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Amber Harrison

Amber Harrison
"The most important and surprising thing I have learned about the information profession is its diversity of career opportunities. Celebrate your uniqueness and know that you have an essential role in information world."

"The most important and surprising thing I have learned about the information profession is its diversity of career opportunities. I chose the public history and library dual degree program because I never want to be in a box, and pursuing these programs is helping me realize the numerous possibilities.  Celebrate your uniqueness and know that you have an essential role in information world."

What’s your name?  What degree are you seeking?  What semester/year do you expect to graduate? 

My name is Amber Harrison and I am currently in the MLIS/MAPH (Master in Public History) dual degree program, and am pursing the Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration as well. It is my hope that I will graduate by the end of the Winter 2021 semester.

Where are you from originally?  How long have you been in the area?  Did you move here to go to school?

I am a native Detroiter. Having pursued several degrees here already, attending Wayne State feels very much like coming back home.

What other degrees do you have? Where are they from?

I previously earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree and a Master of Arts in Music History degree, both here at Wayne State.

Why did you choose Wayne State School of Information Sciences?

Prior to my current studies, I was initially planning to pursue a doctorate degree in historical musicology. But over the years I began to realize that I did not want to pursue a traditionally “academic” field or career. Community engagement slowly became a passionate area for me. When I realized I needed to make a career transition, I met with the history department and learned not only about their fairly new public history program, but that Wayne State was in the process of creating the dual library and public history degree program. I immediately knew that this was the right path to take, that I had to come back to Wayne State once again.

What area are you specializing in? Why?

For my public history degree, I chose the Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies track. For the library degree, I am on the Archives track (but am also interested in academic libraries). I chose these specific tracks because I wanted to learn the ways in which one can pursue community engagement, as well as how to be an ally and supporter of underserved communities, and to share and preserve their stories and knowledge.

Where/What format do you take most of your classes?  Why?

The public history degree is only offered on campus while the library and information science degree is online. I’ve found a comfortable medium between my programs that is both unique and refreshing.

Are you active in any student organizations?

I am currently the Social Media Manager for Wayne State’s American Library Association Student Chapter. I am also the Vice President of Social Media for Wayne State’s History Graduate Students Association. Additionally, between both departments, I also serve on several academic/administrative committees as student representative.

How has your involvement in student organizations impacted your SIS experience?

Being involved in student organizations has helped me expand: my understanding of the information science field, the ways in which students and professionals alike can learn from each other, creating safe spaces for students to engage and explore their career options, as well as professional development opportunities.

Are you currently doing any library, DCM, Archives or Information Management related work?  If so, how has the program prepared you for it?

In May, I started working in the WSU Purdy Kresge Library as a Circulation Assistant. Despite it being the most popular “role” of the librarian (at least, to many non-information professionals), it was an area that I had the least experience in. Having already begun classwork in the program, I felt that attaining hands-on experience would further synthesize my library education.

I have also been working as an independent researcher and consultant for various entities. As of late, I’ve been helping contribute research, advice, and structure for a digital archive on Detroit history. The MAPH/MLIS program has helped further cement my understanding of the many different formats knowledge, and therefore knowledge consumption, can take, and what that means for current and future information centers. With these perspectives in mind, I feel more prepared to relay advice and informed decisions on how projects of this manner should proceed in content management and preservation.

What are you most proud of in your time as a student at SIS?

I am proud that I have stepped out of my comfort zone to explore what’s out there for information professionals and public historians. I spent most of my life dedicated to  the study and performance of music. I was worried that I might not succeed in this restructuring of my career goals.

Is there a professor who has really impacted your journey into becoming an information professional?

My first course at SIS was one that I did not originally choose to take. I was initially registered for a museum culture course, but it was cancelled days before the fall semester was to begin. My public history advisor said I should enroll in the Oral History course taught by Kim Schroeder. Prior to this class, not only did I not have experience with oral histories but barely knew anything about them. I didn’t see the connection between it and the kind of work I wished to pursue. In its beginning, I was terrified of being in the class, but Kim did an excellent job of guiding us through the ins and outs of oral history. By the end of that term, I was armed and ready to take on the world. I came to thoroughly enjoy conducting oral history interviews and plan to pursue that method (among others) of preserving history and contributing to community engagement.

Since joining the program, what do you feel is the most important or surprising thing you’ve learned about the library and information science profession?

The most important and surprising thing I have learned about the information profession is its diversity of career opportunities. I chose the public history and library dual degree program because I never want to be in a box, and pursuing these programs is helping me realize the numerous possibilities.

Do you feel well prepared for a career in the information profession?  Any long-term professional goals?

Though half way through the program, I know that what I have already learned will help me pursue work in community engagement. Whether that be in an academic library or a historical museum, I am confident that my studies here are more than preparing me for the outside world.

What advice would you give to someone considering SIS to pursue their master(s) degrees?

Don’t worry, and don’t compare yourself to others! We all come from diverse backgrounds and therefore can contribute in a variety of seen and unseen ways. Pursuing an MLIS (or MSIM) does not mean that you can only find work in public libraries (but if that’s your chosen track, then by all means pursue it!). I spent over 20 years studying music and thought I’d be the odd person out. Celebrate your uniqueness and know that you have an essential role in information world