PhD Faculty Supervisors


Faculty & Research Areas — Gateway PhD

One of the many benefits of the Gateway PhD program is its research-focused model. The international program emphasizes student research and reading from day one. The PhD candidate’s research must demonstrate critical ability and be in the form of new knowledge or significant and original adaptation, application and interpretation of existing knowledge. Prospective doctoral students are highly encouraged to start thinking early about their research interests.

IMPORTANT: The Gateway PhD program is currently closed to new applicants for the coming year. We are updating our application procedures. Please fill out the Information Request Form if you would like to be notified when applications open.

Research Areas

  • Academic Libraries
  • Archives and Records Administration
  • Big Data Mining and Visualization
  • Information Retrieval
  • Information Use
  • Library Management and Leadership
  • Literacy and Learning Design
  • Online Social Network Analysis
  • Public Libraries
  • Youth Services

Faculty Specializations

As you consider your initial research question, we encourage you to read the biographies and research profiles of the faculty members who specialize in your area of interest. The San José State University faculty supervise the students’ research and provide one-on-one mentoring. 


Anthony Bernier, Professor—AB (UC–Berkeley), MLIS (UC–Berkeley), MA (UC–Irvine), PhD (UC–Irvine). Doctoral supervision: information use; education for LIS, management & leadership, youth services. Specific focus: public libraries; critical youth studies; history, library design and architecture.  Research Profile

Bill Fisher, Professor—BA (Arkansas), MA (Arkansas), MLIS (SUNY at Geneseo), PhD (Southern California). Doctoral supervision: management and leadership; education for LIS. Specific focus: information agencies in corporate settings; curricular issues in LIS. [See Research Profile.]

Patricia C. Franks, Associate Professor—BS (Bloomsburg), MASS (Binghamton), PhD (Capella). Doctoral supervision: archives and records administration; records management technologies; management and leadership. Specific focus: archives and records centers; electronic documents; metadata and semantic web; records management. [See Research Profile.]

Sandra Hirsh, Professor and Associate Dean for Academics, College of Professional and Global Education —BS (UCLA), MLIS (University of Michigan), PhD (UCLA). Doctoral supervision: information use; education for library and information science. Specific focus: information seeking behavior; global studies of information use; online learning. See Research Profile.

Geoffrey Liu, Professor—BA (Wuhan), MA (Wuhan), PhD (Hawaii at Manoa). Doctoral supervision: information retrieval; information systems and collaborative learning. Specific focus: natural language processing; virtual communities; data mining; group dynamics and decision making. [See Research Profile.]

Ziming Liu, Professor—MS (Zhongshan), PhD (UC–Berkeley). Doctoral supervision: information use. Specific focus: user behaviors in the digital environment. [See Research Profile.]

Lili Luo, Professor—BA (Peking), Master (Peking), PhD (UNC–Chapel Hill). Doctoral supervision: information use. Specific focus: Education for reference librarianship; Adoption of new technologies in reference service provision; Information seeking behavior in the digital environment. [See Research Profile.]

Kristen Radsliff Rebmann, Professor—BS (Biology; Saint Joseph College), MLIS (Library & Information Science; San José State University), PhD (Communication; University of California,San Diego). Doctoral supervision: community-based research; qualitative research methods; literacy and learning design. Specific focus: interventions to support technology integration, learning in distance and informal learning environments; relationships between information behavior and human development. [See Research Profile.]

Associate Professors

Michelle Chen, Associate Professor—BS (National Taiwan University), MS Computer Science and Information Engineering (National Taiwan University), PhD (University of Texas at Austin). Doctoral supervision: Big data mining and visualization, online social network analysis. [See Research Profile.]

Assistant Professors

Mary Ann Harlan, Assistant Professor—BA (University of California, Santa Cruz), MLIS (SJSU), PhD (Queensland University of Technology). Doctoral Supervision: information use, youth services. Specific focus: information use and learning, youth information practices in digital communities. [See Research Profile.]

Deborah Hicks, Assistant Professor—BA (University of King’s College), MA (York Univeristy), MLIS (Dalhousie University), PhD (University of Alberta). Doctoral supervision: LIS as a profession; leadership and management; values and ethics of LIS. Specific focus: professional identity of information professionals; public and academic libraries; ethical decision-making; online professional communication. [See Research Profile.]

Virginia Tucker, Assistant Professor—BA (Stanford University), MLS (University of California at Berkeley), PhD (Queensland University of Technology). Doctoral Supervision: information retrieval, advanced search, online learning, threshold concepts. See Research Profile

Michele Villagran, Assistant Professor—BSBA (University of Nevada Las Vegas), MSLS (University of North Texas), MBA (University of North Texas), MDR (Pepperdine University), EdD (Pepperdine University). Doctoral supervision: cultural intelligence; diversity, inclusion, community and equity; information and society / culture; law libraries; multicultural populations; social justice; special libraries. [See Research Profile.]


Sue Alman, Lecturer—BA (Washington & Jefferson College), MLS. (University of Pittsburgh), PhD (University of Pittsburgh). Doctoral supervision: Interpersonal communications; online teaching and learning; management/leadership. Specific focus: [See Research Profile.]

Mary Bolin, Lecturer—BA (University of Nebraska—Lincoln), MSLS (University of Kentucky), MA (University of Idaho), PhD (University of Nebraska). Doctoral supervision: Academic libraries. Specific focus: Organization, Administration, User Experience, Discovery. [See Research Profile.]

Cheryl Stenström, Lecturer—BA (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada), MLIS (University of British Columbia), PhD (Queensland University of Technology). Doctoral Supervision: influence, management, public libraries. Specific focus: influence and decision making, library funding, advocacy. [See Research Profile.]


Research Profile: Michele Villagran

Statement of Research Interests and Experience

My research interests and activities include areas under diversity, inclusion, community and equity; and social justice in libraries. Specifically, topical areas of cultural issues, cultural intelligence, and multicultural populations focused in law libraries and special libraries.


Research Profile: Deborah Hicks

Statement of Research Interests and Experience

The core concept that informs my research agenda is identity. Studies examining identity ultimately focus on two questions: “who am I?” and “how should I act?” Through my research agenda I explore how these core questions are answered at the micro level of the individual to the mezzo level of organizations to the marco level of society.


Research Profile: Sue Alman

Statement of Research Interests and Experience

My research interests are in the areas of interpersonal and organizational communications, online teaching and learning, blockchain technology, and library marketing. I have been involved with distance and online education since the 1990s, and I directed the online MLIS program at the University of Pittsburgh (2001-2012). My most recent research studies have focused on MOOCs, and the social and cognitive presence as factors in learning and student retention and in the Personal Information Management (PIM) of LIS faculty.