SJSU iSchool Circle of Learning Graduates Bring Their Skills to Diverse Information Careers


With new master’s degrees in hand, graduates of the Circle of Learning (COL) American Indian and Alaska Native Librarians for Tomorrow grant program, which concluded at the end of August 2014, are bringing an impressive list of honors and a notable set of skills to the workplace.

The COL program was offered in a partnership between the San Jose State University (SJSU) School of Information and the American Indian Library Association (AILA). Scholarships, mentoring, and other support to American Indians and Alaska Natives seeking a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Completing the SJSU iSchool’s exclusively online master’s program in fall 2014, Elviria Aquino, Tisa Matheson, and Amy Moore are the three most recent graduates of the COL program, which has enabled 17 students to earn an MLIS degree so far, with two more students continuing their studies in spring 2015.

Aquino credits the outstanding support of staff and students with the successful completion of her degree and employment at the New Mexico State Supreme Court Law Library. “The Circle of Learning program at San José State University has been an invaluable experience,” stated Aquino. “It certainly would not have been possible for me to attain an MLIS and become a law librarian otherwise. COL not only provided the funding for me to attend SJSU online, but the support given to each member guiding us through our program kept us grounded.”

Matheson is putting her skills to work in Spokane, Washington, as Tribal Liaison & Collections Specialist for the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture. Former Kaiser Permanente Medical Librarianship scholarship winner, Moore recently interned at the Southern Maine Community College library where she drew on her background in medical librarianship and created LibGuides for the school’s health science and nursing programs.

Samantha Villagomez earned her MLIS degree in August 2014. While in the COL program, she completed an internship working with children and tweens at the Shawano City-County Library in Shawano, Wisconsin. “This internship proved to be an exceptional opportunity. I had the chance to see the day to day operations of a well-run library and to learn the functions of the different departments,” she said.

Merida Kipp, a spring 2014 graduate of the program, is working as library administrator at the Yakama Nation Library in Toppenish, Washington, where she was able to secure a $20,000 Young Adult Library Services (YALSA) book donation to expand library services for teens in the area. Kipp was also awarded the 2014 S & K Technologies, Inc. scholarship for continuing education.

Valarie Kingsland, another COL alumna, received the Ken Haycock Award for exceptional professional promise upon graduation in spring 2014. She was appointed director of the Seward Community Library & Museum in Seward, Alaska shortly after completing the MLIS program, and has since been named to the 2015 class of American Library Association (ALA) Emerging Leaders.

Sheila Gurtu, an online student advisor at the SJSU iSchool who served on the Circle of Learning grant staff, said that she was “inspired” by the students in the program. “I was thrilled to work with and learn from our COL scholars,” said Gurtu. “The support and the resources shared among this cohort, throughout their journey, resulted in the strong professional network that each will carry forward into their communities.” Aquino echoed Gurtu’s sentiments and acknowledged the support of the grant staff, saying, “I can’t thank the COL staff enough for their contribution to the program. We succeeded together.”

Congratulations to this impressive group of information professionals!

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