Ever since junior sociology major Tenaya Muhammad was young, libraries have been among her favorite places. So she when arrived at Illinois State University for Welcome Week and learned that Milner Library hires student assistants to work in the library, she knew she had found her new home away from home.

Muhammad is Milner Library’s first recipient of the recently established Dr. Thomas D. Wilson Student Assistant Scholarship, a one-time award of $1,000 to a library student worker who has worked in the library at least one semester. This award is the library’s first student award and was established by Kay Wilson in memory of her husband, longtime Politics and Government Professor Dr. Thomas D. Wilson, honoring his support for Milner Library and his love of learning.

A passion for learning and libraries are two things that Muhammad and the late Dr. Wilson share in common. Both volunteered in libraries, Wilson at Milner Library and Muhammad at her middle school’s library. Now, Muhammad works at Milner Library’s Circulation Desk and appreciates the opportunities that working in the library affords.

Not only is she learning important skills such as time management and professional communication, Muhammad has also gained a lot by networking within the library—the latter which didn’t come naturally to her at first.

“At the Circulation Desk, I greet most of the patrons that pass through the library and need help,” said Muhammad. “As an introvert, I was initially nervous about this position, but through practice became more comfortable communicating with new people and event created bonds with patrons.”

One of her regular patrons was a professor Muhammad ended up taking a class with and then completing an honors contract, eventually serving as a teaching assistant. Through that relationship, Muhammad was connected with another professor with whom she completed an internship conducting research exploring the difference in perceptions people have on married couples and their financial habits. She is continuing work on that project his semester, analyzing the data.

Muhammad is already thinking about where her love of learning will take her next. “After graduation, I would like to go to graduate school,” she said. “I’m interested in social services and criminal justice. So, I am exploring all my opportunities here at ISU to help narrow down what I would like to focus on for my master’s degree.”