Fellowship and Scholarship Opportunities Propel Doctoral Student Further Down the Path of Service

Beth PatinTaking the path of least resistance is simply not part of Beth Patin’s value system, or her family’s. When her grandfather faced death threats in his efforts to have her father become the first black child to attend a segregated Alabama public school, he persevered. And when Hurricane Katrina hit, flooding the New Orleans school where Beth had recently started working as a librarian, her thoughts immediately turned to rebuilding.

“Because there wasn’t physical space for our library,” said Beth, a doctoral student at the iSchool, “I first created a cybrary [cyber-library]. I contacted online book companies, begged for free subscriptions and organized websites.” At night, Beth wrote grants — with stunning success. She raised nearly $500,000, ensuring that the library at Holy Cross School for Boys would come back better than ever.

“I became interested in preserving not only information, but the services libraries provide in the face of disasters, when people need them most,” Beth said. She was able to discuss her growing interest in “Crisis Informatics” with UW iSchool Dean Harry Bruce at an American Library Association conference. His strong encouragement led her to apply to the UW.“It was scary thinking about moving all the way across the country,” Beth said. “But my Washington Doctoral Initiative Fellowship and the Nancy Gershenfeld Scholarship made it possible. Looking back, it was important for me to lose so much. It helped me understand what’s absolutely essential — my community. That’s exactly what I recognized when I came to the iSchool: a community of scholars.”