This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 12 June 2012.
It’s the end of the beginning for me–with my finals turned in last
week, I’ve officially done everything I can to finish out my first year
in graduate school! Now it’s time to take a breather, start packing, and
head off for a summer in which I’ll be working and learning in three
states and two countries.
While I can’t wait for summer, I tend to find the end of an academic
year is a great time for reflection. Here’s what surprised me the most:
It’s really hard to be interdisciplinary:
At my undergrad, I was in three radically different departments, and I
knew a bunch of other people who were multi-disciplinary as well.
Especially when I picked a field as wide-ranging as Library and
Information Science, I expected to find a similar mix of people–people
who took classes in one building while working in another and hanging
out with friends from yet a third field. Here, though, I’m finding that
the academic departments are much more focused, especially at the
graduate level, and it’s a constant challenge to stay interdisciplinary.
It’s worth it, though–I joined a chorus my first week on campus, and
through the University Singers I’ve made great friends outside of the
iSchool and gotten to know some incredibly passionate, inspiring faculty
members. I moved to Syracuse to take advantage of the opportunities
afforded by such a large institution–why limit your experience to one
Your major doesn’t define you:
Even for those students who spend all of their time in one building,
at the graduate level the experiences can vary so wildly, “what’s your
major?” won’t tell you much. “What are you interested in?” “What do you
study?” and “Where’s your research focus?” are much better questions.
Everyone I’ve met so far in the iSchool is more than happy to talk about
the things that keep them up at night, and get them out of bed in the
morning. Going for a masters, let alone a Ph.D., denotes a level of
passion about something that makes for great conversations. Finding out
what drives someone is a great starting place to get to know your
Books are awesome…but not why I’m here:
Okay, full disclosure: This one wasn’t a total shock, but I still
wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out back in September. Don’t get me
wrong, books are great. Print books are a tactile experience that’s hard
to beat, and long-form born-digital writings have awesome potential–but
that’s not my area of interest. I want to connect people to the
information they need, whether that info is in a book or on Wikipedia or
contained within someone else’s realm of experience. I like knowing how
to tweak the tools we use, and the design we see, and I’m starting to
learn enough programming to do so! This LIS degree I’m earning will
prepare me to do some things with books, for sure, but the list of
skills I’ll have that are completely unrelated to books is an order of
magnitude larger than the one focused on book-handling. I knew that
coming in, but I think some of my classmates were surprised when
Professor Lankes suggested that a class in database administration
should be required, or when other faculty members recommended learning
You’ll be hearing from me on my travels over the summer. For now,
suffice it to say that I’m in a good place–I’m still loving it here in
Syracuse, and I can’t wait for the second half of my degree, next year.
If you run into me in person and ask what surprised me the most this
year, you might get different answers than the ones above, but these
were some of the big ones. Next year will be full of surprises on other
levels, I’m sure, but it will be an adventure in the best possible
sense. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!