From Student to Professor

October 31, 2013

By Liz Cachey ‘15

Rachael Altman was a model student at Bradley before she graduated with her BA in English in 2008. Since then, she’s achieved great personal and professional success.

As an undergrad, Altman was an active member of Hillel, working up the ranks to become President of the organization her junior year. She was also very involved with Multicultural Student Services, where she held a critical role in planning and earning funding for multicultural programming on campus.

Altman loved Bradley - so much so that she decided to return for graduate school.

“Attending graduate school at Bradley was one of the best decisions I've ever made,” Altman said. “I learned to be more organized and accountable, and I had the opportunity to really immerse myself in specific topics. I worked as a teaching assistant in Professor Newton's creative writing workshop and Dr. Worley's African American Literature class. I also worked as a tutor in the Writing Center.”

Altman received her MA in English with a concentration in writing theory, African-American literature, and romantic poetry in 2009. But she didn’t want to stop her education there.

“I was inspired to pursue a career as a librarian after I read an article on the School Library Journal website entitled, ‘Controversy Surrounds Library Expansion in Posh NY Hood,’” Altman said. “The article discussed a library in New York’s Hamptons that was expanding its children’s collection. There appeared to be multiple zoning issues, and the village board expressed concern that an expanded children’s collection would lead to more library usage by those who live in the less affluent areas. Without equal access to information, however, there can be no equal education, no kind of social equality at all. I knew right then that a large part of my mission as a librarian would be to ensure equal access and representation for everyone, regardless of where they come from.”

Altman applied to several library science programs and ultimately chose to further her education at Syracuse University.

“I was very attracted to the work of Dr. Ruth Small at Center for Digital Literacy (CDL) at Syracuse because of the dedication to working with underserved populations by understanding the impact of information, technology, and media literacies on children and adults,” Altman said. “More specifically, I am interested in studying access to information resources.  Does having or not having access to information resources impact people, organizations, and communities?”

After being accepted to Syracuse, Altman dove even further into her studies. She worked on the Syracuse Little Free Libraries project, an initiative that brings books for borrowing to community street corners and was recognized with a 2012 Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship. 

While at Syracuse, she also landed a summer internship that sent her to work with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the grant-awarding body of the National Archives, in Washington D.C., where she created a database of grants awarded from 1965 to present and worked on locating transcripts of primary resources for DocTeach,“an educational resource that brings together more than 3,000 primary sources spanning centuries of American History.”

Rachael finished her program at Syracuse in 2012 and landed her first professional library job at Alabama State University after attending the American Library Association’s 2012 conference in Anaheim. In Alabama, Rachael worked as the University’s Collection Development Librarian.

Today, Rachael is back in Illinois, with a new job at Rockford University.

 “I am the Reference and Instructional Librarian. My main focus is teaching students how to use the library resources and working with students on research projects,” Altman said. “The Library Director, Kelly James, is a great mentor, and she gives me a lot of freedom to be creative and try new things. I recently launched a library workshop series that will cover citation styles and research strategies. “

“I get the greatest joy out of helping the students,” Altman said, “I had a lot of great professors and mentors throughout my academic career. I am driven by the opportunity to mentor students by fostering relationships to help students develop the skills to succeed in college and beyond. I enjoy working in the academic environment because it allows me to combine my passion for research, literature, and education with my passion for assisting students and scholars with information needs.”

Still, Rachael looks back fondly on her experiences at Bradley.

“Some of my best friends at Bradley were also English majors,” Altman said, “It's awesome because we are all doing different things now, professionally.”

“Carolyn Dorant works as a Site Editor at Groupon, Jene Mitchell works as a High School Representative at the Illinois Institute of Art, Ben Sparks is an attorney, Rasheite Radcliff is an Enterprise Strategy Consultant at McGraw Hill—so you can see we all chose different paths, but the degree in English prepared us. It is a useful tool to build a foundation of research, writing, communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills to launch a variety of career paths.”