IS alumnae, Shelly McMullin and Angel Durr, graduates of the PhD Information Science program have had their dissertations featured in the June issue of American Libraries as a "Notable Dissertation" for 2019.
Each year, American Libraries – the official news and features magazine of the American Library Association - highlights the top dissertations that can make a difference for rural areas, indigenous communities, people experiencing homelessness, and many other populations.
The nine dissertations selected this year include research on the power of reading, librarian-teacher collaborations, and school librarians as academic leaders. They have practical implications for school, public academic and special libraries, feature quantitative, qualitative and mixed methodologies and include measurable recommendations for change.
This is the second year in a row, and the third time since 2016, that the Department has had its PhD graduates' research featured in the magazine.
Information literacy and critical thinking of college students
Shelly McMullin received her PhD in Information Science in 2017. Titled “The Correlation between Information Literacy and Critical Thinking of College Students: An Exploratory Study”, Shelly’s doctoral dissertation explores possible correlations between critical thinking skills and information literacy skills in college students.
“My interest in this subject was largely driven by concerns about students’ increasing access to academic information via Internet sources and their ability to not only effectively locate sources, but also to recognize the legitimacy of the sources based on certain factors and use the sources appropriately”, said McMullin.
Although there were multiple studies addressing student information-seeking from an information literacy perspective, and some studies addressing it from a critical thinking perspective, there were no studies considering the intersection of critical thinking and information literacy skills. In her dissertation, Shelly wanted to discover if there were any new theories or avenues of exploration revealed by studying the two skills together.
Faculty members who served on her committee included Dr. Shawne Miksa (Chair), Drs. John Marino and Linda Schamber.
McMullin is currently the Director of Institutional Research at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. In her role, she assists University faculty and staff with information and analysis to make decisions about enrollment, outcome measures, curriculum and accreditation. She also chairs the committee over general education assessment, which develops and oversees the assessment of the institution’s general education competencies. In this position, she works with general education faculty to ensure that undergraduate students are learning broad-based knowledge and skills, such as information literacy and critical thinking that will help them succeed in a multitude of situations.
She resides in Missouri and enjoys reading, hiking, woodworking and an occasional remodel project.
Data Science career opportunities and U.S. iSchool curriculum
Angel Durr is the first person in her family to attend college, but defied the odds and completed her PhD in December 2018 at only 31 years old. Her dissertation “A Text Analysis of Data Science Career Opportunities and U.S. iSchool Curriculum” explores the education of U.S. iSchool professionals and compare it to traditional data science roles advertised within the job market.
“The topic I wrote about in my dissertation directly relates to the work I am doing within the Data Science community as a practicing data professional who matriculated within an iSchool,” said Durr. “I wanted to examine the actual jobs being posted and determine how closely data science jobs currently being advertised actually tied to the curriculum students like myself are exposed to within iSchools.”
At a certain point Durr felt like there was a growing trend among students in the UNT COI IS program using their information science knowledge for data science roles, and she became interested in learning more about this trend, especially as the vocational opportunities in traditional information science roles continued to shrink.
Her committee members included Dr. Nicholas Evangelopoulos (Major Professor), and Drs. Suliman Hawamdeh, Jeonghyun Kim, and Brian O’Connor as committee members.
Durr currently works as a Marketing Data Scientist in her current role as Associate Director of Marketing Science for Hearts and Science in Dallas, TX. Additionally, she has recently established the nonprofit DataReady DFW, focusing on providing free exposure and job ready training in the area of Data Science for low income, minority, and female Dallas residents.
In her personal life, Dr. Durr is a single mother of one daughter, a dog mom, and a member of Junior League Dallas.
Her advice to students thinking about pursuing a PhD or those currently in the program is “to not give up no matter what life throws your way.” During her time in the program as a full time student, Durr went through job changes, divorce and personal turmoil. However, she says these experiences only made her realize where her passions existed and what she was capable of achieving.
She encourages anyone on a similar journey, and students considering a similar data path looking for advice, to connect with her on LinkedIn.
For the full feature in the American Libraries magazine, click here.