*AMERICAN STUDIES M.A. PROGRAM QUESTIONNAIRE*

When were you enrolled in the program?

Respondent #4: Class of 1997

How did you learn of the program?

I considered a couple of American Studies MA programs, including UVA.

Why did you enter the program, and did it meet your expectations?

In order of importance: it was condensed to one year, it taught a professional skill, it was UVA.

What did you find most valuable about the program?

I can't imagine what I'd be doing now if I hadn't developed a marketable skill while in the program. Waiting tables? Answering phones? The opportunity to indulge in a few high-brow classes while exploring the exploding field of "New Media" makes for an excellent combination to guide humanities students to gainful employment.

Was the program different in any significant ways from your earlier education?

It was nothing like my previous experience. This program took a small group of students, required that they alter their approach to study and apply the new reference point to a common goal--a constantly evolving anthology on Xroads. The main difference, and I consider this an improvement over my earlier education, is:

Size and structure--small numbers allowed a scholastic intimacy that I found to be highly instructive, and not threatening, as I'm sure it could have been. The experience of working as a small workgroup has been very valuable to me as I entered the professional world where such a personnel structure is common.

Did the program help you develop any of these aspects of your life?

-Thinking and communicating?

Knowing that I was writing for a diverse group of mostly non-academic readers forced me to carefully examine my audience and to design accordingly. I find this to be an invaluable skill in my professional life as I prepare information in various formats for differing populations.

-Work habits?

My schedule, while in the program, is one that I never thought I could manage, and would hesitate to try, in retrospect. I easily spent 14 hours on campus every weekday, in class, at work, and then doing research, writing, and design in the 4th floor lab. These hours were self-inflicted, for the most part, but taught me a lot about time management, pace, and avoiding burnout.

-Research abilities?

I do not think the program affected my research abilities, except by providing access to a superior range of research materials.

-Technical abilities?

Apart from WWW technical skills (in which case I went from no such skills whatsoever to employment based largely on these skills in a year and a half), I certainly increased my comfort with hardware and software troubleshooting issues.

To what extent did your classmates affect your experience in the program?

My classmates were an essential part of the experience. It was as a group that we conceived projects, as a group that we created them, and as a group that we evaluated and distributed them. Two years later, they are my invaluable career consultants and my unofficial project advisors.

To what extent did the public venue (the Internet) for much your work affect your experience in the program?

Not one week had elapsed when Alan Howard informed my class that from that point forward we were to be "showering in public." I would say that this was a difficult situation to accept for several of us. I found myself feeling a much greater responsibility knowing that my work would be viewed by more than a limited academic audience. The even greater challenge was to prepare material for this academic group, and for grade school researchers, and for subject "buffs" all simultaneously. I know that this experience would never have occurred had I entered one of the more traditional MA programs that I was considering.

Was the course work appropriate to the goals of the program?

Yes

Did you perceive yourself as part of any university department or community larger than the American Studies Program itself?

It was possible to become a part of several departments. It was somewhat difficult to establish strong ties to departments due to time constraints--both a heavy daily workload and the one year time frame. I do not consider this to be regrettable.

How well was interdisciplinary study integrated in the program?

I think integration could have been increased by exchanging one of the required English dept. courses for a course in another department.

Were the following resources (and any other ones) adequate for your work? -Libraries?

Yes

-Computers and technical support?

Could have been better.

-Work space?

Was tight for just the 5 in our class--must have been really rough for larger classes

-Classes?

Yes

-Faculty?

Yes

-Financial support?

What financial support?!

-Other?

During the program did you have any relevant part-time employment?

I would not have my current position had I not worked in the Special Collections Digital Center. In this position I created archival digital images from rare books and designed WWW presentations for those images. I was hired, post-program, to use this experience in creation of such an operation for the Smithsonian.

Please describe briefly your major forms of schooling and/or employment since your time in the program (giving dates, name of organization, and chief activities there):

Finished the program 12/97 (while working almost full-time in the Special Collections Digital Center). Left the Digital Center 1/98. Joined the Smithsonian Institution Libraries 3/98 to design an archival imaging center in the Department of Preservation. Was internally promoted to the Information Systems Division 3/99 to manage the established Imaging Center, and to design "Digital Facsimile Editions" and "Digital Exhibitions." My other responsibilites include database design and management, and software/hardware evaluation and recommendation.

Did you find advising and placement support in the program to be adequate?

I think advising and placement will be enhanced greatly by an expanding alumni base. I found previous class members to be of limited value to me, but I am well aware that my classmates and I were more valuable to the classes that followed us.

Has your involvement in the program made a discernible difference in the subsequent steps of your career?

Absolutely. I'm very pleased with my career path thus far and, as I've said before, I have no idea what I'd be doing if not this. I would not be doing this had it not been for the program.

How might the program be strengthened?

Internships.

While in the program I created a couple of WWW sites that were not classwork. I designed a site for a museum, and one for a class. The experience of working with and for a client is very important, and I would like to have had more of that experience.

I did work while in the program. It was a related field that allowed me explore, in greater depth, one part of my professional repertoire--imaging. While I know I could have found a WWW Designer position with little trouble, post-program, it was my experience in rare book imaging that sent me head-first into my current job, and evolving career. Because of my in-school job, I left UVA not only knowing that I possessed certain skills, but also with a resume section proving that I could use these skills in the workplace.

On a somewhat different note, I now find myself wishing fervently that I could have a couple of AS students to intern for me! There is a lot of work out there that needs to be done, and which can be done best by people who possess the mastery of both form and content.

Any other reflections?

I'm nostalgic for the American Studies program in a way that I've never been for any educational experience. In large part, this is due to the environment fostered by Alan Howard. At every moment we students had the sense that our work was exciting, necessary, and valuable. I've never had a professor or advisor take such an interest in my work. Alan took time with me, and he continues to do so when I need a third eye on a design or when I consider a new career opportunity.

I'm grateful for this chance to reflect on my American Studies experience. I hope you will share the responses you get and that you will share the committee's findings with the alumni.

Please feel free to contact me for clarification or for further discussion.

I can be reached during the day at: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx