Graduate fellows provide thesis, data and publishing support for students and staff

By Emory Libraries | Emory Report | May 13, 2021

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Emory Libraries and Laney Graduate School sponsor fellowships that provide graduate students with immersive and meaningful experiences. The 2020-2021 fellows were (clockwise from top left) Anastasiia Strakhova, Halley Riley, Xanda Lemos, Kemal Budak and Abbey Heller. Photo credit: Emory Libraries

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Each academic year, Emory Libraries partners with the Laney Graduate School to sponsor research fellowships that provide graduate students with immersive and meaningful experiences. This year’s fellows worked in digital humanities, instruction and engagement, research and engagement, data services and the Rose Library.

The fellows for the Emory Libraries and the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) shared about their work, which often involved adapting in-person projects that benefit other students to an online environment due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Kemal Budak, the Robert W. Woodruff Library and Emory Writing Center fellow, is a PhD candidate in sociology. His fellowship for the Woodruff Library focused on running the virtual dissertation and thesis bootcamps for graduate and undergraduate students. He also worked with tutors and students for the Writing Center.

Budak’s work included:

  • Fostering a sense of closeness among the students attending the bootcamps, with the small group building relationships by sharing about their projects and future goals
  • Helping launch and market an undergraduate honors thesis bootcamp, “Long Night Against Procrastination,” that included a raffle and breakout rooms; it may be repeated in the fall
  • Mentoring Writing Center tutors and presenting on annotated bibliographies and tips for writing the required second-year sociology paper

Budak said working with tutors in the Writing Center has given him a deeper understanding of the students’ writing process. The experience has affected the introduction to sociology course he will teach this summer. “I’ve changed some of my criteria for grading based on things I’ve learned being a tutor,” he said. 

Abbey Heller, the Woodruff Library Research and Engagement Fellow, is a PhD candidate in the political science department. She worked with the E-book Assessment Committee and the Collection Management Team.

Heller’s work involved:

  • Analyzing the usage and cost effectiveness of a variety of Emory’s e-book plans and subscription journal packages as well as the challenges these analyses presented and the creative solutions the teams developed
  • Cleaning and combining the data from different publishers, running multiple analyses and giving data-driven presentations
  • Updating documentation and best practices so the analyses can be duplicated in the future

As a result of her work, the Libraries will have more comprehensive data and analysis for basing package purchase decisions. Although the two teams have done this work before, Heller’s research allowed them to dive deeper.

“This sort of analysis allows us to really tailor our collection and make sure it’s meeting the needs of the Emory community,” Heller said. “It was also fantastic practice using my data science skills to provide custom solutions, which I think is going to be a large part of my career going forward.” 

Xanda Lemos, the ECDS fellow, is a PhD candidate in Latin American history. She worked as a managing editor for the open-access digital journal Atlanta Studies and learned to adapt deadlines and the review process in the COVID-19 environment.

Lemos’ work included:

  • Overseeing the publication process, including soliciting articles and images, reviewing submissions and copyediting articles
  • Collaborating with a team of people that included an editorial board, authors, researchers, designers and editors
  • Balancing article deadlines with the pandemic challenges that affected authors and the editorial board review process. The journal began using peer reviews for the articles, which also affected deadlines. “It’s a frustrating process, but also very rewarding,” Lemos said.

One of her most rewarding experiences was the publication of an article on the 60th anniversary of a school bombing in Atlanta, which included a timeline, audio clips and a historical photograph. The authors wanted to use a Getty Images photo; when the nonprofit journal didn’t have the money to pay for use of the photo, the authors paid for it.

Halley Riley, the ECDS Data Fellow, is a PhD candidate in behavioral, social and health education sciences. Working with ECDS data services librarian Rob O’Reilly, Riley provided data and analytic support and assisted with doctoral dissertations, masters theses and undergraduate research.

Her work included:

  • Consulting with individuals across the university on data-related questions, identifying data sources and providing one-on-one support for data cleaning and analyses. Riley supported quantitative work for researchers working on public health topics including COVID-19, nutrition and HIV care.
  • Leading workshops such as “Analysis of Complex Survey Data” during fall semester and co-leading “Creating and Presenting Data” and “Finding and Using Health Data” in the spring
  • Helping students adjust to working with raw data

Riley said she learned data is messy. For example, files are constructed differently and inconsistent coding is used with text and diagnoses, depending on the source.

“Students use clean data in methods courses, but this makes them unprepared to deal with messy data in the real world,” Riley said. ECDS is an invaluable resource because the staff can help fill the gaps in methods curriculum for students, she added.

Anastasiia Strakhova, the Anne and Bill Newton Graduate Fellow at the Rose Library, is a PhD candidate in the history department. She helped organize two projects offered to the Laney Graduate School students annually: the grant writing workshop and the archives bootcamp on conducting archival research during the pandemic. Both workshops prepare students for securing archival research funding and conducting their dissertation research.

Strakhova’s work included:

  • Adding video sessions with experts to the workshops to explore aspects of applying for grants, such as how to find collections and grants, examining the grant process and why grant applications get rejected
  • Expanding the LibGuide on archive and library grants to include the video workshops and other relevant resources
  • Facilitating bootcamp discussions for Laney graduate students about the challenges of accessing materials from various archives during the pandemic and what they can find online if an archive location is closed

“In the second grant session I suggested, the students workshopped their grant proposals so they can get some feedback and see what other people say about what they write,” Strakhova said. Students felt this was highly beneficial.

For more information on the Emory Libraries/Laney Graduate School fellowships, please visit the Libraries fellowships employment webpage.