Robert A. and Ruth Bywater Olson Graduate Assistantship

Robert A. and Ruth Bywater Olson Fellowship

A 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 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, archives administration, or similar career paths; and offer opportunities to accumulate and document significant academic and work experience and accomplishment.

Position Description:

The University of Iowa Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives department invites current or incoming graduate students interested in special collections librarianship, museum curatorship, or archives administration to apply for an Olson Graduate Research Assistantship for 2021-2022, with possibility for a one-year renewal for 2022-2023.

Students awarded this position will become familiar with many aspects of special collections work during their first year by assisting with day-to-day operations. This includes providing reference services, assisting with instruction, contributing to social media and event planning, as well as processing and describing archival or manuscript collections.

Pending satisfactory completion of all duties related to the appointment and satisfactory progress toward degree, this appointment may be renewed for a second year. In the second year, Olson Graduate Research Assistants will build on the experiences they have had in the first year, take on more explicit management roles, and identify project work aligned with their career goals and talents. A returning student’s first assignment, for example, will be to onboard and train the incoming first-year Olson Graduate Research Assistant. Some examples of project work in the past have included: processing a more extensive archival or manuscript collection, selecting and acquiring materials using a set budget, or expanding catalog records for early printed books.  A capstone project curating an exhibition is also available in the second year.

Qualifications:

The Olson Graduate Research Assistantship is open to incoming students who have been accepted into a graduate degree program for the upcoming Fall semester, 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. Please note that students currently enrolled in the U2G students (undergraduate-to-graduate) program are not eligible for the Olson Graduate Research Assistant position due to funding structure requirements.

Successful candidates must also possess the following requirements:

  • Expected graduation date of May 2023 or later
  • Demonstrated interest in special collections or a related field
  • Excellent interpersonal and written communication skills
  • Demonstrated skill at making progress towards goals in an environment with many competing priorities and projects
  • Demonstrated ability to work in a team-based setting where consultation, flexibility, and collaboration are essential
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity in an academic environment, in a workplace setting, and/or in the community

Application Details

Students interested in this opportunity should send the following information, addressed to Lindsay Moen at lindsay-moen@uiowa.edu. Select applicants will be contacted via email for a remote, Zoom interview.

  • Current resume
  • Statement outlining the skills or talents the candidate would bring to the department, as well as outlining their academic and career aspirations in a special collections or related field, and describing how appointment as an Olson Graduate Research Assistant would specifically forward those aspirations. The statement should not exceed three (3) typed pages (about 1000 words).
  • Contact information for one or two professional references who can speak to the candidate’s work experience should also be submitted.

Special Collections is currently not accepting applications for the Olson Graduate Research Assistant position. The next application cycle will occur in Spring 2022.

The Olson GA’s

2020-2022
Rachel Miller-Haughton
Rachel has a BA in English Literature and a Spanish minor from Scripps College and is a student of the School of Library and Information Science.

2019-2021
Rich Dana
Student in the School of Library and Information Science and the Center for the Book, Rich previously obtained a BFA from the University of Iowa with focuses on sculpture, drawing, and design.

Jan. 2019-2020
Laura Michelson
During her time as an Olson Graduate, Laura received an MA from the School of Library and Information Science and a certificate from the Center for the Book. Laura also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Medieval-Early Modern Studies from Cornell College. After graduation, Laura became the Project Archivist at Grinnell College.

2017-2019
Micaela Terronez
Student in the School of Library and Information Science, Micaela holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Anthropology from Augustana College. Micaela is currently an Assistant Librarian for the Special Collections at Knox College.

2016-2018
Hannah Hacker
A graduate from the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science and the Center for the Book, Hannah also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Management and Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. After graduation, Hannah became the Archives Assistant at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center.

2015-2017
John Fifield-Perez
John graduated from the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science and the Center for the Book, and also holds a Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance from Oklahoma State University. After graduation, John became a Special Collections Librarian at University of Missouri.

2014-2016
Kelly
Grogg
Kelly holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Iowa and spent two years with the US Peace Corps in Cambodia. After finishing her MLIS  in 2016 she was hired to be a Librarian for the Peace Corps, and later became a Digital Librarian for PBS Kids.

2013-2015
Jillian (Phillips) Sparks
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, and completed the dual program in the Center for the Book and the School of Library and Information Science. After graduation she was a Special Collections Librarian at Queen’s University, and later the Instruction Librarian for the Special Collections and Archives at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

2012-2014
Andrea Kohashi
Andrea holds a BA with a major in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis and completed the dual program in the Center for the Book and the School of Library and Information Science. After graduation Andrea worked as the University of Richmond’s Archivist and Book Arts Studio Coordinator.

2011-2013
Kalmia Strong
Kalmia finished her BA at New York University with a concentration in The History and Future of the Book and Print Culture. She completed her MLIS and an MFA in Book Arts and works for Public Space One in Iowa City, and the University of Iowa Libraries as the Creative Coordinator.

2010-2012
Gyorgy Toth
PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa (2012), Gyorgy completed a dissertation titled “Red Nation: The Transatlantic Relations of the American Indian Rights Movement.” Gyorgy went on to be a Lecturer in the Division of History and Politics, University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom.

2009-2011
Colleen Kelley
During her time as an Olson Graduate, Colleen also received a PhD in History, with a dissertation on 19th century American policies toward Native Americans.

2008-2010 
Anne Covell 
Anne completed the dual program in the Center for the Book & School of Library and Information Science program in May 2010 and then pursued 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.

2007-2009
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. Following her time as an Olson Graduate Research Assistant, Juli held a Special Collections Librarian position at the University of Michigan.

2006-2008
Nana (Diederichs) Holtsnider
During their assistantship, Nana was a student in the dual Center for the Book & School of Library and Information Science program. Nana also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Colorado and a BA from the University of Iowa.

2005-2007
Rachel Sailor
Specializing in documentary photography of the American West, Rachel completed her PhD in 2007 and was employed as an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Wyoming following graduation.