Success in Student Publishing

For a long while, I was probably most recognized for being the guy with all the tattoos. And more recently, for the guy walking the little puppy around campus. In the future, though, I hope to also become known for being the guy who publishes with all those undergraduates.

I'm on pace for six publications within a year's time. Correction: we're on pace—that is, my student co-authors and me. My goal is to institutionalize an Honors-housed, interdisciplinary research hub of sorts, where students are regularly producing published articles and chapters in the humanities and social sciences, semester after semester, year after year, while earning credit toward graduation.

In fact, within this past week, three students and I—Clarisa Barrera Garza, Mubashar Khan, and Lauren McKenzie—received word that our proposal has been accepted for inclusion into Anthem Press’ edited volume, “Literature, Film and the Politics of Health,” scheduled for publication in February 2021. We’ve also been invited to present our work at Wayne State's inaugural Diversity Conference. Similarly, two other groups attended and presented research at the College for Creative Studies and Cleveland State University last year.

I largely owe the success of the project to the dedication and hard work of my student research collaborators. In one semester, we go from identifying a topic, usually from a call for publications, to submitting a fully completed manuscript. It’s immensely gratifying to watch these undergraduates wrestle with such complex material and assemble such a unified and coherent narrative in the end. And it’s just plain fun, too, especially the storyboarding process where their diverse backgrounds add so much to the paper’s overall trajectory. I routinely find myself admitting aloud, “Wow, I would've never thought of it like that!”

Among the most rewarding parts for them comes later: applying to graduate or professional school. They often make this writing experience central to their application process as a way to differentiate their undergraduate experience, highlighting how researching with me forced them out of their comfort zone. And for me, I cannot be more proud to begin my letter with the words, “I am offering my strongest recommendation on behalf of my co-author...” Their success is my success.

Our students are bright, and not only do they keep me sharp, they keep me disciplined and inspired. I recently added another component beyond just researching for publication: applying for grants. Continually trying to imagine new ways to harness our students’ energies and leverage their talents, I’m working with a few highly creative and thoughtful students on ways to regularly secure external funding opportunities. Like me, they came in knowing very little, if anything at all, about effective grant strategies, but they love a good challenge and, more importantly, they love the grind of figuring things out.

And just like I knew that with the help of undergrads Gianna Eisele, Ian Hogg, and Hannah Neal, writing a publication-worthy paper in three months was doable—our essay has just been accepted into the March issue of World Art—I am confident in our ability to put out a highly competitive proposal for the NEH’s Humanities Connections Grant. 

All of this started three years ago, just imagining how I could develop a student-driven research agenda. Now when I’m out walking Fern, I often dream about scaling my student-driven research model in hopes of it one day rivaling some of the most productive research programs available to students. But it’s usually at that point I am brought back to reality—not because it can’t be done, I just need to grab another poop bag for Fern.

- Written by Aaron Martin

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