It was while she was serving in the Peace Corps that Alex Brown's eyes were opened to the need for reliable access to quality information and education. She didn't realize it at the time, but this experience would one day lead her to the iSchool, where she is now a student in the MSLIS online (Leep) program.
"When I started the application process, I thought I'd take classes in person, and so I expected to attend an information school closer to home," said Brown who holds bachelor's degrees in anthropology and English from the College of William and Mary. "I applied to Illinois mostly on a whim; I figured I'd keep my options open."
Then, a librarian friend told her about INFOcon, a three-day conference that showcases various traditional and nontraditional careers within LIS. Brown attended as many sessions as she could and discovered that "just about every single one of those presenters taught at Illinois, or was an alum, or was in some way connected." Suddenly, it felt like everything was pointing her in a new direction. After being admitted into the program, she found the iSchool's admissions staff to be friendly and helpful, cementing her decision to choose Illinois for graduate study.
Brown is receiving financial support for her studies through a Leep Scholarship.
"Higher education is expensive, and for better or worse, the jobs in which I've been most interested have never been the most lucrative," she said. "Receiving financial support represents a looming burden lifted, and that's a huge relief. In addition, the fact that the iSchool saw my potential and cared to invest in my education feels wonderful and helps to energize me as I move forward with the program."
After earning her MSLIS, Brown wants to find a position where she can make a positive impact and, hopefully, maintain a good work/life balance, so that she has time for her favorite activity—creative writing.
"Lately, I've been especially focused on writing children's stories," said Brown. "I'm also a runner, and happily, some of my best writing ideas come to me when I'm out on a run! I tend to stop paying attention to where I'm going when that happens, so I get lost a lot."
Brown appreciates the opportunity to earn her degree remotely and the support of donors who made her scholarship possible.
"I honestly have no idea how to adequately thank someone for providing such a meaningful gift, but I hope the donors know that these scholarships really, really do make a difference. I feel honored and grateful to be a recipient and am just floored by their generosity. In the future, I hope I'm able to pay it forward by giving back in a similar way," she said.