meetings that take place throughout the year.

“It was a delight to see the development of all students’ research, whether in the earliest stages or nearing completion. Faculty and students alike find the week productive and invigorating,” Stenstrom said.

Stephen Abrams, Pat Sandercock, and Lee Yen Han joined the 11 students and 15 faculty members—including three faculty members from Queensland University of Technology, which is partnered with the San José State University School of Information in offering the primarily online doctoral program—in attendance this year

According to Abrams, his interest in the San José Gateway PhD program stems from his career. As associate director of the University of California Curation Center and through his previous work as the digital library program manager at the Harvard University Library, he’s been involved in digital preservation and curation activities for more than 15 years.

“As a discipline, we have assessment instruments for evaluating the appropriateness and trustworthiness of our programmatic activities and systems, but there is not really anything similar for evaluating the relative success or failure of those activities as applied against stewarded digital assets,” he said. “If we cannot examine a given asset and say whether it has been well curated or not, how can we make rational decisions regarding effective strategies or the best allocation of finite organizational resources?”

While Abrams said he’s done some thinking and writing about the subject within the context of his professional position, he wanted to engage in a more in-depth and rigorous investigation. He particularly wants to delve into the underlying theoretical and philosophical issues while under the supervision of Drs. Anthony Bernier (SJSU), Kate Devitt (QUT) and Peter Bruza (QUT).

“Doing so in the context of a PhD program seemed to be the best means of structuring and supporting this investigation and ensuring that it is performed with solid, scholarly rigor. So I suppose you could say that rather than approaching the PhD as the means for a change in career plans, it is a way to enhance my skills and contributions to the field in my current position,” he explained.

Abrams said he was “very gratified” to have the “amazing support system” SJSU and QUT provides. “[The program] is fairly unique. It offers me the opportunity to engage in doctoral studies on a part-time, non-residential basis, which was the only realistic way for me to participate. As a PhD is no light undertaking, I imagine that this collegial environment will be an important component in helping me, as the other candidates, continue to progress through the process,” he said.

Sandercock, who said being accepted into the program was “very special,” was inspired by the week-long residency. “I was encouraged in my own journey through hearing the stories of other Gateway PhD students,” she said, adding, “The iSchool program at SJSU is very highly looked upon, and to have two very prestigious schools look at your research proposal and career to date, and for both of them to see your potential is quite gratifying.”

Sandercock has been working as an instructional and reference librarian at a Canadian-based vocational/polytechnical institute, College of the North Atlantic in Doha, Qatar, where she said students have rarely been exposed to academic libraries. She is interested in studying how international students in a vocational college setting select content for use in their academic assignments.

“I’m fortunate to have three supervisors with a wealth of experience and differing perspectives on my research interest. Mary Bolin (SJSU), Ellie Abdi (QUT) and Christine Bruce (QUT) will be guiding me on my journey,” Sandercock said.

Also attending while living in the Middle East, Han is an academic librarian at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. She said the residency was a good opportunity to connect with fellow students in her cohort, as well as hear from students who are into their second and third year to learn from their experiences. It also gave her a clearer idea of expectations in the coming months and years.

Han plans to use her time in the part-time PhD program to sharpen her skills as a researcher, writer and presenter while working under the supervision of Drs. Geoffrey Liu (SJSU), Bill Fisher (SJSU/QUT) and Andrew Demasson (QUT).

“For my research, I am interested in understanding the information and research literacy of graduate students and how it affects their research work,” Han said.

Additionally, six doctoral students successfully passed the Confirmation of Candidature milestone:

The annual residency also celebrated the successful completion of the program by Dr. Clarence Maybee,  Dr. Laura Anderson (pictured with Drs. Bruce, Hirsh and Liu) and Dr. Melissa Fraser-Arnott.

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 Stenstrom or by filling out an information request form.