Ellen Ramsey: Semester at Sea Librarian, Around the World Voyage, Spring 2013

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Ellen Ramsey, Knowledge Integration Manager & Liaison to the School of Nursing, will be the librarian for the spring voyage of the Semester at Sea program, which is sponsored by the University of Virginia.  The voyage will embark from San Diego on January 9th and will debark in Barcelona, Spain, on April 25th.

Why this voyage?

Timing-wise, a spring semester voyage is much better than a fall voyage due to the many orientation activities at the Health Sciences Library. There are also summer voyages, but I was looking for more academic and cross-disciplinary depth in the experience.  Another advantage to going this spring is that Dr. Hostler [Senior Associate Dean at the UVA School of Medicine] is the Academic Dean for the voyage, so it made sense to have a librarian with health sciences experience on the voyage. There will be other faculty from the Health System as well.  Jeanette Lancaster will be teaching Health Promotion and Behavior, and Mary Ropka will be teaching courses in public health, epidemiology, and genomics.  School of Medicine faculty Leigh Grossman and Tom Braciale will also be on board for part of the voyage with a group of medical students on an international medicine rotation.

The assistant librarian on the voyage will be Olivia Reinaeur from the University of Richmond. Her expertise is liberal arts and social sciences reference services which balances my experiences in the health sciences and technology.  So all things lined up nicely.

China is a destination on this voyage.  Talk about your past experience in China.

My undergraduate degree is in International Studies with a focus on Eastern Asia.  Following college, I spent some time coordinating scholarly research in China.  In fact, my first contact with the Semester at Sea program was about twenty years ago when I met a group of SAS students at a Peking Opera performance in Beijing.  We chatted following the performance and I heard all about their voyage and experiences.

Which destination are you most looking forward to?

Cape Town, South Africa. The combination of beautiful countryside, rich history, and a post-Apartheid culture fascinates me.  I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to experience it.  I’m also looking forward to Ghana because last year UVA hosted a couple of librarians from that country.

Any trepidations?

A few.  I worry that I’m asking too much from colleagues covering my duties, and I will miss the Nursing students that I have been getting to know.  I am incredibly fortunate that my family is going with me, which includes a husband and a nine-year-old, but I do worry some about how they will hold up throughout the voyage.

However, I am so grateful and appreciative of the support I’ve received from everyone here at the Health Sciences Library and the cohort of UVA librarians who have been on past voyages. I am especially indebted to Mary Johnston, the permanent Semester at Sea Librarian, who has made the preparations a breeze, and to Health Sciences Library leaders Gretchen Arnold and Bart Ragon, who have been consistently supportive of this opportunity. Everyone has been so wonderful.  I have heard these voyages are transformative, and I look forward to seeing how the whole experience will impact my perspective, career, and the library when I return.


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