Building student success and literacy in the midst of a global pandemic

Dr. Lakisha Brinson
Stephanie Ham

If there’s one positive outcome from the global pandemic, it’s the opportunity to look at things with a fresh perspective. That’s the approach Trevecca graduate Stephanie Ham (MLIS ’09) is taking when it comes to her work.

“I think we’ll look at things a little bit differently after this,” Ham said, referring to the lessons learned in the pandemic. “We have to make sure the integration of technology is seamless so if students are ever to go home again, that transition is really easy for them.” 

Ham, the director of technology strategy for the Metro Nashville Public Schools system, is one of two Trevecca graduates using the skills she refined through the University’s Master of Library and Information Science program in a leadership position within the district. Dr. Lakisha Brinson (MLIS ’05) currently serves as the school system’s director of instructional technology. 

While the pandemic has brought new challenges to their respective roles, both Brinson and Ham agree that Trevecca’s program prepared them well for leading in the midst of a pandemic. 

“I’m using so many of the skills I [developed in Trevecca’s library and information science program],” Ham said. “Collaboration, leadership, technology—we spent a lot of time talking about technology and instruction, what it should look like and how to make it safe for students. So many of the skills I learned in school and utilized as a librarian have really transitioned nicely to this new role.” 

Brinson agreed. 

“Trevecca really helped me to find my voice and my passion,” Brinson said. “The master’s in library and information sciences program really helped me to become more solution-oriented. There may not always be an answer, but when I think about my degree, it helped me as a problem-solver to think through different paths or solutions.” 

Both Brinson and Ham have served the district in various roles over the past two decades, but have transitioned to new roles within the Metro Nashville Public Schools system. 

“This is a new position for the district, so it’s exciting,” Ham said. “When I started the role, no one anticipated a global pandemic, so I think it looks a little different than we had anticipated. Really what I’ve been focusing on is ensuring that every student has access, whether that is through a laptop, a laptop on a hotspot, but working on that one-to-one rollout that we want to provide students across the district.” 

While Ham is dedicated to ensuring students have the digital access they need to learn remotely during a global pandemic, Brinson is focused on making sure that teachers are well prepared and adequately equipped to teach remotely.

“We really work with making sure our teachers are supported in all of our instructional platforms and tools,” Brinson said. “We want to make sure that teaching is the focus and not the tool, so we want to [focus on the best practices for teaching and learning] and use the tools to supplement those practices.” 

Library services are also a part of Brinson’s role. She and the team she leads have two main goals when it comes to libraries across the Metro Nashville Public Schools system: ensuring equitable access to students—whether they’re learning in-person or remotely—and literacy. 

“We want to ensure that all of our students—face-to-face or virtual—are flourishing and receiving all the same resources and tools,” Brinson said. “And we want to empower our students to continue reading and learning through the use of curbside and modified check-out services.”

Ham agreed, stressing that literacy is embedded in everything she and her team do. 

“Whether it’s traditional literacy—reading that book—or digital literacy, which I think we know more than ever is so important as we teach students how to find reliable information and use it effectively,” Ham said. “Literacy is the number one component in our work.” 

In a world of ever-changing technology, helping students access, research and evaluate information is a vital skill. And it’s something Trevecca’s master’s program in library and information science is built on, according to program director Dr. Judy Bivens. 

“The master’s in library and information science program at Trevecca prepares future school librarians and technology specialists to empower students, teachers and members of the community to engage in active learning in both virtual and in-person environments,” she said. “Graduates have gained essential skills in technology, instructional design and relationship-building for creating innovative opportunities for diverse community members to participate successfully.”

Both Brinson and Ham see their roles as opportunities to invest in student success. While that’s a lofty goal in and of itself, the Trevecca grads also understand that COVID-19 has brought education to a pivotal moment—and that’s an opportunity for creativity and innovation. 

“Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future,’” Brinson said. “So now we have an awesome opportunity to look at what’s worked before [and evaluate if it really worked.] We have the opportunity to rethink how we provide voice and choice for our students, how we create engaging lessons, manage behavior and make students want to attend class. That is the opportunity we are given, and it’s a gift. This really allows us the space to be creative and innovative. And I do believe we’re going to be all the better for it.” 

Learn more about Trevecca’s Master of Library and Information Science program, offered 100 percent online.


Media contact: Mandy Crow, mmcrow@trevecca.edu, 615-248-1695