Alumna uses Newman staff member as resource for high school students

Feb 09, 2022
Machen Olson at her desk at West High School in Wichita.

When it came time for ‘20 Newman secondary education graduate Machen Olson to talk with her high school students about research papers, she knew exactly where to turn for a guest speaker.

“I wanted my students at (Wichita) West High to have the same opportunity to learn from the best like I did at Newman,” Olson said. “That’s why I was inspired to ask Jeanette (Parker, Newman reference librarian) to come and speak.”

Machen Olson
Machen Olson

Before Parker visited the classroom to introduce helpful resources that make research paper writing more manageable, Olson described her students as being “frustrated and terrified of the ‘big bad’ research paper.”

“Jeanette was a fantastic guest speaker and my students learned so much,” Olson said. “After she showed them the databases, about 75% of the students felt as though the research was not as bad as they feared. I even have thank you cards for her.”

An impact at Newan

Looking back on her college days, Olson recalls her relationship with Parker as beyond that of just an acquaintance.

“I really felt comfortable going to her for help and I trusted her,” she said. “I truly believe that Jeanette was a crucial factor in me graduating from Newman. I knew how to research, but I didn’t really know how to research until Jeanette. I learned more about research and how to properly and efficiently research when Jeanette taught me in Dr. (Susan) Crane’s English class.”

Jeanette Parker
Jeanette Parker

Parker started working in the Dugan Library at Newman in 2014 and will soon begin working as director of Library Services at Kansas Health Science Center. Parker remembers Olson from her regular days spent studying in the library. 

“She was in some of the classes I visited to talk about research, she always asked lots of questions and she’d often strike up conversations with me when she visited the library,” Parker said. “She was always very friendly.”

When Olson called upon Parker to speak to her high school classroom, Parker jumped at the opportunity.

“So many high schools no longer have librarians,” Parker explained. “They have a para or someone to check things in and out, but students don’t receive as much teaching on information literacy skills. Machen was aware of that fact, and she knew it would be beneficial to her students to have a librarian visit with them.”

Parker spoke to three different classes about specific types of research, full text, the negatives of using Google versus using databases and how to navigate the world of research.

“What struck me most was there was a girl who was slouched down with her hood up, initially very quiet and didn’t look too excited about it,” Parker said. “But by the end of it, she was sitting up, her hood was down and she was very engaged and asking questions.”

Using Newman as a community resource

At the conclusion of the discussion, several students were making statements like “this is easier than I thought,” and “this is way more organized than using Google,” Parker recalled.

Machen Olson's classroom
Olson’s classroom at West High School.

“I think it’s a great way to build awareness of some of the programs that Newman can offer other learners,” Parker said. “Without the connection I had with Machen, I wouldn’t have ever gotten to talk to those students and they may not have learned about information literacy in that way.”

Parker enjoyed observing Olson as a full-fledged teacher interacting with her students in the classroom and said she is grateful to have played a small part in her educational journey.

“I think it shows that there are several ways for us to support our students even after they graduate,” Parker said. “I really enjoyed being a part of it, and I hope it builds awareness that we can serve as a resource to some of our alumni in this way.”