Student award recipients announced at Convocation

Each year, the School recognizes a group of outstanding students for their achievement in academics as well as a number of attributes that contribute to professional success. The following student awards were presented at the School's Convocation ceremony on May 13, 2018.

Bryce Allen Award for Reference Services

Presented to Lizzy Boden    

Lizzy Boden is the quintessential reflective practitioner, continuously thoughtful and self-reflective about her positionality at the reference desk as she grapples with the ethical and service obligations of the reference librarian. Her interest in reference services and commitment to excellence in practice is obvious to all who encounter her at the reference desk. She is passionate about supporting library users and cares deeply about their own agency in their information seeking. Because of this she also grapples with complex and troubling aspect of reference service. Observing the troubling impact of "fake news" on civic life, social discourse, etc., Lizzy went in search of a theoretical frame from which to build her practice. Her white paper, written for the iSchool course on International Information Associations and Policymaking, laid out a strategy for librarians to ground their practice in the psychological approach of "debiasing" – an approach that challenges people to example their own perspectives by encountering others. Accepting the challenge to revise her class paper into a formal publication, Lizzie's work was published as "Debiasing and Fake News" in ACRL's widely read Keeping Up With… series. Lizzy's passion for service and inquiry into improvement will benefit her career and, more importantly, the communities that she serves.

Anne M. Boyd Award/Beta Phi Mu

Presented to Opetoritse Adefolau 

Opetoritse Adefolalu has been an outstanding student as well as an exemplary member of the iSchool Community. While a student, he was instrumental in helping with the iSchool in Color's inaugural Black History Month program. Ritse currently works in the Children's Department of the Ingelwood Public Library where his programming emphasizes the inclusion of all children and youth in the chess club, teen club, and storytimes.

Edith Harris Camp Award

Presented to Maisie Iven    

Maisie Iven has been a generous and creative presence in the iSchool, through their humor, playfulness, and dedication to thoughtful conversations around identity and representation. Maisie's thoughtful critiques consistently raised vital representation issues in the Fantasy Literature and Media for Youth course. Maisie is outstanding at supporting fellow students while also consistently challenging their ideas. Maisie also dives into research projects and projects their love of knowledge into a room by sharing what they discover. They are active in the Progressive Librarians Guild, the American Library Association student chapter, and co-hosted the 2018 Storytelling Festival. We know they will be welcoming unusual points of view throughout their career.

Jane B. and Robert B. Downs Professional Promise Awards

Presented to Anna Oates and Erica Zhang

Before even embarking on our program at the University of Illinois, Anna Oates was developing her skills in the field by serving as one of the Junior Fellows in the Library of Congress' music division, working on materials assessment, metadata creation and workflow design. Since arriving at the iSchool, she has continued in her efforts to excel in the profession, working at Oxford University Research Archive as part of the Oxford-Illinois Digital Libraries Placement Programme on a case study of the use of the PDF/A format for long-term archiving of electronic theses and dissertations. She has continued to build on her research in this area, presenting at this year's iConference and extending her research for her current masters' thesis. She has accomplished all of this while excelling at her studies and working for the University Library as a coordinator for the National Digital Newspaper Program. For her clear promise of future contributions to the profession, the faculty has chosen her for the Jane B. and Robert B. Downs Award.

Erica Zhang is intellectually curious, in her chosen area of metadata and beyond. She has held a number of GAships and internships, including last summer's Metadata and Digital Repository Internship at the National Transportation Library in Washington, D.C. Erica was an outstanding student in the Data Science Storytelling course, exploring complex topics such as the disconnect between the stressful work culture of a meditation app start-up and its stress-relieving mission. Erica shows great professional promise in exploring new ideas and opportunities, with applications across a variety of sectors, while remaining grounded in the traditional service philosophy of librarianship.

Entrepreneurial Promise Award

Presented to Mark McCarthy

While studying with us, Mark has seized many opportunities available within the school and across the campus.  He has participated in and led teams in both class projects and hackathons. Many of these involve using technology to improve accessibility. For example, the "Access Illinois" web app integrates existing accessibility maps on campus with Google Maps, to make it easier for people with disabilities to get around campus. Mark embodies our iSchool vision of being at the intersection of people, information and technology. He shows how a perspective of social entrepreneurship enables an innovator to spot both needs and opportunities and build a team of people with diverse skills and backgrounds. The team then works on an important design challenge, developing a technology to improve people's lives. Mark has demonstrated that entrepreneurial team-based problem-solving again and again throughout his studies, and we are sure he will continue to do so in his future career.

Faculty Special Award of Merit

Presented to Amanda McGrory

On paper, Amanda McGrory is an amazing person: recruited to the University of Illinois as a dual-sport athlete as an undergraduate, Amanda has gone on to win seven Paralympic medals and over twenty-five marathons. While she is an exceptional athlete, Amanda is more than that. She is a storyteller. Of course, she has great stories to tell! She has an eye for detail and a compassionate heart, so Amanda's stories have happy, funny endings where everyone wins. Amanda is a teacher. She has a quick mind, and as Jennifer Anderson pointed out, never has to be told twice. "Got it!" is something we’ve all heard her yell as she raced off to fix the next problem. Beyond that, however, Amanda makes sure that her fellow graduate assistants and the people she is helping "get it" too. Her patience and unflappable attitude help reduce frustration and pave the way for the teachable moments. Amanda is a friend. She offers rides to her fellow graduate assistants, after shifts have ended on cold, dark, winter nights. She takes time to meet with little girls in Chicago before going to compete in the Paralympic games in Rio. Her fellow Help Desk and ITD graduate assistants use words like "team player," "a leader by example," and "a go-getter with a heart of gold." It has been a great pleasure to get to know this world-class athlete in her time with the iSchool, and we look forward to her contributions to our shared profession. 

Herbert Goldhor Award for Public Librarianship

Presented to Emily Hoch

Emily Hoch is indeed an outstanding iSchool student, showing excellence and interest in entering the area of public librarianship. She demonstrates this both in the classroom and in her blossoming career in public librarianship. In class, she is a respected and articulate leader of her fellow students. She brought to classes her experience in a public library and, in at least one case, brought her colleagues to contribute their experience. She is already the program and event specialist at Champaign Public Library, where she exercises her interests in exhibitions, innovative library programming, and community outreach, and has begun innovative new music programs. She is a visible presence in her public library, always helpful and keen to explain the library's decisions and goals. She shows great promise as a public librarian, a promise that is being realized even before she claims her degree.

Peggy Harris Award

Presented to Henry Grob

From the very beginning of his master's program at the iSchool as a Help Desk/ITD GA, Henry Grob has gone above and beyond in his work with students, staff, and faculty. He is able to look beyond the starting question to see the heart of an issue, and he dives in to collaboratively explore and implement solutions. Henry also serves as Vice President with the ALA Student Chapter and continues to seek ways to serve the broader profession through the School. Henry especially exemplified his concern for others and for the welfare of the School this past year, stepping forward to serve as a teaching assistant for the course Introduction to Networked Systems. So many people are increasingly digitally excluded, including many in the Information Sciences directly, removing their existence and sense of choice to design, select, and implement digital technologies in support of personal and community goals. Henry has collaborated to reassert a hands-on, local innovation-in-use of sociotechnical products in support of the data, information, knowledge, power cycle.

Health Sciences Information Management Award

Presented to Nisha Mody

Currently the health and life sciences librarian at the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library at UCLA, Nisha Mody has great promise for a career in health sciences librarianship. She came to the iSchool after several years as a speech-language pathologist and has a passion for information literacy, critical theory, and writing. Kathryn La Barre observes that Nisha "is the very embodiment of deep ethical commitment to engaging and changing the world through instruction and research."  At UCLA Nisha serves as the David Geffen School of Medicine library liaison, provides reference assistance, delivers library instruction, and facilitates a monthly Sciences Journal Club.

Kathryn Luther & William T Henderson Award

Presented to Joe Porto

Throughout his time at the iSchool, Joe Porto has demonstrated his commitment to community.  He has been an exceptional president of the SLA (Special Libraries Association) Student Group, involving both MS/LIS and MS/IM students in planning programs on a range of topics and collaborating with other student group leaders on joint projects and programs. As a collaborator on the Mapping History at the University of Illinois project, he has contributed to taking a multilayered approach to telling the history of the University within an overarching narrative that integrates the idea of place via maps, 3D imagery, and archival content.

Information Systems/Technologies Award

Presented to Smit Desai

Smit came to the iSchool with a fascination with new technologies and new kinds of computer interfaces. While studying with us, he has taken on board the school's emphasis on the importance of the sociotechnical: that you need to take into account both individuals and organizations in order to create systems and technologies that people can actually fit into their work or home lives. We are never building information systems and technologies in a vacuum, so it is important to understand the context of use – what are people currently doing, what do they want to do, and are computers helping this – or are computers getting in the way? That leads to a human centered design approach that Smit has embraced through various courses and projects. That includes exploring the opportunities - but also the problems - of new voice operated interfaces. Siri, Google and Alexa may want to help us, but we need iSchool alums like Smit to ensure that they don't also cause confusion and irritation.

iSchool Alumni Association Student Award

Presented to Eva Anne Johnson

Eva spent several years working in libraries before deciding to pursue the MSLIS. She had already developed a great deal of knowledge as a family genealogist prior to beginning this degree, and during her time in the program she has worked full-time at the Wilmette Public Library. She continued to receive training in genealogy as well as public librarianship and archives. Her practicum at the Starhill Forest Arboretum was featured in the Summer 2017 issue of Intersections. She continues to work for the Arboretum to this day helping catalog their unique collection. Eva was one of only a few MSLIS students to have a poster accepted in the 2017 Fall Research Showcase. Eva also presented the same research, The 450-year life of the "Nobilario genealógico de varias casas de España:" A brief biography of a manuscript, at the 2018 Newberry Graduate Student Conference. In addition to her research accomplishments, Eva has distinguished herself as a family genealogist with her popular blog. She loves working in a public library and whatever she goes on to do after graduation, she will certainly "carry the spirit" of love of the LIS profession with her which will create a ripple effect to others.

Alice Lohrer Award for Literature and Library Services for Youth

Presented to Joella Travis

Joella Travis is someone to watch. Neither the most vocal student in any class nor someone who draws much attention to herself, Joella has made it clear from her first day at the iSchool that she wants nothing more than to be the best librarian, the best advocate for young people that she can be. In classes at the iSchool such as Media Literacy for Youth, Joella has engaged thoughtfully with ideas about how librarians can provide services and programs to young people in public libraries in a way that values and enhances those young people's competencies, knowledge, and skills. In her work at Urbana Free Library and elsewhere, whether working with teens or assisting patrons at the reference desk, Joella has been an exemplary, empathetic, and resourceful employee. She understands that she has much still to learn, that young people matter, and that being a librarian won't always be easy or comfortable. For these reasons and more, Joella is someone who is well on her way to being a leader among youth services librarians.

Hazel C. Rediger Award

Presented to Brett Fujioka 

Brett Fujioka demonstrates a wide ranging intellectual curiosity and an intellectual fearlessness. He strives to engage important thinkers and theories both from before he was born and of the most recent Internet moment. He engages actively with texts, in pursuit of illuminating the socio-cultural landscape of his native Japan and in making arguments about contemporary thought and practice her in the U.S. He demonstrated both intellectual curiosity and commitment to social justice in his required courses, working on topics such as censorship in Japan and the legacy of World War II, in his work on the diversity committee and in an extended independent project that suggests considerable scholarly potential. In that paper, he seeks to contextualize why debates and contentions between the Sciences and Humanities persist, and he discusses Science Fiction and its relationship to Postmodernism and Memetics, informed by key texts by Jean Baudrillard. He proposes ways for Japanese academia, evolutionary science, and literary studies to pave the way forward for the Digital Humanities. His voracious intellectual appetite for both topics and texts demonstrates the enthusiastic spirit of intellectual questioning that is in the best spirit of the Hazel C. Rediger award.

Joseph Rediger Librarian as Humanist Award

Presented to Davin Dearth

Davin Dearth is a thoughtful and intellectually curious student. Equipped with strong interpersonal skills, Davin can argue in defense of his position with conviction, while drawing out other perspectives. In coursework, Davin executes extensive research on valuable projects, such as the perpetuation of early twentieth-century racist imagery in contemporary popular children’s media. During his practicum in archives and special collections at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Davin taught himself text mining, helped undergraduate patrons pursue their own projects, and advanced a project on women writers, proving a model for other humanists in the information professions. 

Social Justice Award

Presented to KayLee Strahan

KayLee served as the 2017-2018 Treasurer for the Progressive Librarians Guild, helping the group to support outreach efforts ranging from hurricane relief in Puerto Rico to Books to Prisoners, and sustaining the group's momentum through her enthusiasm and diligent documentation. She has investigated censorship in prison libraries in a co-authored poster, and she presented on prison librarianship and role conflict at the BOBCATSSS 2018 conference. In the course on Literacy, Readers, and Reading, KayLee regularly guided the conversation back to challenging questions about racial discrimination, prejudicial judgment of readers and reading materials, and the politics of literacy. KayLee calls people in to challenging conversations with compassion.

Yingbo Zhou Memorial Award

Presented to Yuan Cheng

For this award, Yuan Cheng was nominated by multiple faculty who recognize both his commitment to high academic standards and to enriching the life of the iSchool and the University. He is a lively participant in class discussions and displays exceptional intellectual curiosity and diligence in assignments, resulting in consistently high grades. Yuan particularly exemplifies the iSchool's ethos, demonstrating not only outstanding technical capabilities but also a deep recognition that information technologies are built for, and affect, humans and their communities. As well as maintaining an excellent GPA, Yuan has also embraced many opportunities during his master’s program, including winning third prize in the University's HackCulture 2017 event for his web app visualizing achievements of the university's famous alumni, and undertaking a range of professional internships including Caterpillar, Amazon, John Deere, and at the University's Chancellor's office. Moreover, he has engaged in a wide range of professional development workshops offered by the school, presented a poster at the iSchool MS Showcase in Spring 2017 and will be completing a masters thesis.

Berner-Nash Memorial Award

Presented to Jinseok Kim

With his thesis, Jinseok Kim advances our understanding of the impact of name disambiguation methods on co-author networks and knowledge discovery from large-scale bibliometric data. Jinseok empirically shows undesirable effects of dominant practices for author name disambiguation under varying conditions. His work reveals how widely used initial-based name disambiguation methods can severely distort our understanding of co-author networks, and that such distortions increase over time. These distortions can lead to biased or false insights about network formation and evolution, which can result in ill-informed decisions about research policies and resource allocation. In his thesis, Jinseok also developed solutions that can help others to estimate, locate, and correct errors in network data, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of limited data curation resources. This work matters as more and larger bibliographic datasets are produced and used for evaluating scholarly impact and modeling the evolution of scientific fields. The findings from this highly interdisciplinary work can help scholars and practitioners to improve their practices for ensuring data quality at scale. Jinseok's thesis outcomes are relevant to multiple communities, including the areas of data provenance, data curation, network science, and social computing, as well as librarians who work with or study bibliometric information.

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