Studying the Human Condition

November 15, 2016

Casey DeBuse

MSLIS Student shares his academic career from social psychology to LIS.

Casey DeBuse, MS student and Dean’s Fellow for Information Technology, comes to SLIS with a PhD in social psychology. We caught up with him about his career path and how it lead to studying LIS at SLIS.

What fascinated you about social psychology? 

As an undergrad, I loved studying social psychology because it aims to shed light on the human condition through the study of our social environment, tackling complex phenomena, such as racism and discrimination, violence, altruism, and the formation and maintenance of our friendships and close relationships. It was humbling to learn how even the best among us are capable of doing terrible things in a given social context, and inspiring to learn how understanding and being conscious of such contexts can empower people to defy their effects. The idea that our close relationships could be scrutinized scientifically was particularly compelling, given their universality, centrality, and importance to the human experience, so I decided to pursue graduate study in this sub field. I jumped at the opportunity to join a laboratory at UMass that was launching a study aimed at tracking newlyweds' relational behaviors and physiological responses over the first few years of marriage. For my dissertation, I seized the opportunity to pursue a line of research into interpersonal attraction that I had thought about as an undergrad. 

What led you to studying LIS?

As I progressed toward the completion of my Ph.D., though I was invested in my work, I began to feel the pull of other interests that had fallen by the wayside as I studied. A firm believer in lifetime learning, I started to long for a career that would be inspiring, put me in a position to pursue a diversified set of interests, and give me the work/life balance that would allow me to do so.

What is your focus in the LIS field/what work do you hope to do in future?

I thought that the LIS field and, specifically, the School Library Teacher track, would be an excellent fit for my goals. Understanding library and information science is the key to any door of knowledge one might wish to open, and I can think of few things more inspiring than teaching and inspiring our youth to take their learning into their own hands. 

How does your background prepare you for particular LIS work?

My experience  has provided  more than a few lessons that will help me in LIS work, some of which I hope to pass on to my students, when the time comes. One is the value of being a critical consumer of information. There is as much power (or more) in the disconfirmation of your own beliefs as there is in their confirmation. A second is that sometimes all the information resources in the world cannot satisfy your curiosity about a given topic. This is not something to be lamented, but rather, a call to action—you may need to create the knowledge you seek, and it is a noble and, often, satisfying pursuit. 

Anything else to share?

For those of you considering a new course of study or a different career path, remember: it is never too late. Never tell yourself that you cannot do something before you have tried; you will have proven yourself right, whether you were or not.

Photo courtesy of Casey DeBuse.