If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Like many twenty-somethings fresh out of undergrad, I landed in a position that felt more like a career than not, but certainly didn’t fulfill an all-encompassing life purpose. I was simply happy to be working in a position I enjoyed, not thinking too much about the next steps in my career path. I was fortunate to develop experience as a sales manager with a large and reputable company, which would later prove to be invaluable in my career change. But, as I eventually realized that particular job was not going to lead to a place of lasting interest to me, I had to decide how I was going to use the skills I had gained to work my way toward something more fulfilling.
A part time position at a public library lead me to discover something about myself. Whether it would be in libraries or another type of organization, I knew that I needed to pursue something that felt purposeful to me.
I decided it was important to obtain a Library Information Science degree, which would provide me with a basis of knowledge for a library position. I didn’t have a great deal of experience working in libraries, and felt that this would help prepare me for the type of work I was excited to begin doing.
I applied to a handful of LIS programs, and at the top of my list was the University of Denver and Morgridge College of Education’s LIS program. I wanted to be in Colorado if possible, and I wanted a program that would offer an in-person academic experience. Networking and learning from professionals face to face was one of my priorities, and DU delivered.
I was able to learn from many different professionals working in the field locally. The in-person program provided me with a variety of hands-on, practical experiences that boosted my knowledge and local support system. I graduated with my MLIS and a job in public libraries at the end of 2 years. And, during that time, I discovered a particular interest within libraries and non-profits I wouldn’t have known existed without going through the LIS program within Morgridge.
With the many opportunities the program led to, I discovered evaluation, analysis, and assessment in libraries and non-profits. The work is an excellent match to my passion that was there before I even knew what to do with it. While completing the LIS program, I became familiar with the Research Methods and Statistics program in MCE, and it proved to be the perfect avenue to continue my studies and deepen my focus in my chosen field. I’m completing my first year in the RMS doctorate program now, while continuing to work in public libraries, which will inform my work in research to come.
The faculty in MCE have been continuously supportive and steadfast in assisting me in reaching my goals. I’m continually challenged to think about my path, the steps I’m taking to get there, and how this is fulfilling my goal and professional purpose. My time working on my graduate studies at MCE has certainly shaped me as a professional, as an individual, as well as a seeker of education. Community and education is the thread of passion that links all MCE graduate students together. I’ve discovered that, as varied as our careers and interests are, our common goal is to do meaningful work in our fields.
25 Nov 2013
This September, DU’s Library and Information Science (LIS) program at Morgridge College of Education had their annual Showcase of Opportunities event, highlighting InContext learning opportunities at community organizations across the Denver Metro. Throughout their coursework, all LIS students are encouraged to get hands-on experience by obtaining internships and volunteering at libraries, museums and other information settings, but second year students are required to complete a 4-credit practicum (including 100 hours of field work, class meetings and paperwork) before graduating. Dr. Clara Sitter, Clinical Associate Professor and LIS Program Coordinator, has been instrumental in helping students find their practicum experience by establishing connections with community organizations and field mentors, bringing them all together for one event. At this year’s Showcase of Opportunities, Librarians and representatives from over 30 organizations gathered in Ruffatto Hall to promote InContext learning opportunities, ranging from practicum work, internships (paid and unpaid), for-credit service learning, special projects and independent study. “We do brief introductions of the organizations at the beginning, then, students walk around and visit the tables they are interested in to find out more information,” Sitter explains.
Having been in the library profession for over 30 years, and having coordinated LIS student practicums at DU for 14 years, Sitter has designed the Showcase around the networked career: “The Showcase offers an advantage for students to network and make connections with professionals and organizations in the area. Libraries love our students, and occasionally, students get hired by their practicum site.”
Although the Showcase of Opportunities includes mainly Denver Metro organizations, students aren’t limited in their choice of practicum: “We have great sites in the Denver metro area, but sometimes students want experience in another city or even abroad, so we’ve had students do their practicum work in Australia, England, Poland, Amsterdam, China, Chicago, and San Francisco, among others.”
At each practicum site, there is an MCE approved field mentor to provide the students with one-on-one guidance and support. Sitter elaborates: “We look for field mentors who have significant experience and who demonstrate expertise that pairs up with the interests of our students. Every practicum is different, but the student should be in learning mode (learning systems and instruction)10% of the time, and should be able to work 90% of the time.”
A practicum differs from an internship because it is student-oriented; students identify their own goals and objectives. Dr. Sitter works with each student to identify his or her goals and objectives in order to better suggest places that would promote his or her desired field learning environment. From there, the student sets up information interviews with several practicum sites and decides which one is the best fit. “In many cases, that initial connection with the organization was made at the Showcase of Opportunities,” she adds.
During their field experience, students keep a journal, posting weekly to reflect on their experience. “It is wonderful to see them at the beginning of their practicum experience, intimidated by users and unsure of a lot of things. In just 100 hours, the practicum experience usually confirms this choice of career and identifies where students want to work once they graduate,” Sitter remarks.
Morgridge College of Education’s Library & Information Science program is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and was the first program in the country to offer a focus in Early Childhood Librarianship. To learn more information about the LIS program, contact the Morgridge Office of Admissions.
16 Oct 2013
“Part of being a school leader is building systems and empowering staff to transform schools to meet the needs of all students,” explains Dr. Susan Korach, researcher in leadership preparation and co-creator of the Ritchie and ELSS cohorts at the Morgridge College of Education. Korach, along with the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) faculty, attended the biannual Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) Educational Leadership Convention this July in Breckenridge. The Convention brought over 1,000 principals, assistant principals, superintendents and school leaders from across the state together to engage in workshops, seminars, and professional development to share ideas, research findings, and stories with the mission of improving Colorado schools.
Many current MCE students and ELPS program graduates were presenters at the 2013 CASE conference, speaking on their experiences as school leaders and how they’ve come to ignite change within their schools and educational organizations. Nelson Van Vranken, MCE alum and Principal at Hanson Elementary School, and his leadership team presented on their school’s recent transformation. In 2009, Hanson was identified as one of the lowest performing schools in the nation, based on student growth and performance data, but in 2012 ranked in the highest performing TACP category. Van Vranken attributes much of his schools success to his training at MCE: “The Ritchie cohort fully prepared me for the challenges of urban school reform. Through our reform efforts, we gathered data to build a clear vision for the school, then focused on creating a school culture that supports learning. In all of this, our goal is centered on lasting change, so our biggest learning is in front of us. It was powerful to have the opportunity to share the lessons we have learned through our work with colleagues from around Colorado. ”
Morgridge College of Education is a “Friends of CASE” sponsor because the two organizations share the vision and commitment to helping improve Colorado schools and districts. Dr. Korach elaborates, “We want to create more partnerships and support leadership work throughout the state. Supporting CASE is an opportunity to help MCE have a broader prospective of leadership, expanding our support, programming and relationships from mainly urban districts to rural areas.”
Through the ELPS program at Morgridge College of Education, students work InContext within their schools and educational organizations while developing their leadership and professional skills. “We intentionally prioritize adding value back to the schools and educational settings in which our students are working;” Korach states, “through the Ritchie and ELSS InContext learning opportunities, though each capstone project at the masters level, and through the doctoral courses and research projects, our students are serving as active change agents in our schools and our community.” ELPS students are encouraged to be members of CASE to continually further their educational leadership development and collaborate with other educational leaders.
Morgridge College of Education offers Certificate (Ritchie and ELSS cohorts), Masters, EdD and PhD programs in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Typical students in the ELPS programs have anywhere between 3-20+ years experience as an educator, however, a smaller number of students come from outside of the field of education. The Ritchie Program for School Leaders is a district partnership cohort with Denver and Adams County School Districts, while the ELSS cohort utilizes blended online technologies in district (Aurora and DPS) and regional cohorts with InContext opportunities for the integration of coursework and internship. Both Ritchie and ELSS consist of 4 quarters of coursework, focused on school-based inquiry projects, and a 300+ hour integrated internship to meet the requirements for principal licensure and evaluation. Upon completion of a Ritchie or ELSS cohort, graduates must pass the PLACE principal exam for state licensure and receive approval from Colorado Department of Education. Both cohort options immerse candidates into practice of real situations in real schools, resulting in a unique learning experience that retains a high hire rate for assistant principal, principal, or educational leadership positions. Many Ritchie and ELSS graduates continue with 15 hours of coursework at MCE to receive their Masters. The ELPS EdD and PhD programs support educational leaders with aspirations of being superintendents or getting involved in district level leadership and policy making. For more information on any of the ELPS programs, please contact the Office of Admissions at morgridge.du.edu/contacts.