GSLIS launches its first spring LEEP cohort in over a decade

Twenty-nine GSLIS master’s students traveled to Champaign this month for the School’s first spring LEEP (online) cohort since 2001. The new spring admissions cycle allowed them to begin their studies in January, rather than waiting until the summer.

Students visited campus from January 3-9, 2013, traveling from as far away as Minnesota, New York, and Louisiana as well as from various locations in Illinois. While on campus, they completed the two-hour required course “LIS 502: Libraries, Information, and Society” and a number of noncredit technology workshops.

“The initial LEEP on-campus session is an important component of the overall LEEP program design,” said Linda Smith, GSLIS professor and associate dean for academic programs. “The intensive face-to-face time enables them to build connections with faculty, staff, and their fellow students that support the sense of community that continues throughout the program. By allowing students to begin study in January rather than having to wait until our regular July start date for LEEP students, we are making the online option of our M.S. program more accessible.”

GSLIS doctoral candidates and teaching assistants Sarah Roberts and Miriam Sweeney were part of the introductory “boot camp,” led by Professor and Dean Emerita Leigh Estabrook, which engaged students in a number of exercises, including the creation of word cloud focusing on their professional goals and visions. Both Roberts and Sweeney agreed that the experience was an intense but very positive one and forged strong connections among the students.

“We had students of all ages and career backgrounds. Each cohort has its own personality and group dynamic: this cohort was very laid back, despite the condensed time conditions that we were experimenting with. Instead of letting that be a source of anxiety, they met the challenge with enthusiasm and aplomb, which showed in their conversations and coursework,” said Sweeney. “It is always a privilege to get to know and work with the [LIS] 502 students—this cohort exceeded all of my expectations for the week in their thoughtfulness, level of participation, commitment to the course, and, of course, their sense of humor!”

Cheryl Ziegler, one of the students enrolled in LIS 502, had not been in a college classroom since graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 1975.

“I was thrilled to be accepted into the January cohort—thrilled and terrified,” said Zeigler. “If I had to characterize my boot-camp experience in a few words, they would be ‘shared passion’ and ‘a shared wish for success.’ These concepts were evident from the amazingly patient tech people to the outpouring of support from various people on staff. I have a solid foundation for the rest of my GSLIS studies, and I am grateful to be a part of the best LIS school in the country.”

Since its beginning in 1996, LEEP has been an innovative hybrid program that combines web-based education with brief periods of on-campus instruction. Sixteen years and over 1,000 graduates later, LEEP continues to stand out among its peers, offering access to one of the top-ranked LIS programs in the nation.

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