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Jennifer McKnight

"Information is like candy; I love candy. I also love sharing my candy because it might make others happy as well. Nowadays, we have plenty of candy; we need to get better at sharing it. For me, information architecture equates to making people happy. The world needs more ‘happy,’ and I am excited to learn the science behind it."

Jennifer McKnight is an online content strategist and content manager, mother, and part-time student at Wayne State School of Information Sciences pursuing a master’s degree in information management.

McKnight has been balancing school and parenting since her second year of undergraduate studies and has had many life-changing experiences that led her to her interest in information management and her attending Wayne State today.

McKnight entered the technology field by working for Microsoft and dabbling in marketing after receiving a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. McKnight always had graduate school on her mind but wanted to be sure if she went back to school that it would be for something she was passionate about. When she began seriously entertaining the idea of advancing her education at age 30, an unexpected challenge struck McKnight when she became disabled and unable to work.

McKnight used her writing skills to get work as a freelance journalist, which grew into a successful self-owned business that allowed her to support herself and her family. Her company, Jenn Marie Writing & Marketing, provides content writing and management, consulting, marketing, and branding services to individuals and their businesses.

While working as a consultant, McKnight received an assignment that involved researching and creating a guide with information about schools around the world that offer information architecture programs. The research led McKnight to Wayne State.

“I did the research … A lot of schools make the assumption that if you are not completely dedicated to being a student, then you are not really a student. You’re not allowed to be a mom. You’re not allowed to have a full-time job and be a student,” she said. “Wayne State made me feel comfortable that they would be supportive of the fact that I have a life outside of school while also giving me an education.” Although there are graduate programs closer to her home in Tacoma, Washington, she cites Wayne State’s affordability and alternative application process as additional reasons she decided to apply.

McKnight said that she also chose to attend WSU School of Information Sciences because it is a good library school. Her research revealed that many information architecture schools are focused on Artificial Intelligence and the processes to make technology more human-like, but she was looking for a program that focuses on attempting to make the technology we have more suitable for human users.

“When Matt Fredericks said in the information session that ‘We are librarians of the internet,’ that was so important to me because I look at the internet like a library more than I look at it as AI,” she said. “I want to make sure that people understand how to use technology. That’s why I came to Wayne State because it is a top-notch library school. Library schools need to stay relevant in the information technology field.”

McKnight finished her second semester in May and said that the coursework so far, especially from the Introduction to Information Management and Project Management courses, has already helped her company become more successful.

When she completes the MSIM program, McKnight said she is eager to see how she can implement user experience strategies when planning out the content she will provide for online businesses.

Her experiences as a Diversity Student Scholar of the Information Architecture Conference will also help guide her business now and in the future. McKnight was accepted to the program in 2021. In addition to having the opportunity to attend the conference, the scholarship provides professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities.  

McKnight said as a current student in the online program it is important to organize and plan a schedule for schoolwork and stick to it. McKnight recommends getting involved with student or professional organizations and attending conferences to gain hands-on experience and to network with local professionals. McKnight’s advice to her fellow students it to be sure you are taking courses you are passionate about.  She said her experience so far has been more than fulfilling because she has loves her coursework.