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Student Spotlight: Nick Vera

Posted May 1, 2018

Where are you from?
Indian Land, South Carolina.

Undergrad major?
English major and information science minor. I studied 19th and 20th century modernist literature in undergrad here at the University of South Carolina and graduated in May of 2016.

Why did you choose SLIS?
I finished my undergraduate and MLIS degree here at USC. When I first started at Carolina, I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to major in. I spent my first two years switching between majors until I found what I enjoyed. My minor was a similar story. I went through a few minors before I found information science. What hooked me at the time was a SLIS course called Information and Society, taught by then-SLIS doctoral student Dr. Anmol Kalsi. The course focused on the way societies use information to make decisions and live their lives. This was very interesting to me, and I really wanted to learn more and become an information professional. I was greatly interested in health literacy and informatics because of the potential impact it has on societies, especially those who have limited access to healthcare and resources. After a brief discussion with Dr. Kalsi about the MLIS program and what it entailed, I decided to apply to the program and earn my master’s. 

Following my master’s, I had the same dilemma again, except this time I knew more about my field of study, had some research experience and knew what I wanted to do for a career. So, like any other soon-to-be graduate, I applied to Ph.D. programs! I think I applied to about five programs, including USC. The more I learned about other library school programs, the more in love I fell with ours. But my deciding factor in choosing SLIS for my Ph.D. was mentorship. Going through the MLIS program, I know that the faculty and staff are brilliant at what they do.

But more importantly, they’re passionate about what they do and how they teach. I know from experience that everyone I come across in Davis College is committed to seeing you succeed and will work hard to help get you to where you want to be. Regretfully, I didn’t see that in some of the other schools I applied to. Needless to say, my decision to stay at USC for my Ph.D. wasn’t a hard one.

Tell me about your most interesting experience.
I had the privilege to be a graduate assistant and travel the entire state of South Carolina (all 46 counties) with Cocky for the duration of my MLIS. With Cocky’s Reading Express, I read to children all over the state, engaging them in literacy and showing them that reading is fun when you find the right book. By far, the most interesting experience was getting to read outside the South Carolina State House at the annual State Read-In to almost 2,000 students sitting on the steps of the capital building, all of whom were passionate about literacy. It was a day that I will never forget and was a great way to end my assistantship at Cocky’s Reading Express.

What are your career plans?
My short-term goal at the moment is to settle in for the long haul of my Ph.D. program. I say this because I’m sure it’s going to take its mental toll as I move through the program. Long-term though, I’d like to have a career in health, either public or private healthcare, working with hospitals, agencies and organizations. My dream job is to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researching ways to create healthier communities, especially in rural areas where there is limited access to information, doctors and even grocery stores. Ideally, I would like to start my career in South Carolina.

Tell us a little about what you’d like to do with your Ph.D.
I plan to continue pursuing what I am passionate about, which is health. I have always been interested in the fields of health informatics, communication and librarianship ever since I started at SLIS. Mainly though, I want to focus my Ph.D. around that and research ways in which libraries and information professionals can improve the quality of life for underserved communities and at-risk populations, such as LGBTQ+ and minorities, using library resources and the knowledge they contain. Health literacy is another area of interest to me that I’d like to explore while earning my degree. Health literacy, in essence, is a person’s ability to gather, process and understand basic health information or services to make relevant health decisions. Librarians are great at finding information, resources and services for their patrons, but that information is useless if the person receiving it doesn’t have the literacy skills necessary to understand it. My goal is address and propose solutions to this throughout my program.

What’s the most valuable concept or skill you’ve learned in the program so far?
Leadership. Most of my classes emphasized the importance of leadership, especially for librarians. As an MLIS graduate, I have found that my degree requires leadership in order to build trust among our communities and the people we serve. I plan to build upon this during my doctoral program.

What are you looking forward to learning as you work to complete your degree?
I’m looking forward to working with SLIS faculty and seeing what we accomplish during my time. Research is an important part of my program and working with the faculty will enhance my experience by providing me with new skills and ideas to use in my dissertation.

What would you say to someone considering doing the same program?
Get ready for the wildest ride of your life! As a graduate student in SLIS, or any graduate student for that matter, you’re going to have a few days when you want to pull out your hair and ask, “What did I get myself into?” On the flip side though, you’re going to have a lot of breakthroughs where you feel like you’re on top of the world and you can see things coming together. That makes up for all the bad days. My advice to having more good days is serve your community! Community service is an important aspect in SLIS. There are plenty of community service opportunities. My favorite is Cocky’s Reading Express. I always tell students that serving with CRE is a lot fun and that they can see the impact of their service almost instantaneously. Seeing a child’s face light up with excitement for reading is the best experience anyone can have. The best part, though, is walking away knowing you had a role in that. It’s also beneficial for grad students, too, because singing Pete the Cat and reading The Book with No Pictures to 4K through second-graders is a great way to give your mind a break from all the dense course-reading you’re going to do in SLIS. So anytime you need a mental break or have some downtime, serve your community! I promise you won’t regret it.

Tell me something interesting about you.
I love airplanes! I am kind of an aviation geek when it comes to anything that flies. Ever since I was little, I loved to watch airplanes take off and land and guess what kind it was. I remember my dad and I would drive for hours just to go to an airshow and see all the different types airplanes. The really interesting part though is I don’t like heights or flying!