Having it All: Helping Visualization Students Demystify the Thesis

In fall 2016, I became more involved with my liaison department Visualization, which is housed under the College of Architecture. The department of Visualization, also known as the VizLab, is presumably the closet department to a fine arts experience on my campus – Texas A&M University.  In addition to a Masters of Science (MS) generally focusing on animation and video game design, the department offers a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA), which includes courses in contemporary art studio, installation, and image synthesis. VizLab has approximately 60 masters students enrolled year to year. Three years ago several MS students and MFA students started contacting me for assistance with finding resources for their theses. This was an opportunity to start to build a programmatic approach to help these students by ensuring they had the resources and confidence to complete their theses.

In spring 2019, I presented on the work I have done thus far with the VizLab. The background on my efforts is as follows from the poster presentation I displayed at the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS): “At Texas A&M University, the Visualization Sciences Department (VizLab) is a hot bed of talented graduate students that are plucked out of the program by animation and video game industry giants pre-graduation. The graduation rate ranges from 25% to 40%. As their liaison librarian, I have worked to demystify the thesis process and help them feel more comfortable with finding resources, but also assisting with methodology and the overall process to create their thesis proposals. These efforts have been accomplished through online tools and strategies to lessen their anxiety and make them feel more comfortable with research and finalizing their thesis for graduation. My intent is to develop a programmatic approach where students do not have to choose between a job and graduation, but can have it all with enough planning and progress before their final year at the VizLab” (Budzise-Weaver, 2019).

To start the conversation with faculty at the VizLab on providing more librarian resources, i.e. my expertise, I established a relationship with the professor teaching the first year MS graduate Research Foundations course. We designed three sessions to introduce the graduate students to library resources and services. Session one reviewed the resources and services available to the graduate students at the library: Introduction to the library website, the Visualization class guide, and how to search for materials in our catalog – Libcat. Session two included more hands-on database searching, Reworks sign-up, and tutorials. The last session provided a tour of the Evans Library and Cushing Memorial Library and Archives to familiarize the students with these resources and spaces.

After these sessions, students could elect to visit me for a consultation. This gave students the chance to ask me about their research, thesis processes, and help in finding materials. This lead to sharing RefWorks and GoogleDoc folders with some of the students, allowing me to make suggestions and offer assistance through review of their research more easily. I suggested that students still refer to their thesis committees for clarification on their topics to ensure they were moving in the right direction and adhered to subject expertise from their professors.

Since 2016, I have consulted with over 26 students and five of these students have graduated. Some will be graduating this fall. To close, supporting these students can be a long-term or short-term process.  Students come to me at different points in their academic careers, so some may be graduating in a few months or in a few years. Recently the department added a non-thesis option, but the ability to assist with research will still be a constant, no matter what the student chooses to do. The main goal is for these graduate students to complete their degree and have a career.  I’m hoping over time that these students can have it all with the help of their librarian.

 

 References:

Budzise-Weaver, Tina. “Demystifying the Thesis: Visualization Science Graduate Students at Texas A&M University.” Juried Poster Presentation. Arts Library Society of North America Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 27, 2019. Retrieved from:https://arlisna.org/images/conferences/2019/2019_ARLISNA_AnnualConference_Poster24.pdf

 

 

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