If you know me personally, you’ve probably noticed that I can hardly have a conversation without mentioning something about my graduate program. Why is that? Because my grad program is amazing! It is almost uncanny for me to admit that merely three years ago, my options for graduate school looked bleak. I had a rough ending to my undergraduate years at UGA both socially and emotionally, and although I knew I wanted to pursue a career in archives, I was unsure of how I was going to mentally handle graduate school and afford it, much less find right program. My undergraduate mentor at the University of Georgia, Dr. Barbara McCaskill, was very instrumental in encouraging me to explore the graduate program at Clayton State University, and I am forever indebted to her for that. The Master of Archival Studies program at Clayton State University (http://www.clayton.edu/mas) is truly a one-of-a-kind graduate experience that is intensive, flexible, supportive, cutting-edge, and financially manageable. My education at Clayton State has catapulted my career in archives to heights that I could never have imagined. My knowledge and understanding of archives and the information studies field has blown the top off my expectations. The MAS program serves students pursuing master’s degrees (like me) as well as students who desire to take just a few courses for professional development. Theory, research, practical experience, and foundational courses are all a part of the program, and new opportunities are coming that will allow students to customize the program even more. Things are getting exciting within the MAS program at #TheRealCSU!

The first director of the MAS program, Mr. Richard Pearce-Moses, recently retired this year. If you have never heard of Richard, he is basically an archives superstar. If there were an archival hall of fame, he would certainly belong in it. While being the first director of the Clayton State University MAS program is impressive in itself, it is just one aspect of Richard’s long career. He has been an archivist for over thirty years, working at institutions such as the Arizona State Library, the Heard Museum, and the Texas State Library. He is a former president of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), an SAA Fellow, and a certified archivist. Oh, and by the way … he authored the Glossary of Archival Records and Terminology—the standard glossary for archivists! Needless to say, Richard is an amazing archivist, teacher, writer, and mentor, and he was kind enough to have an email conversation with me about the MAS program, its roots, and what he is looking forward to now that he has passed the director torch to Mr. Joshua Kitchens, a graduate of the program. Richard’s email responses provide answers to some FAQs I figured you might have about the Archival Studies program at Clayton State and how it came into existence, so I’ve included them below…

FAQ 1: The program is totally online? How? Why?

Richard: Although proposed as a face-to-face program, I believed the program needed to be online to thrive.  I didn’t think there would be enough people willing to move to get sufficient enrollment.  Many professors resist online courses. Because I’d done my library degree online, I had confidence that students could get a really good education online.  Clayton’s online pedagogy model is modeled after the MS LIS at the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana. 

The program began to transition to online delivery the second year.  One of the reasons I believed strongly in online education is because many archivists want and need advanced education, but they aren’t near a graduate program. 

FAQ 2: Why is the program so technology based?

Richard: One reason so many archivists need advanced education is the need to revamp archives to meet the needs of the digital era.  Hence, Clayton’s program emphasized digital archives. Other schools cover aspects of digital archives, but I think Clayton’s is remarkable because of the technology courses (ARST 5100, ARST 5110, ARST 5250, ITFN 5000).  Students go into much greater depth and get practical experience working in the “guts” of  digital archives so they have a better understanding of the problem.  

A student who just got his first archives job sent me a note commenting on the importance of the tech courses: 

I was offered the position . . . this afternoon! I could not have done it without you and the classes you set up for us at Clayton. The position required knowledge in Virtual Machines, PHP, Linux, DSpace, MARC, and SQL, all of which I’ve learned in the graduate program. 

FAQ 3: What are some aspects of the program that make it unique?

Richard: I think the live, online courses make Clayton’s program unique.  There are other online programs, but they use an asynchronous model.  Clayton is looking at adopting that model to offer students more flexibility.  Because students must attend classes at specific times, people may not be able to take courses if they have schedule conflicts.  Evening classes work very well for working students in the East Coast, but classes are three hours earlier – during the work day – for those on the West Coast.  When I did my degree, I was able to negotiate my schedule (late lunches, working late, etc.) to take courses at the office.  One of the nice things about online courses is that there’s no commute to campus.  A two hour online course takes two hours; a two hour course on campus only a few miles away may add an hour in commute time – and students who live further, much more time.  The first year, when we offered face-to-face courses, a student who lived in Sandy Springs was coming to campus three days a week.  I’d rather students spend that time studying than sitting in traffic!

One thing that I believe distinguishes the program is that it is taught be practitioners with significant experience – people who know not only the theory of archives, but the nuts-and-bolts of how that theory is realized in the trenches. I think students very much enjoy the “war stories” because they illustrate the implications and limitations of theory.

Clayton’s program is exceptional in that it’s one of the least expensive programs in the nation. 

   FAQ 4: What is the general “profile” of an MAS student at Clayton State?

Richard: The program has three types of students.  Those who have recently graduated but not yet entered the job market.  Practicing archivists who are coming back either for additional training in digital archives or to get a master’s degree. (I include para-professionals working in archives in this category.)  Finally, mid-life career changers – people who’ve been working in another field who have decided to do something completely different.  Each category is roughly a third of the students.  The first group tend to be younger – in their twenties.  The other two groups are older, ranging from their thirties to their sixties.

FAQ 5: How do you feel now that you’ve passed the leadership torch to others? Will you still be involved with the program?

Richard: I’m really thrilled to have passed the torch to Josh and Seth.  When I had a chance to hire a second faculty position, I had Seth in mind when I wrote the job description.  I actively recruited him, and I think we got a great professor!  The program is now five years old, and it’s time to take stock and think about how to make the program better.  (I think it’s a very strong program, but I firmly believe in continuous improvement.)  I had some ideas, but I felt that the person who made decisions about refinements should also be the person to see them through to fruition.  I think Josh is perfect for the job.  I will remain engaged with the program, working with students on research projects.  

I hope you enjoyed my chat with Richard! I am very biased, but if you have an interest in pursuing a career in archives, I would encourage you to really look into the MAS program at Clayton State. Visit the website at http://www.clayton.edu/mas for more information! #TheRealCSU