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Four SIS Students Awarded Graduate School Fellowships

The School of Information Sciences is proud that four of its incoming students were selected for prestigious fellowships from the UTK graduate school.

“SIS students often receive fellowships from the Graduate School, but none of us can remember such a large number of students being recognized in the same year. This is just another testament to our students’ excellence,” said Associate Professor Rachel Fleming-May, who is also the SIS director of graduate studies.

The four students and the fellowships they received are:

  • Brianna Blackwell, J. Wallace & Katie Dean Graduate Endowment Fellowship
  • Erika Fitzpatrick, J. Wallace & Katie Dean Graduate Endowment Fellowship
  • Kaypounyers “Kay P” Maye, Access and Diversity Fellowship
  • Cassidy Thompson, Seaton Graduate School Fellowship

Cassidy Thompson said she applied, and was accepted by, five different schools to earn what will be her second master’s degree. After more than a decade of teaching high school English and Spanish, Thompson decided to follow her dream of becoming a youth services librarian. The offer of a fellowship, as well as the encouragement of Fleming-May, sealed the deal.

“I was drawn to UT from the get-go, the program here seemed stronger, more vibrant,” she said. “I felt like UT wanted to support my education, and for me to do this, I had to not worry about working as a teacher in tandem.”

The fellowship also played a role in Erika Fitzpatrick’s decision to choose UT’s program. Fitzpatrick has a long resume of volunteer work that includes everything from fashion design to volunteering with her dog, though her career field has been in computer sciences. Her varied interests have culminated in a desire to be a librarian, and she was excited when she learned of her nomination for a fellowship.

“[The fellowship] was a draw for me, and I was still deciding between schools at the time. It definitely factored into my decision to go to UT,” she said.

Being awarded a fellowship was simply a cherry on top of the dreams that Kay P Maye, who is a distance education student in Jackson, Mississippi, had of attending UT.

“UT had the perfect blend of being able to do it online but also staying in front of professors. I didn’t apply to any other programs, so it was like, if I get into UT, I’ll go to UT,” Maye said. “Dr. Fleming-May was just so instrumental in recruiting me. I thought it was so profound that she kept up with me, and talked to me almost every week.”

Maye is currently a high school teacher, but loves research and wants to eventually become an academic librarian with a focus on increasing information literacy for undergraduate students – especially those majoring in education.

The strong SIS program at UT also drew Brianna Blackwell to apply, she said, especially noting the computational sciences minor. She has a background in English, and the MSIS will be her second master’s degree. She hopes to combine her interest in English with information sciences and gain skills such as data analysis, which aren’t taught in English programs.

“I was already leaning toward UT, because the SIS program is highly regarded and because I would have the chance to study data and text analytics,” she said. “But, being offered this fellowship meant that I would be able to pursue much more than I would be able to otherwise.”