The Power of Access: Students Get a Taste of Academic Publishing

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Readers from across the U.S. and around the world are scrolling through the pages of UW Tacoma's new peer-reviewed journal of student research and scholarship.

There is a joy to being read, to having your work available for others to enjoy and scrutinize. “If you’re a writer it’s a big deal,” said Margaret Lundberg. “I, as the author, have written these words and they meant something to me when I wrote them; it was important to me, and other people out there are reading them.”

Margaret Lundberg, staff writing consultant in UW Tacoma's Teaching & Learning Center, is the editor of Access, a new journal of student scholarship.Lundberg works as a staff writing consultant for the Teaching and Learning Center on campus. She is also the editor of the recently launched Access*: Interdisciplinary Journal of Student Research and Scholarship. The journal showcases work done by UW Tacoma graduate and undergraduate students across a variety of genres including research papers, personal essays, field notes and theses.

Lundberg came up with the idea that eventually became Access when she was a student at Tacoma Community College. She originally went to college after graduating from high school but left because she was “incredibly home sick.” Lundberg started a life, married and had children. Higher education seemed like a distant memory.

Lundberg found success as a professional artist painting murals. In 2008 the economy collapsed and she soon found herself without clients. “One guy just lost his job and you do not hire someone to paint a mural in your child’s room when you have no income,” she said. One of her kids was taking classes at Tacoma Community College at the time and encouraged his mother to enroll. “I planned to take a couple of classes but a few weeks into it I knew this is what I wanted to do,” said Lundberg.

What started as a few-month endeavor has turned into a multi-year journey. Lundberg earned her associate’s degree from TCC, then transferred to UW Tacoma where she finished a bachelor’s and master’s in interdisciplinary arts and sciences. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in English language and literature at UW Seattle. “It’s pretty incredible when you consider I dropped out of college when I was 17,” said Lundberg.

Besides being a student at UW Tacoma, Lundberg has also served in multiple staff positions on campus. In her current role, Lundberg assists students with their writing. “They’ll bring in a paper that’s giving them fits or an assignment they haven’t started yet but want to talk through with someone,” she said.

Last spring Lundberg approached the director of the writing center, Asao Inoue, about her idea for a student research journal. “He loved it but then immediately asked ‘how would we do that?’” Lundberg needed a platform to host the journal so she turned to Justin Wadland, who oversees UW Tacoma’s digital scholarship program. Wadland suggested Digital Commons. The online platform allows institutions to publish material that is accessible to anyone with internet access. UW Tacoma had previously purchased licenses to host five journals on Digital Commons. “He [Wadland] said we could have a license if we wanted it,” said Lundberg.

Lundberg spent the next few months putting the site together, crafting submission guidelines, and drafting a mission statement. She also organized an editorial board consisting of faculty, staff and graduate peer consultants. Board members offered anonymous feedback to students who sent their work to Access. “Each student got feedback from three reviewers,” said Lundberg. “I was the only one who knew who the writers were.”

The inaugural issue of Access went live in late September and featured papers from seven different students. “Everyone who submitted work this time around got published,” said Lundberg. The rationale for this approach stems from a desire to teach. “The first time you submit for publication you don’t know what to expect and the process can be a little ego shattering,” said Lundberg. “We wanted our students to have a different experience.”

Beck Adelante sent in a paper written for a literature class. The UW Tacoma senior, who is working on a degree in arts media and culture, wants one day to be a literature professor. “My essay looks at representations of non-heteronormative sexuality in The Dispossessed,” said Adelante. The book, published in 1974, is considered a canonical work of utopian science fiction. The author, Ursula K. Le Guin, explores different issues in including war, capitalism and sexuality. “There are a lot of pitfalls and blind spots in the book that I wanted to address,” said Adelante. “In many ways the story reinforces misconceptions about LGBTQ sexuality.”

Adelante relished the opportunity to start a discussion on a topic that is important to them. “My paper offers a view that may not be considered mainstream, yet offers a critique on how we can do things better.” Adelante also found the process to be both challenging and rewarding. “I had to make multiple revisions. I wrote this for a class but the audience reading this might not be familiar with the story.”

UW Tacoma graduate student Anneka OlsonAnneka Olson’s work is also featured in Access. The graduate student in Community Planning has an interest in historic preservation, and is currently employed by the City of Tacoma in its historic preservation office. The germ of Olson’s paper comes from a conference she attended under the auspices of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. “One of the speakers talked about an effort to use historic preservation to prevent a mobile home park in Ellensburg from being torn down to make way for a parking lot,” she said. “My paper explores the debate between cultural preservation and architectural preservation.”

Like Adelante, Olson felt she benefitted from the hands-on experience of going through the publication process. “You don’t normally get to do things like this as a student,” she said. “The peer review piece was challenging but ultimately rewarding because it gave me a taste of the academic publishing process.”

The next issue of Access won’t come out until fall of 2018. Lundberg plans to publish only once a year for now. “In the future we’d like to do multiple issues a year,” she said. Submissions for the next issue are open and the review board will start the process of working with potential authors in the summer.

There is a joy to being read and the newly published authors at UW Tacoma are being read quite a bit. “Every paper in our journal is also cross-networked into other commons,” said Lundberg. As of mid-January, the seven papers and introductory note have been downloaded more than 400 times by people all over the globe.

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Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / January 24, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu