Faces of UMSI: Devan Donaldson

Even in high school Devan Donaldson knew that he was headed to graduate school and a PhD. At the time, he didn’t know what subject he would study, but a doctorate has been his goal from a very early age. His ultimate career choice evolved naturally over time.

Devan majored in history at the College of William and Mary and went on to earn a master’s in library science at the University of North Carolina. He then entered the doctoral program at the University of Michigan School of Information, where he has built upon the foundation of his previous degrees by conducting research in digital preservation, digital curation, preservation management, preservation repositories, and the trustworthiness of curated data.

The last two subjects will form the basis of his doctoral dissertation. Over the summer of 2013, he will be working with the Washington State Digital Archives, studying how people assess the trustworthiness of documents in archival repositories. His goal is to develop instruments that can be used to measure the trustworthiness of digital documents.

“Digital archivists assume that trust in a digital repository translates into trust in the documents retrieved from that repository,” he says. “But how do we actually know unless we understand how end-users think about trustworthiness in the context of their specific information tasks?” Once his instruments are developed, he hopes that digital repositories will use them to assess trustworthiness.

During his academic career, Devan has accumulated several awards and honors, including induction into the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society in 2012. This society recognizes outstanding scholarly achievement and promotes diversity and excellence in doctoral education. He is the first UMSI student to receive this honor. He is a Rackham Merit Fellow and a Gates Millennium Scholar and has served as vice president of the Students of Color of Rackham (SCOR). He was a member of the Rackham Graduate School Executive Board (2011-2012) and in 2012 was invited by the Provost to serve on the search committee for the University Librarian position.

He also finds time outside of studies to advise minority undergraduates interested in pursuing higher degrees. He is “the voice” of UMSI for convocation and commencement, performing the national anthem at nearly every school-wide ceremony since enrolling in 2008.

His advisor and dissertation chair is Paul Conway. The other members of his advisory committee are Soo Young Rieh, Elizabeth Yakel, James Lepkowski (Institute for Social Research), and William Jacoby (ICPSR Research Scientist).

Devan will enter the job market in his final year of graduate school and with the hope of achieving the goal he set long ago: a university faculty position.