Information-sharing strategist, researcher, and life-long disruptor known to question the status quo and think squarely outside the box - that’s the way Michelle Farabough describes herself on Twitter. “That moniker is a brief introduction into what makes me tick,” she says. Dr. Oksana Zavalina, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Sciences and Associate Director of the College of Information Interdisciplinary Information Science (COI IIS) PhD program says there’s much more to Michelle’s story.
Michelle is a PhD teaching assistant (TA) and student in the UNT COI IIS program. With a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and master’s degree in Knowledge Management from an ALA accredited Library and Information Studies program, her diverse educational background and expertise are quite typical of UNT IIS students. “I feel like I really belong here! Even though I’m a nontraditional student, I fit in. UNT offers a wonderful program with international and second-career students from varied backgrounds. I’m fortunate to have the chance to learn from my classmates and from faculty who have expertise in computer science, librarianship, management information systems, journalism, and business.”
Michelle’s current studies are focused in health information and communication. She became interested in this new area of specialization while working at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Health Sciences Center as an information and communication specialist. After presenting twice at the CDC National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media, she was encouraged to pursue PhD studies at OU’s Communication Department. In her third year of studies she transferred to UNT to take full advantage of UNT faculty expertise in Social Network Analysis (SNA) and health informatics. “One of my OU master’s program classmates was already at UNT. He told me great things about the COI IIS program, so I decided to make the switch. Dr. Ana Cleveland is widely recognized as a pioneer in medical librarianship and health informatics. Learning from her is such a privilege. Also, I’ve become very interested in SNA, and OU didn’t offer any classes. I heard that Dr. Barbara Schultz-Jones taught SNA, and I took a class with her last semester. We learned the history of SNA and its methodology. We used advanced technologies to analyze data we collected. I enjoyed her so much that I traveled with her study abroad group to Europe last summer. And now I work as her TA.”
Michelle says that one of her motivations for attending UNT is the program reputation. It remains one of the largest in the nation with a student body of more than 90 and an interdisciplinary faculty from academic and research units across campus and from universities around the world. “I’ve been so fortunate to take classes and learn from the best in our field. Professor Yvonne Chandler received her PhD from the University of Michigan; Professor Shawne Miksa received hers from Florida State University, and Professor Brian O’Connor studied at the University of California at Berkley. Library and Information Sciences Department Chair Suliman Hawamdeh received his PhD from the University of Sheffield.”
Dr. Hawamdeh served as Michelle’s MSKM advisor at OU. “At the UNT COI IIS program I can take full advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of my knowledge management studies. I’m able to use theories I learned and connect perspectives from the fields that are tied to information science—communication, information, and management. I hope to use what I’ve learned to find unique solutions to information problems that continue to plague the U.S. health care system.”
Prior to returning to school, Michelle served as a marketing and graphic design consultant for over 20 years. After graduating from OU with her undergraduate degree she worked at a small-town Oklahoma newspaper, a Dallas advertising agency, and then Tulsa’s city magazine. Her combined communication background, knowledge management studies, and terminal degree in information science offer her a unique breadth of knowledge. “At this stage in my life I’m excited to share with undergraduate and master’s students what I’ve learned over the years. After working in the field I can offer anecdotes to help them apply what they are learning in class.”
Michelle lives near Tulsa, Oklahoma, and has driven weekly to Denton for on-campus classes, to meet with UNT faculty and staff, to work for Dr. Barbara Schultz-Jones, and to foster relationships with her PhD student cohort. “Many of my new friends have offered to host me in their homes while I’m here. Leveraging technology for distance learning is awesome, but I also enjoy having deep conversations and hanging out with my classmates and professors.”
Having two teenage sons involved in sports and advanced classes keeps Michelle busy. Knowing they will soon be entering college has been one of her motivations for working toward a PhD. “I want to be prepared for this new chapter in my life when they leave home. Until then, I’m making the most of the time we have together.” During summer break in 2013 she took her children on a 22-state, 4,500 mile trek through the Eastern United States. This past summer, she met them in Rome after her UNT study abroad trip and traveled across Europe—Rome, Florence, Venice, Lugano and Lucerne Switzerland, Paris, and London.
In her spare time, Michelle and her family visit their cabin in Michigan. She enjoys watching her kids play sports, going to dinner and movies with friends, playing the piano, gardening, and walking every day. Her weekly treat, she says, is taking 90 uninterrupted minutes each week to watch CBS Sunday Morning and needlepoint.