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Zorana Ercegovac: IS Alumna Creates Oral History of UCLA's Faculty Women's Club

While UCLA prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2019, the UCLA Faculty Women’s Club (FWC) is also looking forward to its own centennial in 2018; the organization, which was originally made up of faculty spouses and female professors, predates the founding of UCLA. The FWC grew out of a meeting in 1917 between Ernest Carroll Moore, who was then the director of the Los Angeles Normal School and Edward Dickson, a regent of the University of California at Berkeley. As a result of that seminal meeting, the two-year Los Angeles Normal School was transformed into a four-year college, as the Southern Branch of the State Normal School, becoming UCLA.

Zorana Ercegovac, who is a graduate of UCLA’s Department of Information Studies (Ph.D., ’90), and a former FWC president (2012-2013), has taken on the task of creating an oral history legacy of the Faculty Women’s Club. Ercegovac has compiled audio recordings of interviews, along with news from papers and photographs of the club’s most venerable and longtime members. The project, along with a short slideshow and audio clip, were covered in the Daily Bruin in March of 2013.

“It was important to find out who we are from the members themselves,” says Ercegovac, who began the project in October of 2012 with an interview of Anne Bodenheimer, who turned 100 this year in April. “I administered a voluntary self-reported survey to the FWC membership and about 40 percent of people who had completed the survey said they wanted to be interviewed. Some of them were very forthcoming and vocal,” says Ercegovac. “I encouraged them to talk – you can imagine how much material I got. They saw the potential of an oral history. We now, for the first time, have primary sources that are unique documents from FWC pioneer members, many of whom going back to the 1960s – their photographs, their voices, their ideas for the Faculty Women’s Club, and their connections to the UCLA community. This is part of our legacy.”

Ercegovac and her fellow FWC Board members have created a task force for the club’s centennial and plan a program that would include several of FWC scholarship recipients, some of whom are now professors themselves. In addition, Ercegovac’s oral histories will be packaged digitally for the Web, so that the general public can also benefit from the rich history of the FWC. Based on 75 years of Faculty Women’s Club Programs, FWC member Phyllis Amboss prepared a chronological listing of the topics and speakers, which covered dance, fashion, galleries, theatre, film, California, war-related lectures, public health issues, travels and cultures, and education.

“As the FWC’s Historian/Archivist at the time, I wanted to find out about the topics that the Faculty Women’s Club discussed since 1934-1935,” says Ercegovac, who is preparing to launch the FWC’s online archive during the club’s centennial in 2018. “There is a lot of information for people who are not members of the UCLA Faculty Center to study what women were interested in back then. Women’s studies and social studies might be interested. That’s why we want to record and open that material to the general public. Once it is on the Web, it’s going to be much easier for people to access. There is gold, but it’s hidden gold, waiting to be uncovered.”

Shortly after graduation, Ercegovac was asked to serve as a lecturer in UCLA’s Department of Information Studies, and taught classes in research methodology, access to online resources, reference, and a GE course from 1990 to 1998. She founded InfoEN in 1994, a consulting firm specializing in information literacy for teachers and students. She also taught classes for high school students at the Windward School and Marlborough School on research skills and how to transition from middle school to high school, and on to college and the workplace. These experiences informed her 2001 book on information literacy, which has since been published in a second edition titled, “Information Literacy: Search Strategies, Tools & Resources for High School Students and College Freshmen” (Columbus, Linworth Books. 2 edition, 2008.)

“These schools have information literacy standards for administrators, teachers, and school librarians,” Ercegovac says. “Everybody has to know how to search effectively [and] ethically, and be critical thinkers. How much of this is put into practice differs from school to school, depending on numerous variables. I was with Windward School for seven years, and five years with Marlborough School. So, I could see the cohorts of students who would go to college and come back to us and report on how well they were prepared.”

Ercegovac says that educators can’t prepare today’s teens for every possible outcome, but they can give them the skills that will make them adaptable. Among the essential ones are critical thinking skills, ethical uses of resources including data, social and cross cultural skills, leadership and responsibility, and other key research skills to help them navigate effectively through numerous resources including the web.

“Students tend to think that technology will help them quite a bit, but actually, it is [about] a conceptual understanding of things, how to be savvy on the Internet, how to protect yourself by sharing or not sharing information [and] identity,” she says. “So, while the Internet in the beginning was conceived as a very open network for sharing information, it is now in the mainstream with children using it. School librarians have a critical function, to work with teachers in all disciplines – English, science, math, foreign languages, and so forth – to let them know what is available, and how to transfer this information to their students.”

Ercegovac says that she was well-prepared for a task like the FWC oral history by her education at UCLA, and writing her dissertation, titled, “Research on knowledge-based descriptive cataloging of cartographic publications: An experimental advice-giving system—Mapper.” She recalls being mentored by such professors as Elaine Svenonius, Christine Borgman, Marcia Bates, the late Harold Borko, who was Ercegovac’s advisor, and many other expert practitioners and colleagues.

“One thing that the Ph.D. program prepared us to do well was to address a research question systematically and rigorously,” says Ercegovac. “When you do research related work, you have to do lots of preparation and homework. And it takes time if you want to do it well.

“And, the IS program prepares you to think about research questions and new ideas, to be creative and innovative. It is about gathering important sources, organizing and describing these sources so that people can access relevant sources locally or globally.”