Fortunately for Chad Kahl, a PhD in political science wasn't in the cards. As a graduate student in political science at the University of Illinois, he wasn't certain that he was in the right field. His advisor, Professor Paul Diehl, suggested that he take a class in the iSchool to see if it was a better fit—and everything fell into place. Chad not only ended up earning his MSLIS degree, but mutual friends in the program introduced him to fellow classmate (now wife) Stephanie Davis-Kahl.
"After I made the move [to the MSLIS program], when I told people, a common response was 'Librarianship. Of course. You were always reading. You loved going to the library.' The fact that I was already on the campus that I loved, with the top-ranked graduate school in library science and phenomenal graduate assistantship opportunities, was extraordinarily lucky," said Chad, who now works as a data services librarian at Milner Library at Illinois State University.
Like her husband, Stephanie's decision to attend the iSchool was influenced by an offer of a graduate assistantship.
"I applied to several library schools and was lucky enough to receive an assistantship with a tuition waiver from the iSchool—I wouldn't have been able to attend without the financial assistance," she said. "I knew I'd get the education I needed from the faculty and staff at the iSchool, and the assistantship was an unexpected gift."
Stephanie went to the public library on a weekly basis as a child and worked in her college's library as an undergraduate. As someone who "loved the idea of knowing a little bit about everything and wanted to help people answer their own questions," it was not a big leap for her to become a librarian. She currently serves as director of the Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University.
The couple, who earned their MSLIS degrees in 1998, are now loyal donors to the iSchool Annual Fund. They credit the School with not only bringing them together but also with preparing them for their professional careers in academic libraries.
"We had such a great experience, and we wanted to ensure that others had the same opportunities that we did to learn and grow," said Chad.
Their advice to current students would be to "try to do as many things as possible." In addition to her assistantships, Stephanie participated in internships and campus-level committee opportunities, and Chad completed an independent study that allowed him to try his hand at in-depth, scholarly research prior to graduation. Their second piece of advice is to have fun. "We made friends in the grad program that we still keep in touch with to this day," they said.