Students Answer Questions about their WGS Experience
For a few WGS student profiles, you can visit the Liberal Arts Career Services website here.
In addition, advice and faculty profiles can be found here, also courtesy of Liberal Arts Career Services.
More coming soon!
I'm Lea, I just finished my dual INF/WGS degree. I'm the first person to *officially* get the dual degree. There was a woman a year ahead of me that did it the hard way, fulfilling the separate requirements of each department - we have it much easier.
I have about 500 things to say about the iSchool. WGS, UT, grad school in general, funding, Austin . . .
I don't even know where to start. Overall - super positive. I love it here. It's been great. WGS and INF balance each other out well. I am happy to answer any questions you have. I am also prone to writing really long emails to prospectives, so just know if you ask me a question, I will answer it like a librarian. :)
MA/MSIS Dual Degree - notes from former students
- Why did you decide to purse this specific dual degree?
- I started in the School of Information, but had a Women's Studies background. The work in the iSchool is more practical than theoretical, and I missed the theory work of WGS. Completing the two programs simultaneously was great, and I felt very balanced.
- Have the faculty been very helpful in pursuing this degree, or is it a very "go it alone" pursuit?
- Women's and Gender Studies here is interdisciplinary. There are a few staff members, but no faculty that is just women's studies faculty. That being said, all the professors I have had have been fantastic. As far as the iSchool, Philip Doty was the lead on the iSchool side for creating this major. I find him incredibly helpful. He was the iSchool graduate coordinator and our IRB (Internal Review Board) liaison so he understands how to get through the UT administrative process. (You will need to go through the IRB if you do research on human subjects.)
- Where do you find academic peers?
- I was already established in the iSchool when I started the dual degree, and I am was active in student life. The Women's and Gender Studies program will keep you in your cohort your first year so you will become close with them and familiar with their work. There are three core courses for WGS - you will take two in your first semester and one in the next semester - as will the rest of your cohort. My cohort was 9 people, and we saw each other pretty much everyday of our first semester.
- What are some of the best parts of this course of study? What are the most difficult?
- My soul and heart are happier studying both information AND gender studies. It's a great mix of theory and practical, and I want to be a subject specialist in an academic library so an additional masters is preferred. The most difficult thing for me right now is writing a thesis while taking two other classes and working 20 hours a week as an instructor. Fortunately, I teach an online class, so I have time flexibility, but office hours, working with my students, grading, and answering their numerous emails does take a big chuck of my time. If you are strategic about your course selection, you can make it a lot easier on yourself. You may take two upper division undergraduate courses and two courses for credit/no credit (this last thing is a bit trickier than this, so make sure you get it approved through Philip Doty, Jackie Salcedo and Carol Carreon before you do it). So I saved those lighter classes for the time that I am doing research for my thesis and the semester dedicated to writing it.
- Are you able to interact a lot with the professors?
- Some of them. The director and co-director (Sue Heinzelman and Gretchen Ritter) invite us to their houses, feed us and give us the chance to get to know each other better. Because you will have to have a thesis advisor and a 2nd reader you will become pretty close with some faculty, but you want to choose carefully. You need to make sure that they really fit your needs. I learned the hard way that it's not just about them being knowledgeable in your subject area, but you have to make sure they can give the help that you need. This, however, is why you have a thesis advisor and a second reader. Pick people with different strengths and know that you can depend on both of them for help. As a dual degree student you will have three years to complete your degree, and won't need to choose a thesis committee until after a year in, you will be in MUCH better shape than your WGS-only colleagues, because they will hardly know any faculty when they have to choose a committee.
- Do you feel like there's enough structure to the program?
- You have a set list of classes you have to take, and then you're on your own as far as class selection, but your advisors will help you out. Plus, your cohort can be really helpful. Make sure you talk with them AND the cohort a year ahead of you, as they will have fantastic insight into courses and thesis strategies. You will meet all of these people at WGS orientation. WGS really takes care of you, but you have to be willing to ask for support as well. iSchool orientation is large and less persoalized, but you will get the chance to hear from each member of the facutly and representatives from each student group.
- Have you done much research?
- Dear lord yes. I've done lots of reading. UT is one of the biggest and most powerful libraries in the country. When I go to librarian conferences, the vendors get so excited when they see University of Texas on my name tag. We get invited to all the receptions and they do their best to woo us. :) What that means for you, is the library can get you whatever you need. That being said, if you have an idea of what you want to study, you need to look at the faculty at the schools you're considering. If there is a professor somewhere that does what you want to do, talk to her. She might have funding for graduate researchers. Then you'd get some or all of your tuition paid and get to work on stuff you're interested in. These relationships can lead to publications and if you're planning on staying in academia, having a publication or two on your CV would be a really smart move. In addition to reading I've done surveys and focus groups. I've created curriculum from my research and am now 50 pages into my thesis. My affiliation with the School of Information has provided me the technology and training I need to do usability studies. You will take a research methods class as part of your foundation, but it will be mainly if not entirely qualitative. This is awesome, but I found my course in understanding and serving users to be super helpful for my research. Mainly because we learned the nitty gritty of research and usability testing. We used the book Understanding the User Experience by Kuniavsky, and if you're going to do surveys I HIGHLY recommend it. Survey design is tricky. It's an art and a science and I don't think that was emphasized enough in my particular WGS research course.
- What did you like most about being a student in CWGS?
- One thing I love about WGS that is unique to our program is how welcoming it is. Our orientation was informative and helpful and when I took Foundations I it was labeled as "Intro to Women's Studies" but was more like intro to being a graduate student at UT that happens to focus on women's studies.
- What did you like most about being a student in the School of Information?
- The iSchool has gone through a lot of changes since I graduated. They are in a new space which is much bigger and more technologically modern than the previous location. The iSchool really felt like my home when I was in the dual degree program and not only because I started there first. The iSchool brings in a lot of speakers, has active student organizations, and has relationships with the UT Libraries and local libraries as well. I was able to participated in a mentoring program and two volunteer reference programs through my affiliation with the iSchool.
- What about UT?
- UT is an awesome place to do research. We have one of the biggest and most powerful libraries in the country, a highly envied archive (Harry Ransom Center), one of the best Latin American literature collections anywhere (including Gloria Anzaldua's papers and tapes), a fantastic Women's Studies librarian, and seriously so much more.
- . . . and Austin?
- Austin is amazing. I don't know how you feel about sunny days, free live music, shady beer gardens, free pools, lakes (really it's a dammed up river, but we call it a lake) and a place where you can take your dogs/kids/bike everywhere, but it's just awesome. That being said, it is pretty hot in the summer, but you get used to it. At least I did. For the most part everyone is really nice, and it's pretty safe. I think it's still pretty affordable, but you really want to work to get a GA position. If you work 20 hours you can get in-state tuition and tuition reimbursement plus a stipend. So if you live in a house with other people and don't really spend money on anything, you won't need loans. Now, realistically, you will need some money outside of what they give you, but it really depends on how you want to live. If you live in the right part of town, you won't need a car. A lot of people here bike (we are the town of Lance Armstrong), and the UT bus system is the biggest university bus system in the country. They're full size city busses and they're free. Actually, UT students can get on any city bus free, you just swipe your ID.
- What didn't you like?
- I came from University of Maryland which has a pretty solid WMST department with an MA and Ph.D. program. The office has 6 or 7 faculty offices so, they're pretty much all in one spot when you have questions, and a couple couches for grad students. It's very homey. I don't really get that feeling at Texas. There are two offices in Walter Webb hall which is on Guadalupe and 25th and a bit far from the heart of campus. The staff are nice and helpful and Jackie (the graduate coordinator) really goes above and beyond to help WGS students navigate through UT paperwork and such which can be a bit daunting. Jackie really is fantastic, and one of the benefits of the dual degree program is you get the best of both departments. So, you'll get the personal attention of WGS (not that the iSchool is overwhelmingly large), and the physical space of the iSchool, so really you're in good shape.
- Honestly, I can't think of anything I don't like about Austin. It's very hot; just be ready for that. The idea of leaving here breaks my heart; I didn't think I ever would. There are so many trails, nice people, tons of bars and restaurants with outdoor patios, lots of events and concerts, great food (although lacking in Italian). It's sunny all the time, and you can be outside year round.
- Would you do it again?
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