Scholarship Recipients Find Application Process Fun
Award Impact Powerful


They report feeling ecstatic, relieved and joyful; both honored and validated. Some turn reflective, while others report feeling more motivated than ever to succeed. They text their parents, do a celebratory dance and check the email announcement twice to make sure it’s real.

No, they’re not actors who have just scored an Oscar nomination. They’re students at San José State University School of Information and recipients of Special Session Scholarships for beginning and continuing students enrolled in one of the iSchool’s three master’s degree programs: the Master of Library and Information Science, Master of Archives and Records Administration, or Master of Science in Informatics.

Each fall and spring newly admitted students or matriculated students in Special Session, who meet the eligibility requirements, submit their scholarship applications. The requirements are simple: an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.2 for the Special Session Scholarships for incoming students, or a current GPA of at least 3.2 for the Special Session Scholarships for continuing students.

The application is equally straightforward: students create an online presentation showcasing their skills and illustrating their commitment to one of several themes. This year’s applicants used tools like Prezi and Powtoon to create presentations on a wide variety of topics—a vision of creating safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community, a digitization project for a historic Hawai’ian palace, and a description of how involvement in a professional organization led to new skills and leadership, among others.

Each of the 24 scholarship recipients will receive awards of $1,422, for a total of $34,128.

“The scholarship process was fun, actually,” says Sara Webb. The incoming Informatics student used Canva for a presentation about her project organizing the archives of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.

Sara Webb's presentation

Inspired by a course on digitizing archival material that she completed as part of a certificate program at the iSchool, Webb responded to her association’s call for an archive coordinator. She plunged into the business of ordering scanners, sending out tapes for digitizing and organizing and uploading files.

“I initially took a certificate program to get my feet wet,” she says of her first experience with the iSchool. “But at the end I wanted to keep going, and I was impressed with the organization and ease of the online platform, so I came back to pursue a master’s.”

A single mom working as a high school librarian, Webb says the scholarship means that “completing the program is much more achievable for me, financially.”

Her presentation concludes: “I am excited to see what I can learn next.”

Billye Dotson also found the application process smooth sailing. “I enjoyed being able to create a visual and creative presentation for a scholarship,” she says, noting, “That’s something I hadn’t done before.” When she heard she’d won, the reaction was “joy, then maybe a little happy crying.” The financial help the award brings is “a huge relief.” Like many students, Dotson works while attending school. “Any relief to the cost of school means less time I have to work and more time I can spend focusing my attention on my studies.”

Billye Dotson's presentation

In her Prezi-created infographic, the incoming MLIS student recalls her own experience growing up LGBTQ+ in a small rural town “with not much more than a single K-12 school and one church, let alone any LGBT organizations or representation,” as she describes it. Although Dotson loved visiting the town library as a child, she didn’t feel represented. “When I finally got to visit libraries in larger cities after moving away—that’s when I saw the potential for libraries to be not only an inclusive space but also a celebratory space,” she says.

While Dotson focused on community, others focus on career paths. “I really poured my deepest wishes for my future career as a school librarian at the library that I serve into the infographic and it paid off—literally!” says AnaCena Zander, an incoming MLIS student.

Librarianship is a new path for Zander, who previously worked as a researcher for the National Ocean and Atmosphere Association. She “immediately fell in love” with the school librarian role when she left the NOAA and found work as a high school library assistant.

AnaCena Zander's presentation

For her scholarship application, Zander created a Powtoon animation that races through her recent experience helping her school adapt to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zander worked to keep students engaged with a virtual book club, online maker space and a reading buddies program.

Some students are lucky enough to realize their interest in the information science field early. Marcus Ortiz applied to SJSU during his last year as an undergraduate. “I received my first letter of admission to the iSchool but had to decline due to lack of funding,” he remembers. In addition to financial help for his first semester, the incoming MLIS student found the scholarship “incredibly validating.”

Marcus Ortiz's presentation

The application process allowed him to reflect on what he’s accomplished so far, Ortiz says. He used one of his accomplishments, his position as education coordinator with the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawai’i, for his presentation. “A Practical Approach to Digitization,” created with Prezi, describes how Ortiz helped to make the history of the Iolani Palace, once home to the Hawai’ian monarchy, accessible to the public by digitizing historical documents.

Continuing MLIS students can draw on what they’ve learned in iSchool courses, as well as work experience when putting together their scholarship applications. Vanessa Calouro had only taken INFO 203 when she applied, but that course introduced her to Powtoon. “I actually really love making graphics/animations,” she says, “So I thought, why not? And it paid off!”

Vanessa Calouro's presentation

Her presentation both uses and highlights her graphics skills: Calouro was tasked with bringing the library website “out of the dinosaur age” at the the Somerset Public Library in Massachusetts where she works as a reference assistant.

Continuing MARA student Maggie Turner also enjoyed using Powtoon. “Far too often archives and records management wear the badge of ‘uninteresting’ and ‘bland’ so to be able to use my creative side to convey my enthusiasm for records management…was a unique and entertaining experience,” says Turner.

Maggie Turner's presentation

Turner’s animation describes her involvement with the Milwaukee, Wis. chapter of the Association of Records Managers and Administrators. “Not being a manager or not having a degree doesn’t mean I can’t be a leader,” Turner’s animation announces. Although she has “a long way to go” before completing her degree, Turner is already leveraging the network of records professionals to grow her skills and even more importantly, her confidence.

For continuing students who are beginning to think about the job market, the scholarship carries additional value. Carol Ng-He who plans to complete her MLIS this summer notes, “The award was an important resume builder, as it demonstrated my professional qualifications to my prospective employer.”

Ng-He is something of an expert at scholarship applications. Since 2019 she has been awarded nine scholarships and academic awards, including three Special Session Scholarships.

“I am always on the lookout for upcoming scholarship and award opportunities,” she says. Ng-He tracks those offered by the iSchool and follows library association listservs, as well. She carefully reads scholarship descriptions, matching the criteria to her own experience.

Carol Ng-He's presentation

For her latest presentation, Ng-He focused on two different web interface projects she’d created on the job: educator guides at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Il., where she’d worked as school and community program manager, and a COVID-19 story project at Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Il., where she was the exhibits coordinator.

“Choosing the appropriate language and evidence to back it up are important in my experience,” Ng-He advises.

The fall 2021 scholarship application deadline is April 30, 2021. The iSchool has expanded the number of available scholarships and increased the award’s value up to $3,000. Applicants must demonstrate their commitment to one of four themes: impacting communities and organizations, showing library-related leadership, designing user friendly web interfaces and presenting datasets in an understandable way.

In addition to the Special Session Scholarships, students can also apply for Endowed Scholarships, which are funded by generous donations. Please consider making a donation and help the next generation of information professionals learn and grow in their chosen field.

Spring 2021 Special Session Scholarship Recipients

Kaylin Braden
Lauren Brennan
Vanessa Calouro
Jesus Parra Carrillo
Quinn Christie
Billye Dotson
Karalee Fisher
Hailey Giczy
Rebecca Gimple
Tobi Goode
Lauren Harmon
Annie Hochheiser
Benjamin Jenkins
Sarah Lounsbury
Carol Ng-He
Marcus Ortiz
Taylor Rouanzion
Susannah Robin Seefeldt
Nicole Shuey
Maggie Elice Turner
Stacy L. Vandenput
Sarah Wargin
Sara Webb
AnaCena Zander