Back to school

As I’ve alluded elsewhere, I have left my job of 13 years as Rice webmaster and will be going back to school as a full-time student at UT’s School of Information.

The iSchool as it’s affectionately called (does it come with white earbuds?) is an outgrowth of the library school. I was briefly in the program ten years ago, but when Malini came along I decided I couldn’t handle fatherhood + job + school and dropped out. My interest in seeing how library science could be applied to this new interweb thingie was probably pushing the envelope of what they had to offer anyway.

The iSchool has come a long way since then. They’ve hired new faculty and added an Information Architecture track, the one I’ll be in. I’m hoping to squeeze a two-year master’s into a year and a half. Several people have asked whether I wouldn’t want to go for the PhD; if I enjoy myself that might be tempting, but at my age and with family responsibilities I doubt that it will be realistic unless I find some unusually generous support.

People keep asking what I’ll be studying and what I plan to do with it. The short answer to the first question (as I understand it at this time) is techniques for helping people organize and find information, especially as applied to information technologies like the web. When people’s eyes glaze over I say, well, you could think of it as high-level web design with a lot of library science concepts thrown in. I’m not happy with that answer, even though more people seem to understand it, because it sells the field short and sounds like something you could do by reading a For Dummies book. I guess I need to find a few examples to wow ‘em with. As for the second question, I’m purposely not answering that one yet. I’m going back to school to open doors, not to close them.

I’ve had a couple of experiences to make me feel like a student already. I got advised, and while my advisor is very encouraging and supportive, there’s something inherently humbling about the faculty-student relationship that will take some getting used to after all these years away from it. In my work and out here in the blogarium I’m used to floating a vague idea and having people say “cool” or “that might not work because” or “take a look at so-and-so who’s doing something similar”. When I did the same to my advisor his response was, “well, there’s thirty years of research on that”. Gulp.

I’m a bit concerned about my schedule. Of the thirteen hours I plan to take, I can only find open sections for seven; despite my having several alternates everything else is waitlisted. And new students are last in line. I’m counting on some seats to open up. Also, I’m thinking of trying out a sideline in geographic information systems in another department, but the most likely intro GIS class in Geography conflicts with my core iSchool classes. That probably means putting it off for a semester and reducing what I might do in GIS by a third right off the bat.

Orientation is on the 12th and classes start on the 18th. I’m itchy to get started.

3 thoughts on “Back to school

  1. I’m actually mulling over the idea of applying to the iSchool or a similar program after I finally obtain my B.A. this Spring, so I’ll be following your exploits with great interest! Thanks for starting this blog, Prentiss, and good luck!

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