Community Informatics Spotlight: Recent Graduates

The Center for Digital Inclusion recently awarded the Certificate in Community Informatics to three Spring 2013 GSLIS graduates. In this spotlight, we talk with Jennie Archer, a recent graduate who earned her Community Informatics Certificate while gaining hands-on experience in the field with numerous local community groups. 

Jennie Archer

Jennie Archer

Jennie Archer is a Spring 2013 GSLIS graduate and received a Certificate in Community Informatics. We asked her about her experience, background, projects and future plans. 

Talk about your experience as a Community Informatics student. Why did you choose this area of study?

When I started my master’s degree at GSLIS I didn’t really understand what Community Informatics was, and I didn’t think I would be interested in it.  During my first semester, I took Youth Services Community Engagement because I was interested in youth services.  The class emphasized outreach and taught me how to establish partnerships and collaborate with community based organizations that serve youth.  I quickly became interested in other Community Informatics classes like Introduction to Network Systems because I wanted to learn more about how computers and computer networks work.  By the end of the semester, I had learned just as much about collaborating with community groups as I had about computers, and I realized that studying Community Informatics was a good way for me to pursue my interest in social justice issues.

Tell us a bit about your background and your path to finishing the Community Informatics Certificate:

I earned a master’s degree in Composition and Rhetoric from North Dakota State University (NDSU) and taught English at NDSU for a few years before I decided to come back to school and study library science.  The NDSU English department is a strong advocate for social justice, and I used the opportunities that the department offered me to learn more about social justice issues.  When I came back to school to study library science, I decided to focus on public libraries because they serve a wide variety of patrons with different backgrounds and needs.  My Community Informatics coursework has given me many opportunities to engage in community-based learning and to apply the theories I learned in class to a real world situation.  Many of my classes included assignments that involved working with a community organization to solve a problem in a way that will meet their needs.  The experiences I have gained through my Community Informatics courses will help me reach out to unserved or underserved groups as a public librarian and more effectively work with the wide variety of patrons who visit the library.

What interesting projects did you work on as a Community Informatics student? 

I have worked on many interesting projects as a Community Informatics student.  I’ve volunteered as a tutor at TAP-In Leadership Academy’s after school program, volunteered at the Urbana Free Library’s computer lab, created entries for and raised awareness of the CU Wiki, and worked with Generations of Hope in Rantoul, IL to redesign their computer lab.  In my Community Informatics Studio class, my classmates and I also explored ways to design library or community based programs that build and strengthen communities.  We presented a poster about our work and the class’ unique studio-based learning approach at the iConference in Fort Worth, TX last February.

What was your greatest success or lesson learned? 

My greatest success was working with Generations of Hope in Rantoul, IL to redesign their computer lab for my Introduction to Network Systems class.  As part of the renovation my group members and I painted the lab, built custom tables, upgraded the memory and operating system on the computers, and secured grant funding to purchase new chairs and a webcam.  Working with the Generations of Hope community was a wonderful experience, and it was very fulfilling to watch the residents, who once saw using technology as an exercise in frustration, get excited about using the lab.

What are your future plans? 

I am currently looking for jobs.  I hope to find a job working with either adult or teen services at a public library.

What advice do you have for current or prospective Community Informatics students? 

Community Informatics classes can be time consuming because many of the assignments involve project-based learning and working with community groups.  However, Community Informatics classes are well worth the time and effort.  They are a great way to get hands on experience and build relationships that can lead to volunteer opportunities, internships, or practicums, and it feels great to give back to the community in meaningful ways.

About the Certificate in Community Informatics: 

CDI FlyerStudents and faculty working in community informatics interact closely with community members to find creative, innovative technological solutions to the many issues facing society today, including poverty, violence, food security and more. (Source: CDI Informational Flyer)

Community Informatics students are guided by globally-recognized faculty and work “in the field” throughout communities in Illinois and the U.S.

From setting up fully-networked computer labs in underserved housing complexes to providing digital literacy training to senior citizens to collecting broadband internet data in underserved areas, Community Informatics coursework allows students a hands-on chance to engage with real people with real needs.

Certificate-holders gain educational knowledge and practical experience that prepares them to serve as librarian, youth media instructors and researchers in a variety of settings such as public and school librarians, non-profit organizations, cultural heritage groups, and municipal governments.

Managed by the Center for Digital Inclusion, the Community Informatics Certificate coursework requires 12 hours of recommended courses and introduces students to:

  • ways that diverse communities work to address their problems,
  • theories that adequately account for the complexity and diversity of distributed collective practice,
  • tools to mediate work on concrete tasks within communities,
  • effective processes for developing shared capacity in the form of knowledge, skills and tools.

To learn more about the certificate, visit To learn more about the Center for Digital Inclusion, visit Email Shavion Scott, Center Coordinator, at for questions about the Community Informatics Certificate.

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