Information Sciences is important. I have been identifying how information sciences interface with the world throughout my master’s coursework. When accepted into the SciData program and the UT Graduate School, I was thrilled to link my passions for agriculture and libraries. This created an opportunity for me to develop an in-depth understanding of information sciences with cognate areas of agriculture and policy. When I first entered the program, my understanding was at a technical level, I knew how to work the circulation desk, checking in books and assisting patrons. At the end of my Master’s program, I have a firm foothold on the foundations of my profession, and my understanding is at a professional level; I know the “why” of what I am doing, and not only the “how”. Information science is a vast discipline that undergirds, supports, and frames every other discipline. Because of the intertwined nature of information science with individual disciplines, and even information in daily life, I found it challenging to examine just information science.
With my professional understanding, I can now formulate appropriate interactions and solutions to the challenges of accurately conveying information. In order to work effectively with policymakers, agricultural stakeholders, data creators and managers, information needs to be accurately conveyed. To do this I can create and maintain “invisible frameworks”, and I will work with my peers to envision new solutions to move beyond what past practice and current needs show us. This is the task of an Information Professional.
As my understanding moved from the technical to include the professional level, I had learning goals that were informed along the way by coursework, people, and extracurricular opportunities. Initially, I wanted to explore the intersection of policy, agriculture, and information sciences and be open to the experiences offered through SciData. My focus sharpened as I grew in my professional understanding of information science to include additional objectives. I wanted to develop skills to meet the informational needs of agricultural stakeholders. Two separate and sometimes competing needs – that of the people and that of the data – need an information professional to bridge the gap between those needs. The foundations for understanding the nature of information and how to assess those competing needs came from my Master’s program; and I want to keep learning throughout the rest of my professional career. Information sciences is interesting and important, and will keep me engaged over the course of my career.
One noteworthy highlight was my internship at the Office of American Spaces in the U.S. Department of State. The application process is rigorous and the acceptance rate into the program is less than 8% of applicants. My twelve weeks in Washington, D.C. gave me valuable professional contacts that I continue to network with now and into the future. Additionally, the experience changed my understanding of policy and work in D.C. to the point I have changed my career arc to plan for the Foreign Service or policy work 20 years down the road – at a time when my credentials and teaching experience qualifies me to be heard and interact at a level of effectiveness and decision-making. Working with the Dept. of State is a potential second career, but not at this point in time as a recent M.S. graduate.
The other career arc I wanted to explore when entering my Master’s program was to be an information professional for extension agents. When researching a potential practicum with the agricultural extension service connected with land grant universities, I became re-energised to work in that area, and am now investigating doctoral research and teaching programs. In addition to my pursuit of a PhD, in my professional career I will use the skills learned in my Master’s program to work with agriculture professionals, particularly farmers and producers, to ensure they have access to accurate information, data management tools, and connect them to emerging technologies and communication channels.
The outcome of my Master’s program at UT is a solid foundation as an information professional. I will use this foundation to layer additional education and exploration of my passions for agriculture and libraries in a PhD program, going on to teach students about the nature of information. My future plans are explored more fully at Future Plans and Projections.