Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)




 title of the newsletter: The Silverfish


February 2004

Vol VIII Issue II

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University of Washington
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So You Think You Want To Be An MSIM Student?
An Overview of the MSIM Program

By Carmine Rau, MLIS Day
At the beginning of the academic year, many of us new iSchoolers sat together in an auditorium in Mary Gates Hall. As well as being introduced to members of the faculty and staff, we got a chance to look around and see each other. MLIS students peered around to get a look at our classmates and found we were the overwhelming majority in the room. Who were the other students here – the Informatics and MSIM students? Perhaps, like myself, other new iSchoolers wondered, “What is the MSIM program?” If you have ever asked yourself that question, then today is your lucky day. With the help of Student Services Administrator Bridget Warbington and the beautiful blue MSIM admissions brochure, we present a brief look at the MSIM program.

The Master of Science in Information Management started here at UW in the fall of 2001 with working professionals in mind. The faculty looked at existing MSIM programs at other universities, and designed something that is quite similar – albeit unique to the strengths of the iSchool's areas of expertise. The UW program is an interdisciplinary program combining knowledge organization, management and technology with a user-centered emphasis. Warbington adds, “Many individuals working in IT and management positions come to those jobs without formal training in those areas. As they encounter real world information challenges and initiatives within their organization they find that some formal training and theory to back up their decision-making would be an asset to what they're trying to accomplish. Current MSIM students have stated that they chose to pursue this degree to refine skills and fill in gaps in their previous education or professional experiences.”

The program fills those gaps by bringing these professionals together to draw on each other’s experiences while taking courses focused around people’s information needs. Their core classes consist of offerings in information management, information technology, knowledge organization and emerging trends. Additionally, students may take courses in finance or marketing or create their own specializations through fieldwork or independent study. All students will take the “capstone” class, Stakeholders, Information and Technology, which addresses system integration and encourages that popular feature of many iSchool classes, the “student-organized individual/team project.” If all this is sounding somewhat familiar to MLIS students, Warbington summed up the differences in a nutshell: “There are more classes in the MSIM from the 540 [information systems technology], 580 [management] and 530 [organization of information] decades than the MLIS program. Conversely, MSIM student don't have any required courses in the 520s [information services and reference], 560s [instruction] or 570s [research].” In other words, they can’t be librarians. It is doubtful any of them are crying too much about that. They are busy working as Information Managers, Database Managers, in Competitive Intelligence, Information Architecture, Project Management, Software and Web Development, Consulting or scores of other positions.

Students of the MSIM come from a wide range of positions in civil, governmental and corporate companies. In the current cohort they come from, among others, Microsoft, Boeing, AT&T Wireless, Applied Discovery, Elliot Bay Design Group, Seattle Times, Seattle University and the National Park Service. Overwhelmingly they come from IT or Management with an average of 7 years experience; men outnumber women at a 65/35 ratio. The MSIM program is a part-time program requiring nearly two years to complete the 47 credit hours necessary to graduate. Students come to class every Friday (4:30-9:00 p.m.) and Saturday (8:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.) but take the summer off. When the first cohort of MSIM students graduated last spring, many moved up within their organization in positions like those listed above. Others took positions at new business, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Warbington shared the story of one such alum: “Andy Everett accepted a position as the Data Catalog Administrator at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). He's in charge of an application that will be a library of all the data elements from all data sources at WSDOT - over 100,000 in all. This position involves creating a browse taxonomy, working with data stewards and subject matter experts to develop business terms and definitions, and assisting in redesign of the Data Catalog software.”

What does the future hold for the MSIM program? According to program co-chair, Bob Boiko, the iSchool is currently working on putting together a full-time day version of the MSIM program. Warbington adds, the day MSIM will be “targeted to students who don't necessarily have the years professional experience required of students in our current program, but see the importance of bringing an expertise in the ‘information perspective’ to their future career.” So with any luck, MLISers may soon have the chance to rub elbows in the hallways and chat around the microwave in the iSalon with members of their sister program.

Have a burning desire for more information about the program? Think you may have wandered into the wrong Masters program and belong in MSIM? There are several ways to learn more about the program. Check out the program website or the admissions brochure (also available in paper form at the student services). You can also attend an information session or meet with Bridget Warbington at the Student Services Office.