News and Events: Archive:

Librarians play critical roles in selective Rutgers academic programs

The challenges that many students may face as they transition from high school to college, and later to the real world, are often quite daunting. Rutgers librarians are working with closely with faculty, in a variety of disciplines, to help students manage those transitions and to achieve their goals, academically, and ultimately, professionally.

For Women's Studies Librarian Kayo Denda, that has meant working in collaboration with Women's & Gender Studies Undergraduate Director Carlos Decena, and the rest of the department's faculty, to assist honors students as they write their honors theses. Every honors student must meet with Kayo to help them with their research for the 60 to 100 page paper they are required to submit.

Her primary role, she said, is to "Help each student to focus their research, and to make them aware of the research material and the resources that we have." Initially, she said, many students are "kind of all over" in terms of their focus. "They may have difficulty in narrowing their topic down, or it may be one that, while interesting or personally important, is too difficult to find materials and sources to develop a well researched paper."

Kayo works with each student to help them to realize whether the topic is too ambitious or too ambiguous. What it comes down to, she said, is that "students shouldn't have to struggle to get resources that aren't practical."

Education Librarian and Instruction Coordinator Jeris Cassel works with students in the McNair Program, which is a federally established program that assists low-income minority first-generation undergraduate students who are underrepresented in graduate education. Students may enter the program as rising juniors, although sometimes as rising seniors.

"It's an intense program," Jeris said, adding that admittance is by application-only, and that students cannot work while they are in it. "We're looking for students who may have not thought about graduate education", she said. "We're also looking for people who might want to get a PhD, who might want to become future faculty members."

Jeris' primary role is teaching a required three-credit summer course called "Bibliography and Research Techniques." McNair scholars, said Jeris, will learn social science research methods, practice public peaking, and practice for the GRE's. Yet Jeris states that students in the McNair Scholars program learn a lot more than the 'mechanics' of advanced study and research.

"They're learning what it means to be a graduate student, a researcher, a faculty member. How does one develop a research idea? Is it quantitative? Is it qualitative? How does one handle themselves as an individual in an academic environment? They'll learn to talk about research and respond to questions. We're preparing them psychologically and socially." She added that "they'll also learn about the politics of academia."

In addition to her work with the McNair Program, Jeris also works with Social Sciences Librarian Karen Hartman, as a liaison to the Aresty Program. Like McNair, the Aresty Program is designed for undergraduates. Students in the Aresty program are either working on their own research, or are assisting a faculty member with their research. Either way, Jeris and Karen provide assistance that is research-based, and usually involves connecting an Aresty student with a librarian specialized in the field the student is working on.

"This is a wonderful thing for the students," Karen said. She added that they are students who will most likely wind up doing some sort of post-graduate work, and that "we'd like to help them refine some of the skills they'll need in grad school." "We are looking to provide outreach, service, and support. This is an outstanding program, and we just want to make students aware of what help is there for them."

Posted January 18, 2012