by Jacquelyn White 2009 ACE Scholar & MLIS Student, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
This year the University of North Carolina at Greensboro welcomed the first cohort of Academic and Cultural Enrichment (ACE) scholars into the Master's of Library and Information Studies program. These thirteen scholars are part of a diversity program sponsored by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services' Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. UNC-Greensboro established the scholars program to increase the number of culturally diverse librarians in the field of academic libraries. The scholars were recruited from underrepresented communities to complete a two-year MLIS degree program at UNC-Greensboro and a sister program at UNC-Charlotte.
Measuring the success of the program this soon after its inception is easily ascertained by speaking to the scholars themselves. I myself believe this initiative has raised the bar for MLIS programs across the board. This program will allow more minorities to gain employment in all levels and areas of librarianship. ACE Scholar Ashanti White hypothesizes that the success of this program will set a precedent for other universities and libraries that have considered similar methods of proactive recruitment. Furthermore, its success may prompt more government funding in the form of scholarships for students or grants for individual universities and systems.
When asked to speak about our experiences, many of the scholars have remarked on the hopes and accomplishments this program has offered them.
"Receiving this scholarship was validation that I was competitive," said Kris Brown, "and all the effort I put into my undergraduate work was worth it. I know now that I can pursue any goal that I have in mind, if only I put in the time and effort. The ACE scholars program is aiding very well in helping me towards the career I want."
Martha Parker said, "Statistics show a small presence of minorities in this field. I believe the ACE program will contribute a diverse group of professionals, whom in turn will provide different perspectives to the profession. Occupational websites are reporting a decrease in a number of librarians during the next ten years due to retirements. This is a great opportunity for new librarians to make their own contribution to the profession and to build on the successes of our predecessors."
"This scholarship has an indescribable good feeling that is hard to explain," said Tammy Graham. "I have worked very hard within my educational years; by being awarded this scholarship it makes me feel that whatever I went through at other colleges to get where I am now was so well worth it. In other words, my education is finally paying off in different ways. The ACE Scholarship has really put a unique and exciting chapter in my life. A chapter I will never forget for the rest of my life."
Not only is ACE enabling its scholars to attend Greensboro's MLIS program full time, it is building a sense of community among the students as a group and among the students, faculty, Greensboro library staff, and other members of the library field.
"The ACE Scholars program has been a great experience for me," said Alesha Lackey. "My fellow "ACEs" are very interesting and intelligent, and I am looking forward to learning with and from them. I appreciate that in addition to the LIS coursework, we have access to professional development and mentoring opportunities. Our recent trip to the North Carolina Library Association Conference in Greenville, North Carolina, was a positive venue for me to meet and network with veteran librarians and information professionals."
As a scholar myself, I cannot begin to say what it means to have this scholarship. I definitely think the work we are all doing here today and in the next two years will help change the outlook for minorities and non-minority students yet to come.
For more information about the ACE Scholars Program, and to read biographies of each 2009 Scholar, please visit the ACE Scholars Program page .
The following ACE Scholars contributed to this article: Alesha Lackey, Ashanti White, Kris Brown, Martha Parker, and Tammy Graham.