Hack Your Program : Dominican University

Today’s post is from Allison Mennella.

*Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions and are not representative of the student body or Dominican University staff or faculty. I started in Winter/Spring 2010 as a part-time student and will be graduating in January 2012.

If you have any other questions after reading this article about the program, please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section, or e-mail me for a more detailed follow up.  You can also follow me on twitter, or read my blog.  I love connecting with other Librarians so please do not hesitate to contact me at anytime!  I hope you enjoy my “insider” perspective on the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University in River Forest, IL. 

Program Overview

The GSLIS program at Dominican University is the only American Library Association-accredited program in Northern Illinois.  With its close proximity to the city of Chicago, and its beautiful campus, Dominican University provides the perfect environment for a thriving learning culture.


In order to fulfill the Degree Requirements for your MLIS at Dominican University, you will need to do the following:

  • Complete a minimum of 36 semester hours of graduate credit with a minimum of 30 semester hours completed in the Dominican University GSLIS program
  • Attain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Complete  the degree program within six years and
  • Submit an e-portfolio during the last semester of study

Students also need to complete the four core classes

  • LIS 701 Introduction to Library and Information Science
  • LIS 703 Organization of Knowledge
  • LIS 704 Reference and Online Services
  • LIS 770 Management of Libraries and Information Centers or LIS 773 School Libraries

Concentrations and/or specializations

Dominican University offers a number of different degrees and concentrations outside of the MLIS.  These options include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Library & Information Science Program.
  • Dual Degree Programs, including:
    • MLIS & MA In Public History
    • MLIS & MDiv  (Master of Divinity)
    • MLIS & MBA (Master of Business Administration)
    • MLIS & Master of Music (MM) in Music History
    • Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) and Master of Social Work (MSW)

To learn more about these dual degree options, I highly recommend checking out http://www.dom.edu/gslis/programs/dual_degree/ for more detailed information.

Along the lines of dual degrees, Dominican University also offers certifications that you can earn on top of your MLIS degree.  These certifications include:

  • School Library Media
  • Library Service to Young People
  • Informatics
  • Archives and Cultural Heritage Resources and Services
  • Knowledge Management (post baccalaureate)
  • Post-MLIS Certificate of Special Study

To learn more about these certifications, visit this link http://www.dom.edu/gslis/programs/certificates/ or contact the GSLIS Office of Administration.

Financial aid

Aside from offering student loans and grants (the Financial Aid staff at Dominican is VERY helpful, and I suggest that if you have any questions regarding loans you contact their staff and set up a one-on-one meeting for more clarity and a full description of your different payment options) Dominican also offers a number of scholarships for GSLIS students.  Some of the scholarship options include:

  • GSLIS Scholarships–The GSLIS awards scholarships annually to students who give evidence of professional promise and academic success.
  • Dorothy Cromien Memorial Scholarship-­awarded to a student pursuing studies with an emphasis on technical services and/or the history of books and printing.
  • Mary Eileen Denton Scholarship— provides tuition assistance for a student preparing for work in a public library.
  • Sr. Lauretta McCusker Scholarship–awards tuition assistance in honor of the dean emerita and long-time faculty member of GSLIS.
  • Library Technical Assistant Scholarship–Students who have been admitted to the school and have completed a library technical assistant program will be granted a 50 percent tuition scholarship for the four core courses of the MLIS degree program.

There are also a number of employment opportunities available:

  • On-Campus employment–Each semester, several openings are usually available in GSLIS for students who want to work as faculty assistants. Positions are generally 10 hours per week. Interested students should inquire in the GSLIS office and complete an application.
  • Off-Campus employment–Students seeking off-campus employment are encouraged to visit the Dominican University e-Recruiting database.

Stopping by the GSLIS department isn’t a bad idea either.  The staff is very friendly and will help you find and identify different financial aid, scholarship and career opportunities that you are qualified for.

Now that all of the “boring,” and “formal” information about Dominican University has been shared, I thought I would offer some “insider” tips and tricks to hack your way through the program!

Hack Number 1:  Complete the core required classes first

Everyone has to take LIS701, LIS703, LIS704 and LIS770.  Take them all first whether you are doing 1 class at a time, 4 classes at a time, or something in between.  They really are the building blocks of everything you will do at Dominican, plus most other classes require that you have these core classes completed before you are allowed to register for other classes.  The best part about taking all of the core classes first is that you can “sample” different aspects of the library profession, whether it’s cataloging (LIS704), reference and user instruction (LIS703), management (LIS770), or figuring out if you are most interested in public, school, academic or special libraries (LIS701).  After taking all four of these required classes, you will be able to approach the rest of your graduate academic career with much more clarity about where you see yourself going, or what interests you most about the profession.

Hack Number 2:  Don’t feel confined to choosing a “pathway”

The GSLIS website for Dominican offers course information for those students looking to specialize in 12 different career pathways in the Library profession.  As the library notes, some students come into the program with a clear direction that they want to go in.  In that case, the career pathways are the perfect resource to get you started and make sure you are taking classes that directly relate to your professional goals.  However, some students, myself included, prefer to use the entire GSLIS program (not just the core classes as I mentioned above) as an opportunity to complete course in a wide variety of areas rather than narrowing their studies down.  I highly suggest taking classes from every aspect of the field so that your transcripts do not limit you to only accepting one type of position in a library.  I have taken classes in cataloging, collection management, web design, internet publishing, school libraries, reference, government docs, communication, leadership, social media and more.  While the sum of these courses as a whole does not match any particular “pathway,” they do reflect my desire to experience all of the different possibilities that having a MLIS can offer.  Plus, it makes me a more versatile employee candidate, especially if I end up applying to jobs outside of the traditional library settings.

Hack Number 3:  Take at least 1 online course

Every semester Dominican offers a few online courses to choose from.  Most require that you spend the a Saturday or Sunday in a traditional, Face to Face, classroom setting for about 4 hours to meet the professor and other students, pass out and review the syllabus and talk about course expectations.  The rest of the class can be completed online from home.  Besides the obvious benefits that online courses offer (more flexibility, less travel time, etc), taking an online course is a great way to show future job prospective that you can work in a digital environment, work independently and that you understand time management.

Online courses are not necessarily “easier” just because they are online.  In fact, my LIS744 Government Info Resources course was one of the more challenging courses I’ve taken.  However, now, when applying for future jobs, or trying to move up in my Library, I can confidently say that I have submitted assignments via a digital interface (Blackboard), posted regularly on discussion threads and successfully completed a group project online.  This shows that not only do I understand Government Info Resources, but I am able to work fluidly between a physical and digital environment to complete library related tasks and assignments—major resume points right there!

Hack Number 4:  Try taking 801 Special Studies in Librarianship (or a practicum)

LIS801 is a course that is designed by YOU!  You essentially contact a professor that specializes in a topic you are interested in and ask if he or she would be willing to advise your project for the semester. Projects can really be anything you think of, as long as you type up your proposal, complete the required documents and get the Dean (and professor) to sign off on your request.  Special Studies can be completed in an accelerated time frame too, if you don’t want the project to last a full semester.  The time frame just needs to be clearly defined in the proposal you send to the Dean.  I took LIS801 with Dr. Valauskas and spent 8 weeks working on the World Libraries website as an exercise in internet publishing.  I was able to take print journals, use OCR software to scan the print into editable text and then did all of the HTML coding for the website.  I knew I wanted to do a project that was both an example of archiving as well as web development so I could include those skills on my resume one day.  Taking a Special Studies class was a great way for me to build my portfolio and strengthen my skills.

Dominican also offers the option to take a practicum which is basically interning at a library, or in a library related field for credit hours.  While I did not take the course myself, I have spoken with many classmates who have and they all say it is a great way to get your foot in the door at a library.  For more information on the practicum, try visiting the DuLISSA (more on this organization later) blog.

Hack Number 5:  Start your e-portfolio early

In order to graduate, you must submit an ePortfolio of your work at Dominican University to be evaluated by faculty.  You have the option of taking this as a class, or doing it on your own.  I highly recommend doing it on your own because I believe you can use those three credits elsewhere on a class that is more “library” related, and because creating an online portfolio isn’t that bad once you get started.  However, this is NOT something to be pushed aside to the last possible minute.  I suggest from the very beginning having a filing system for your coursework (I use DropBox, so all of my documents are stored on my computer as well as in “the cloud” for easy access).  Have a folder for each class and folders within that folder for each assignment.  Save EVERYTHING, and keep a list of URLs to the pathfinders, blogs, or other online content that you create.  Also, make sure to contact your advisor to get the packet of information that is available for the ePortfolio so you can start figuring out how certain assignments can fit into your ePortfolio along the way.  This will just save you time in the end and give you a better way to keep track of all of the important and valuable work you will do throughout the program.

Hack Number 6:  Get connected

At minimum you should learn how to use Facebook, Twitter and blogging platforms professionally.  You should update these accounts regularly by sharing thoughts, ideas, articles, quotes, tips and tricks, anything that adds interest and value to the library community.  Also, make sure to follow, friend, and read up on blogs from other librarian professionals in the field.  Get recommendations from m your professors for websites to bookmarks, blogs to read, and Twitter handles to follow.  This is just one form of professional development that you can get outside of your day to day classes.  Not only does it help keep you abreast of current trends, and topics of conversation in our field, it provides you with fodder for homework assignments like discussion posts, opinion pieces and even group projects.  While you certainly can’t read every article, tweet or Facebook post, you can save the ones that interest you, and refer back to them as needed.

If you are very unsure of how to use these social media tools, then definitely sign up for LIS768, Participatory Services and Emerging Technology.  In this class, you’ll be responsible for making and maintain a blog, and utilizing Twitter for professional purposes.  The class is also a great introduction to the concept of “Web 2.0” and “Library 2.0,” trends that today’s librarians definitely need to be aware of.

Hack Number 7:  Get to know your professors and don’t be afraid to ask them for help

Professors are there not only to teach you important information about becoming a librarian or working in the Library and Information Science profession, but they are there to help you network!  Don’t be afraid to chat up your teachers before and after class, follow them on Twitter, comment on their blogs, or drop in and visit them at the library they work for.  Your professors know people in the profession you are trying to break into and they are more often than not, overjoyed to show you off to their colleagues.

Because I have worked diligently to foster professional relationships with several of my professors, I have been able to turn to these professors for help along the way.  For example, I asked one professor if he would be able to write a letter of recommendation for a scholarship I was applying to through the DuPage Library System.  After his kind words and solid examples of the type of student I am, I ended up graciously receiving $1500 scholarship towards a semester at Dominican.  I also asked a professor if I could list her as a reference on a job application for a position at a local Library.  Because the professor was able to talk at length about my efforts as a library student and future potential, I received a second interview at the Library and eventually accepted the position and began my first real job in a library.  Finally, I was even able to be a guest blog writer on a professor’s blog after sharing with him my excitement for the final paper I was writing for his class.  This opportunity not only looks great on a resume and e-portfolio, but it allowed me the opportunity to network with other blogging librarians and get my foot in the door to a section of librarianship that has become a valuable and almost necessary function of the profession.

Room For Improvement

Like everything, Dominican definitely has some areas where improvements could be made.  My biggest complaint semester after semester was the registration process.  There didn’t seem to be many classes offered (especially during the Summer Sessions) that worked with a student who also works full-time.  Many of the classes I wanted took place either during the day (that would conflict with my work schedule), or on the weekends (which didn’t really appeal to me).  The other classes that were more flexible for my schedule, like online classes always seemed to fill up quickly.  The registration process is based off of credit-hours earned, so I didn’t start getting a good pick until my last two semesters.  I would like to see more classes open up that take place either online, or are accelerated 8 week classes so you can finish up the degree faster.  This would be much better for those students that also work during the day.

Another problem I had was, believe it or not, parking!  If you don’t want to pay the $50  fee for a parking pass, there is really limited street parking and other areas to park on campus.  I tried going parking pass free for the first 2 semesters and was late to class more times then I would be willing to admit, so I bit the bullet and paid.  I would ilke to see parking be free, especially for commuter students that might not be on campus that frequently.

Finally, as much as I do believe that the four core classes that are mandatory to take are valuable, I think it would be better if they could combine the content into two classes and leave more room for electives so that students can get the chance to take more specialize courses.  When only twelve classes are needed for graudation and four are mandatory, that only leaves eight classes to really specialize in your field.  I think ten would have been better!


Overall, I have been very pleased with my time spent at Dominican University thus far.  This fall, I will be taking my very last class, and will also be working on finishing up my portfolio.  I truly believe that grad school is what you make it, so don’t be afraid to take the classes you want, attend the workshops you find interesting, apply for internships, tour new libraries, or explore blogs and other digital media on the web.  Take your time through the program, or accelerate you pace so you can get out into the working world—it’s really up to you!  Either way, if you are looking for a Library school that has a lot of course options, talented staff, great location, and more, you’ll consider applying to Dominican University.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry!

11 replies

  1. Thanks for this write-up Allison! I definitely considered writing one myself, but wasn’t sure I was the right person for the job (see my un-sugar-coated comments below).

    Just wanted to also point out that Dominican is much more of a traditional library school, not so heavy on the “information” side. Although the core classes are good background, a lot of them could use some updating, especially if you don’t have the opportunity to take more classes in that area. Let’s just say I spent a little too much time with print reference materials in school than I ever have in my actual library job. Because I did the accelerated BA/MLIS program (which was awesome though), I will admit that I didn’t take the time to look at other schools and might have made a different decision if I had.

    Although Dominican’s location near Chicago is convenient because of all the libraries nearby, it has also led to an overabundance of librarians looking for jobs. There are a lot of cool opportunities for internships, but once you’re done you might have to move to find an actual job.

    Like any school, it has its pros and cons regarding faculty and administration, but I think it’s a popular choice for people who are tied to the Chicago area. Just keep in mind that the program is still catching up with others. They just started an archives certificate (of course right after I finish up) and they’re adding more relevant classes. I think with some updates to the curriculum and new faculty, the program could be really great.


  2. Nice job, Allison. Very informative.

    I’m on the LISSA board right now, and I just wanted to pass along some more current information about the student association. Our current website is http://www.dulissa.com, and you can also find us on Facebook (LISSA – Dominican University) and on twitter, @LissaDU. Our email is LISSA@dom.edu. Like Allison, we are happy to help in any way we can.

    Thanks again, Allison


  3. I cannot even remember what I was searching before I happened upon your website, but I’m glad I made it to here. You did a fine job in introducing prospective or new students to the program by using a creative format. And as a student halfway through the program I learned a few new tips to ‘hack my way through.’ For instance, I had paid no previous attention to the LIS801 course option and will at least consider this, although it is more likely I’ll do a practicum. Also, I appreciated the validation of believing a well rounded program is a worthwhile one. I plan on taking at least one or two online classes, but you inspired me to stress the benefits of learning and working in a digital environment as I seek employment. Keep up the great work!


  4. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after going through a few of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!


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