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5 Questions with Maggie Melo ‘18

Friday, September 7, 2018

During the Homecoming Library Innovation Breakfast, UA Libraries will be presenting alumna Maggie Melo with the 2018 Top Library Cat Award. Before graduating in 2018 with a PhD from the Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English program in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Maggie helped develop the UA Libraries makerspace—the iSpace—and founded the Women Techmakers Tucson Hackathon. The event is now known as the UA Women’s Hackathon, which is part of the TENWEST Festival. She’s currently an assistant professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

1. What’s your favorite memory about UA Libraries?

My favorite memory took place during the 2nd Women's Hackathon in 2016. I remember walking into a crowded virtual reality workshop, and then noticing a family huddled around a laptop.  A grandmother, her daughter, and her granddaughter were learning how to develop a simple VR environment in Unity 3D. Three generations! The best part was seeing those "a-ha!" moments unfold in real time. This memory, among many, captures what I love about UA Libraries. 

2. How did your UA experience prepare you for your new job?

As an assistant professor in an iSchool, I am consistently thinking about how technologies impact the human experience—especially when it comes to learning and to users' sense of belonging. I've had the opportunity to really dive into my research because of the support I received from the UA librarians and staff. My colleagues at the UA Libraries have always been incredibly supportive of the innovative approaches I wanted to pursue in my own teaching or research. Whether it was allowing my technical writing students transform the iSpace into escape rooms, or providing me the time and space to run my IRB-approved research studies, I appreciate the UA Libraries' willingness to work with English PhDs like myself without access to lab space or makerspaces for research. I felt confident moving into my new position because of the enduring support I received from the UA Libraries. Many thanks to Jennifer Nichols, Anthony Sanchez, and Jason Dewland!

I've also developed a variety of technical skills from my experience in the iSpace. From 3D printing, to sewing, to laser cutting, and to virtual reality, these skills are now instrumental to my work as an assistant professor. I'm so grateful that I was able to pick up these skills despite how unconventional they may seem for English PhD students. I especially loved it when people would ask me "Wait, you're an English major and you're the 3D printing workshop teacher?" because it really shows how the library can extend opportunities to non-STEM majors to push their research in totally different and exciting directions.

3. What advice would you give to today’s college student?

Go to the library to learn a new skill, to join an event, to build out your ideas, and to meet incredible colleagues/librarians who can guide you to the resources you need or never even thought about.

4. What are you most excited about right now?

I am excited about my new position at UNC Chapel Hill. Particularly, I am so excited to be a part of such an outstanding department. I get to work with colleagues and students who are not only brilliant, but remarkably kind and collaborative. 

5. What do you miss about Tucson?

My friends and colleagues! I also miss the Catalina Foothills, blooming cacti, Downtown Tucson, and watching basketball at the Mckale Center #BearDown.