On Friday, May 7th, three students were the first to graduate from UNC Greensboro’s Bachelor of Science in Information Science (BSIS) program.
Launched in the spring of 2020, the multidisciplinary program blends coursework from library and information sciences, computer science, geography, information systems and supply chain management, and education research methodology to prepare students for careers in systems management, web development, information technology consulting, and more.
The three graduates of the BSIS program will enter a rapidly expanding field with not only the knowledge gained from their coursework, but also the unique skills they gained by navigating a new program during a pandemic.
“These students have been resilient, patient, and unflappable, working out any kinks of the new program and adapting to online learning,” said Dr. Lisa O’Connor, department chair.
All three students entered the BSIS degree program after finding themselves in a major that wasn’t a good fit, and for them, this program could not have launched at a better time.
“I think this new program really gave these students a place that was a strong match for their interests. And to complete the entire degree program in just three semesters is a huge testament to the program and especially to the students’ work ethic,” said O’Connor.
Meet the three students below:
Jeffus, a stay-at-home single mom, began looking to go back to school after giving birth to her youngest child. When deciding what to study, she fondly recalled her very first job working at a library, and she was inspired to pursue a degree program in librarianship.
She came across UNCG’s BSIS program and, given her interest in librarianship, was impressed at how the program funneled into the Master’s of Library Science degree program.
Within her first semester, she discovered a passion for data manipulation and decided to shift her career goals from librarianship to data science.
“I think the wide breadth of different classes that you can take in this program really opened up a lot of new interests for me.”
In addition to the variety of courses the program offers, Jeffus especially appreciated how receptive the instructors were to the students’ feedback, allowing them to play a part in shaping the program.
She describes graduating as bittersweet.
“I’m going to miss being in such a small cohort, having such supportive professors, and seeing the same friendly faces every day. But it is heartwarming to see new people enter the degree program that I helped shape. As a nontraditional student, I didn’t expect to have such an incredible college experience, but it’s been more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined.”
After graduation, Jeffus hopes to find a job in data analytics and eventually pursue a master’s degree.
Vang transferred to UNCG from UNC Charlotte as an elementary education major. When he realized it wasn’t a good fit, he went to Career and Professional Development and was told about the new BSIS program.
Upon realizing you could go on to become a public school librarian with that degree, he realized he had found a perfect fit.
Vang credits his professors and Dr. Frazer, his advisor, as having the most influence on his undergraduate career and helping him get through the program successfully.
“My professors did a really good job of making sure we felt comfortable, and they always asked for our input on how the program and its courses could be improved going forward. It was really cool to work with them to finetune the program.”
Vang sees one of his biggest successes in the program as being able to navigate the remainder of the degree program during the pandemic. He learned to adapt his study skills to learn online despite distractions from home.
Being one of the first students to graduate from the program is a major accomplishment, he says.
“I feel like I am leaving my legacy at UNCG as one of the first students to graduate from this program and to have helped in the program’s initial success.”
Pitts describes graduating from UNCG as a full circle moment.
She originally came to UNCG in 1983 as a pre-med biology student but left to give birth to her son and to be a mother.
Years later, she decided to attend community college for computer science. It was a UNCG alumnus who was the professor for one of Pitts’ database classes who encouraged her to pursue her bachelor’s degree.
And so, nearly 40 years later, she came back to UNCG as a computer science major to finish what she started.
When she realized computer science wasn’t for her, she visited Student Services and was told about the new BSIS program. Pitts was impressed that she could do so many different things with the degree.
“It was a big ‘aha’ moment for me – to come back to school and have this program launch at the same time. It was like everything fell into place and I was exactly where I needed to be.”
She credits the transfer process and her professors for helping her along her UNCG journey.
“To be provided that level of dedication and care was so important to me to be able to complete this program, to walk across that stage, and complete my full circle moment.”
And on May 7th, Pitts celebrated her accomplishments with all the pomp and circumstance.
“I have worked for so long to finally say ‘I’m a graduate,’ and to also say I’m one of the first people to graduate from this program is something I’m so proud of.”
As a self-proclaimed lifetime learner, Pitts hopes to someday come back to UNCG for graduate school. Until then, she hopes to move into a role in data analytics at her current company.
“That’s the great thing about this degree – you can take it anywhere. The possibilities are endless.”
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications