Meet Itza Carbajal, TASCHA’s first PhD Fellow


A black and white photo of Itza. She has dark hair with bangs and is wearing glasses and a checkered shirt.

Itza Carbajal, first year PhD student at the University of Washington Information School, is driven by a passion for stories, memories, and histories. 

Itza was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit, and Itza and her family were displaced from their home. At only 14 years old, Itza became familiar with loss, which led her to ask some big questions: what is the relationship between having stuff and having memories? If you don’t have stuff, do you still have memories?

Having received a Master of Science in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin (UT), Itza is an archivist by trade. Before coming to the Information School, Itza lived in Austin, Texas, where she worked for two years as a librarian at UT in their Latin American Special Collection.

 

I really enjoy the field of archival studies, and I really do think that preserving history is really important. Helping people access stories as well as protect their stories is what drives me at my core.

 

Wanting to further explore the archival field, Itza began applying for PhD programs across the globe. She chose to come to the Information School for the faculty and the Information School’s ability to support her and her interests. With strong support systems, academic advisors, and research centers, the Information School felt like the place where Itza could incorporate all of her interests into her PhD research. Itza wants to explore the world of children’s records, memories, and how archival work can be used to facilitate complex conversations with people under the age of 18. 

 

It’s important to look at communities or populations that maybe don’t typically get asked for their say or what they’re thinking or what matters to them. I’m really hoping that this program will allow me to not speak for them, but to ask them what they’re thinking and give them an opportunity to join the adult conversations.

 

TASCHA PhD Fellowship

The TASCHA PhD Fellowship was created to support TASCHA’s broader efforts to strengthen the field of Library and Information Science (LIS) by increasing collaboration and relationships between TASCHA researchers and iSchool faculty. Each year TASCHA brings in 1-2 PhD students whose interests intersect with TASCHA’s ongoing research with public libraries. Itza was TASCHA’s first fellow, and worked with Senior Research Scientist Jason Young and her PhD advisor, Assistant Professor Marika Cifor. Together, the team designed, developed, and proposed a research topic that they were interested in working on together. Ultimately Itza, TASCHA researchers, and Information School faculty would come together to think about what the proposed project could look like.

Her first quarter working with TASCHA was devoted to exploring her options. In the end, she decided to explore the use of archival records in K-12 studying to ask a hard-hitting question: how are archival records used to talk about complex topics, such as climate change? 

 

I’m really interested in thinking about how archival records can help highlight urgent conversations like climate change, Hurricane Katrina, natural disasters, all those things. That’s a very important topic to me and I think young people know that that’s important, and so how can adults facilitate their own interests and pursuits of these urgent matters? I think on a personal level, the TASCHA Research Fellowship has helped me think through what does it mean to develop a research study, what does it mean to work with a research team?

 

During Spring quarter, Itza and the team conducted a series of surveys of teachers, teachers in training, students, and archivists to get their perspective on what’s happening on the ground and in the classroom. 

 

The field of archival studies has done so little to understand how K-12 educators engage with primary sources. Given the huge gaps in understanding, our first step has been to conduct a broad survey to start to understand the landscape from the perspective of the participants. We hope to dive deeper into current classroom practices through observations in the fall. We hope that this survey of current attitudes and practices toward primary sources will highlight areas for future research designed to support teachers in more effectively leveraging archives. – Jason Young

 

Itza wants the world to know that archival records are useful beyond the context of academic research — everyone from artists, genealogists, families, and even K-12 teachers and students can use archives!

Itza’s passion has not gone unnoticed at TASCHA: 

 

I couldn’t be happier to be working with Itza as our inaugural TASCHA Fellow. Her work showcases traditional interests of TASCHA, including an emphasis on strengthening the LIS field through work with underrepresented populations. At the same time, she has pushed me and others at TASCHA to think more deeply about new topics, including archival studies, youth, and K-12 education. – Jason Young

Beyond TASCHA

Due to the impact of COVID-19, all of Itza’s time at TASCHA and her PhD experience has taken place entirely virtually. The remote aspect of this work has been difficult — for example, Itza has only met some of her advisors face-to-face one time. Itza is grateful to the TASCHA team for welcoming into her position even without meeting in person, and the TASCHA team is grateful to Itza for continuing to do amazing work during these challenging times.

 

Itza has been fantastic to work with – she has not only pushed forward her own research, but also offered important feedback for how we might continue to strengthen our fellowship opportunity for future students. – Jason Young

 

After her time at TASCHA and finishing her PhD, Itza is open to many career options from teaching to research to directing an archival institution or special collection. If she could give her younger self a piece of advice, it would be to take time for breaks between academic pursuits. Breaks, Itza says, give you the opportunity to be prepared for academia in terms of life experiences, not just in terms of academic preparedness. 

 

Everything I know I want to study around children’s records, I needed all of those experiences and all that time to be able to let those ideas simmer and then feel confident that I know what I’m doing now.

 

Learn more about Itza's work at TASCHA


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