Robert A. and Ruth Bywater Olson Graduate Research Assistantship

The Olson Fellows

Student in the School of Library and Information Science, Kelly holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Iowa and has spent her last two years with the US Peace Corps in Cambodia.

Jillian Phillips
Student in the School of Library and Information Science and the Center for the Book, Jillian holds a BA, with majors in English and French, from Creighton University and a MA in English, with a concentration in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, from the University of Victoria.

Andrea Kohashi
Student in the dual program in the Center for the Book and the School of Library and Information Science, Andrea holds a BA with a major in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis.

Kalmia Strong
Student in the School of Library and Information Science and the Center for the Book, Kalmia took her BA at New York University with a concentration in The History and Future of the Book and Print Culture.

Gyorgy Toth
PhD candidate in American Studies, in dissertation research on “Red Nations: The Transatlantic Relations of the American Indian Rights Movement.”

Colleen Kelley
PhD candidate in History, in dissertation research on 19th century American policies toward Native Americans.

Anne Covell 
Anne completed the dual program in the Center for the Book & School of Library and Information Science program in May 2010 and is currently pursuing an MFA in Book Arts at the Center for the Book on an Iowa Arts Fellowship. Anne also holds a dual BA in Art History and Art-Applied Design with an emphasis in Metals from San Diego State University.

Juli (Williams) McLoone
Juli holds a BA in English and Anthropology from Indiana University, an MA in Anthropology from the University of Iowa, and completed the dual Center for the Book & School of Library and Information Science program in Spring 2009. She is currently special collections librarian at the University of Texas San Antonio.

Nana (Diederichs) Holtsnider
Student in the dual Center for the Book & School of Library and Information Science program, Nana holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Colorado and a BA from the University of Iowa. Finishing the Fellowship in June 2008, she joined her husband, a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, in Tunisia; and supported by a Jacob Javits Fellowship entered the PhD program in Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago in Fall 2010, .

Rachel Sailor
Specializing in documentary photography of the American West, Rachel completed her PhD in 2007 and is currently Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Texas at Tyler.

Robert A. and Ruth Bywater Olson FellowshipA native of Lansing, Iowa, Robert “Bob” Olson earned an undergraduate business degree from Iowa in 1933, working part-time as a student assistant in the Libraries, and graduated from the College of Law in 1935. He married Iowa City native Ruth Bywater in 1937 and worked in the public utility industry in Chicago until 1947, when he joined the Kansas City Power and Light Company. Over the next 26 years Olson held most of the executive positions in that company, becoming president in 1960 and retiring as chairman of the board in 1973. He was very active in the Kansas City business community, serving on the boards of several local corporations and volunteering his time among civic and cultural organizations. Ruth Bywater Olson died in 1979; Robert Olson in August 2003. His estate gift to the University, some $5.5 million, benefits nine programs, and includes the Robert A. and Ruth Bywater Olson Special Collections Fund.  Income from that fund underwrites the Olson Graduate Research Assistantship program.The Olson Graduate Research Assistantships are designed to support graduate students in the course of their academic work; provide on-the-job training at the immediate pre-professional level for students who are or may become interested in Special Collections librarianship, museum curatorship, achives administration, or similar career paths; and offer opportunities to accumulate and document significant academic and work experience and accomplishment.

One Olson Graduate Research Assistant is selected each spring and offered a two-fiscal-year 50% (20 hr/week) graduate research assistant appointment. As a graduate assistant, the incumbent earns a full-year stipend, qualifies for health insurance benefits and a full tuition scholarship at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences resident rate ($4,126/semester or $8,242/AY). Graduate assistants must continue to be enrolled as students and forfeit the assistantship should they withdraw or graduate.

The terms and conditions of employment in this position, including but not limited to wages and benefits, are governed by a collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and UE Local 896/COGS, the union representing graduate teaching and research assistants at the University of Iowa. A copy of this collective bargaining agreement may be viewed from the University web site:

Each incoming graduate research assistant will become familiar with all aspects of the operations of the Special Collections department and during their first year will take on a number of specific projects that involve rare books, manuscripts, and archival records. Their work will include assisting readers, answering queries, and locating materials. Projects may include bibliographic research, organization and description of collections, curating exhibitions, and participating in instruction and outreach activities.

In the second year of their appointments, Olson Graduate Research Assistants will build on the experiences they have had in the first, and they will take on more explicit management roles. Their first assignment, for example, will be to orient and train the incoming Olson Graduate Research Assistant. They will also design and supervise projects that include other student assistants. Graduate research assistants are expected to make reasonable progress toward the academic goals they outline in their applications. They will be encouraged to take part in professional activities by attending meetings and conferences such as RBMS, MAC, SAA, ALA, ILA, or SHARP, a course at Rare Book School, or appropriate scholarly conferences. To support this, they will be guaranteed $1000 each year to underwrite travel or conference expenses.

Olson Graduate Research Assistants are selected by competition. This competition is open to incoming students who have been accepted into a graduate degree program, as well as students who are currently enrolled in a graduate degree program. Students in the School of Library and Information Science, in the University of Iowa Center for the Book, or the English, History, American Studies, and Art & Art History programs may have particular interest, but applications from students in any graduate program will be carefully considered.

Each candidate must submit a résumé and a statement outlining their academic and career aspirations and describing how appointment as an Olson Graduate Research Assistant would specifically forward those aspirations. The statement is particularly important and should not exceed three (3) typed pages (about 1000 words). Contact information for one or two references who can speak to the candidate’s academic and career aspirations should also be submitted.

A call for applications for the 2015-2017 Olson Graduate Research Assistantship will be posted on the UI Libraries’ employment website in Spring 2015 for an appointment to begin July 1.