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Jade Bruno is a second-year master’s student in the School of Information and Library Science, and her plans are to graduate in May 2021. She is also the graduate president of the Information and Library Science Student Association and an elected senator with the Graduate and Professional Student Federation. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UNC-Chapel Hill and a professional background in adult instruction in the private sector, and she plans to pursue a career in academic librarianship focusing on instruction and student success initiatives.

What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

Jade Bruno

UNC-Chapel Hill was already my first alma mater, and I had lived in the Durham area ever since, so I already had a great fondness, respect, and familiarity with UNC as an institution. Beyond that, the School of Information and Library Science at UNC offers a top-tier, nationally ranked program that aligned incredibly well with my professional goals and values.

Tell us about your research.
My master’s research is on how historically underserved university student populations, whose experiences are traditionally left out in discussions surrounding academic policymaking, experience the academic library as an institution, particularly within the library classroom. I take a critical, transformative pedagogical approach in my work and am particularly interested in the components of learning that relate to the learner’s emotions, interests, attitudes and motivations, and how they affect students’ cognitive success. The research itself will actually be culminating in a more project-styled format, with the final deliverable being a comprehensive information literacy instruction curriculum “package” – everything from individual lesson plans to discussion protocols, learning activities, and evaluation and assessment measures. Every piece of that package will be created with equity and inclusion embedded as core, non-negotiable components from the outset, rather than tacked on at the end as a “bonus,” as is the approach for so many existing diversity/equity/inclusion/accessibility initiatives.

What does it mean to be a first-generation graduate student in your family?
It took me a very long time to come to terms with my identity as a first-generation student; my family is complicated, with many branches, adoptions, biological and non-biological relatives, and so for a while I wasn’t even sure I was a “real” first-generation student. What I did know is that when I heard other first-gens discussing many of the common struggles – lack of support, financial struggles, feelings of isolation, inability to relate to their peers, imposter syndrome – it resonated with me very deeply. Coming back to graduate school as an older student, I’ve made the choice to be a first-generation student advocate in my professional work within academia, because that’s what being a first-gen means to me now. It means recognizing that yes, there are struggles, but there are so many ways for institutions to remediate or even eliminate those by doing a better job at meeting the needs of these students, and if I can be one single person to help along the way, then that gives my work so much more value and meaning to me. Further than that, if I can help advance policy to push for these changes on a larger, structural level, that’s even better. And in the meantime, bringing awareness to others that first-gens are more than their struggles, introducing the concept of assets/strengths-based approaches to working with them, and espousing their resilience, persistence, uniqueness, and individuality – that’s invaluable.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?
I am hoping to work with academic libraries to explore more progressive, evidence-based practices to support all patrons, equitably and inclusively, particularly through my areas of specialty: instruction and student success-related programming.

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