Each incoming graduate assistant will become familiar with all aspects of Special Collections work during their first year by assisting with day to day operations such as providing reference services, assisting with instruction, contributing to social media and event planning, as well as processing and describing archival or manuscript collections.In the second year of their appointments, Olson Graduate Assistants will build on the experiences they have had in the first, take on more explicit management roles, and identify project work aligned with their career goals and talents. Their first assignment, for example, will be to orient and train the incoming Olson Graduate Assistant. Some examples of project work in the past have included: processing a more extensive archival or manuscript collection, selecting and acquiring a selection of materials, or expanding catalog records for early printed books. A capstone project curating an exhibition is also available in the second year.
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, achives administration, or similar career paths; and offer opportunities to accumulate and document significant academic and work experience and accomplishment.A successful candidate for an Olson Graduate Assistantship will:
- Have excellent interpersonal and written communication skills
- Excel at making progress towards goals in an environment with many competing priorities and projects
Graduate assistants are expected to make reasonable progress toward the academic goals they outline in their applications.Olson Graduate 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.
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, achives administration, or similar career paths; and offer opportunities to accumulate and document significant academic and work experience and accomplishment.
Each candidate must submit a résumé and a statement outlining the skills or talents the candidate would bring to the department as well as outlining their academic and career aspirations and describing how appointment as an Olson Graduate 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.