Message from the Associate Dean

Associate Dean Tom Walker

Detroit and Wayne State University still seem new to me after six months as the new Associate Dean with responsibility for the School of Information Sciences. That is a good thing. Since moving here from New York City, I have been impressed by the culture of the area, the industriousness of my colleagues and the students, and the mission of SIS and the rest of the university. The work flows are aligning, I've been meeting new colleagues and other professional contacts almost daily. Among the most satisfying new alliances have been with students, alumni, and employers of our graduates. It its more than 50 years of existence, SIS is thoroughly and positively embedded in the information world in Michigan and beyond. There has never been any doubt in my mind about having made the decision to join Wayne State and I look forward to seeing the school continue to thrive and develop in some new areas. 

I sometimes find myself thinking about chaos theory and how aspects of it apply to our lives. There have been a few small events in my life that turned out to be exceptional landmarks in my professional journey. I know that perhaps most of our students (and our faculty, staff and alumni) have had similar moments of revelation in their lives, too. And I never tire of hearing about them. How do people choose our field? What journey brings them here? I can think of several such events in my life, but two are especially important in my journey here. First, a mid-level administrator from the International Studies department of the University of Colorado came to a German class I was taking as an undergrad. She explained that studying abroad was a real possibility and that it would cost no more than a regular year in Boulder – and students receive full academic credit toward their degrees from the experience. In less than a year, I started my junior year at a German university, which ignited my curiosity for higher education, libraries, art, music and culture in general. My bachelor's thesis was about a music manuscript at the Prince Thurn und Taxis Library/Archives in Regensburg and I can trace some of my adult enthusiasm for archives to that era. It was while working on my Ph.D. dissertation a few years later at the Austrian National Library, though, that the second revelation occurred: that I did not need to limit my enjoyment of spectacular libraries and archives to that of an enthusiastic user, but that I could head in that professional direction myself. So, from Vienna I applied to MLIS programs back in the United States and happily switched fields.  

The road since then has been circuitous and has taken me into areas I never dreamed I would like: business (real estate), public librarianship, and for the major portion of my life since then academia, in which I have worked as a researcher, professor, academic librarian, and administrator. I look forward to even more adventure and exploration in the future, too, and see Detroit and Wayne State as vibrant settings for the next significant stage of my life. For students, prospective students, and alumni, I extend an invitation to meet with me or communicate in one way or another about your journeys. One way of viewing the world is to look at it as an enormous number of information-rich, intertwining stories. As we each forge our own, I hope to hear more about yours as this new decade develops. Best wishes for the new year! 

- Tom Walker
Associate Dean and Professor, School of Information Sciences

Share with us the unique journey that has lead you to Wayne State, your current job or to the field of library/information science.