Thinking critically. This is what Susan G. Hamson does on a daily basis as the university archivist and the head of Access Services and Operations of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University. She credits her education at Rutgers-Camden with helping her to develop this all-important skill. In 1995, Susan graduated from Rutgers-Camden with a master of arts degree in American history, with concentrations in twentieth century urban history and eighteenth to twentieth century women’s history. “I enjoyed the intellectual discourse,” she says, noting that her classmates, many of whom had full-time day jobs and worked on their graduate degrees at night, enriched the classroom experience because of the real-world insight they could offer. She also cites history professors such as Drs. Rodney Carlisle, Janet Golden, and Philip Scranton as essential to her growth as a scholar. “They challenged me and made me a better writer,” she says. “It was – and is – a real privilege to live in South Jersey and get a Rutgers education.”
A typical day as a university archivist guarantees only two things: there will be challenge, and there will be reward. Always busy, Susan’s job can have her trolling eBay for rare Columbia University items, fundraising, answering research queries, and organizing exhibits like the one which is currently on display, “100 Years of Journalism at Columbia.” Despite her often chaotic schedule, Susan loves that her job allows her the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, such as Erica Jong, who had been a hero of Susan’s since she was thirteen years old. “Rutgers-Camden provided me with these experiences because it gave me the academic skill and insight necessary to take on this important job,” she says.
In addition to her work as an archivist at Columbia, Susan teaches at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science. She enjoys teaching, having spent eleven years as an adjunct lecturer at Camden County College. At Pratt, she teaches “Management of Archives and Special Collections.” In this course she and her students think critically about the archival profession, and also speak about the practical manner of finding employment after graduation. “I think I’m a born educator, just like I’m a born archivist,” Susan says.
Susan attributes much of her success to her education at Rutgers-Camden, where she was pressed and encouraged to think critically, an asset that she says is priceless and has helped her tremendously in her career. We here at Rutgers-Camden are thrilled by Susan’s achievements, and are so happy to have been a small part of her climb to the top.