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Published October 25, 2022

University at Buffalo information science PhD program celebrates first graduate

Image of Monica Rogers.

Monica Rogers, the first graduate of the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education’s recently launched online PhD in information science.

In May 2022, Monica Rogers became the first graduate of the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education’s recently launched online PhD in information science. Rogers was admitted to the doctoral program’s first student cohort in January 2020.

Offered by the Department of Information Science, the program was designed to allow students to study the rapid changes in the information science field and develop sophisticated research skills needed to address the complex information problems facing society. While students with a range of backgrounds enroll in the program, it is suited for those interested in exploring research questions in information science, becoming faculty members in the field, entering research careers in industry, or working to enhance leadership experiences in libraries and other organizations.

“I was extremely fortunate that this premier PhD program allowed the courses to be online…UB was a great fit because I was able to keep my career and have a day job while also pursuing my PhD,” said Rogers, who currently serves as the division chief of data and technology for the Tulsa Health Department.

Dan Albertson, professor and chair of the Department of Information Science, believes that the PhD in information science program is unlike any other because of its access to online PhD coursework. He asserts that not requiring a residency period makes the program uniquely accessible to students across the world.  

“Not everyone at every stage of their life can matriculate,” said Albertson. “We’re enhancing the profession by providing access, and, in turn, that access has had a tremendous impact on student interest and quality. That’s how we’re able to get students like Monica here.”

Amy VanScoy, associate professor of information science, shares Albertson’s beliefs: “There’s a problem with not having enough information science scholars from diverse backgrounds. And we really want to make a PhD accessible to everyone—not just those who are young or privileged or don’t have other commitments.”

Rogers, a recipient of the 2020-2021 Mary Lou and S. David Farr Scholarship, ultimately chose GSE’s program because it offered the freedom and flexibility to explore her interests in information dissemination behaviors and data visualization literacy. Her dissertation, “Comparative Data Visualization Literacy Skills of Information Science Students,” studied the perceived data visualization literacy skills of LIS students with their actual skills.  

“Data visualization is an emerging competency; there are a lot of workshops on it. Anytime somebody goes to present a poster, or they submit a paper for publication, it needs to include charts and graphs—data visualization,” said Rogers. “I was really interested to find out—since it’s an emerging competency and there are all these calls to have these professionals teaching courses—what are their baseline skills? Are they able to accurately read and interpret data visualizations themselves? And, then, the competency pieces—are they able to recognize their skills, or lack thereof, in being able to do that?”

According to Rogers, VanScoy’s mentorship played a pivotal role as she progressed in the program. “She was absolutely terrific to work with,” Rogers said.

Rogers recognizes that the expertise and insights she obtained through that research will impact and inform her work with the data and IT teams she leads in the Tulsa Health Department, where she is currently focused on collecting and analyzing data to inform the public and health professionals about the health status of Tulsa County residents.

Meanwhile, the information science faculty are still reeling from Rogers’ achievements and the program’s milestone moment.

“You wouldn’t believe the feeling in that doctoral defense with Monica! That was our first defense and our first PhD awarded,” said VanScoy.

“After all the planning that went into this program and trying to figure things out and answer questions, we finally got to that place. Dr. Albertson and I were just so caught up with Monica in that proud and emotional moment.”

The information science doctoral program reflects GSE’s mission of providing rigorous and supportive teaching and learning environments that enable students to achieve academic excellence. GSE strives to offer online doctoral students rich and engaging educational experiences that utilize cutting-edge technology and infrastructure to enhance connection with online and on-campus learners in classroom learning, special engagements and events.

Students interested in this program should contact GSE’s Office of Graduate Admission at 716-645-2110 or Information on all of the academic offerings at GSE is available on the school’s website.

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