Around this time last year, I was sitting in Professor Anna Habib’s office in the Writing Center, having one of our first discussions about the state of the journal. At one point during our meeting Professor Habib asked me what I saw my role with the journal as. Up to that point I had had no experience with publishing, copy editing, printing, or design. I could not tell you what printing specs were, what a mock up was, what went into a submission contract, or that we would even need a contract for submission.
But what I did know at that point and still maintain is this: Undergraduates at Mason are regularly participating in inquiry-based projects and assignments, with or for faculty, that produce excellent end products, which more often than not go unnoticed. The role I saw for myself initially then was someone who would help bring energy to the idea that the undergraduate student body deserved a platform to showcase their work with the thinking that this would then create a feedback loop.
I thought that, as students saw the journal and learned about the projects getting published, a process of enculturation to scholarship and excitement (or at least mere curiosity) about scholarship would occur. I knew that students who are excited about or interested in scholarship are also students who are engaged in the classroom, a reality that leads to an active learning environment.
A month before the fall semester started, Professor Habib rephrased her question; she said, “Paula, do you want to be Editor-in-chief.” Now, I am no editor and I am certainly no chief. I am a facilitator of ideas, an entrepreneur of energy. I see where the ideas are or could be and infuse them with momentum. I hesitated at the proposition, knowing that I, the idea person, would be put to the test with the reality of running a publication. But, obviously, Professor Habib does not take no for an answer.
The process of redeveloping the journal began with the initial purpose of taking an undergraduate journal and transforming it to the undergraduate journal for showcasing student scholarship. Once the Editorial Board was in place and we began discussions over the mission of the journal, it became apparent that the GMR would serve a second purpose.
Through a collaborative effort of brainstorm and debate we decided that the journal would seek works that were innovative–or as our Assistant Editor Justin Voigt put it–works that re-visioned scholarship. After all, innovation is tradition at GMU, and what better way to reflect the mission of the university then to publish works that speak to that mission. Working from our mission statement, we spent the last semester running the journal as if it were a start-up. We pitched our ideas, developed policies and procedures, defined our brand, image, and content criteria, and conducted outreach.
We did all of this because of the vision we have for The George Mason Review. We see the potential for the journal to become a showpiece for the Mason community, as well as an established prestigious institution within the Mason community, as an undergraduate-run journal that publishes excellent work.
Volume 20 of The George Mason Review lays the groundwork for our stated vision above. The collection of content chosen for publication in both print and online embodies the notion that what makes a work academic can and should be defined in many ways. As you read through the journal, take note that we have consciously allowed poetry, creative nonfiction, social science research and mathematical modeling to inhabit the pages of this journal. We do so to challenge the boundaries of academia, not by discounting traditional academic work, but rather by broadening what can be considered traditional academic work.
The process of producing the journal has been both a challenging and rewarding experience. I and the Editorial Board would like to acknowledge and give special thanks to the faculty advisers of the journal, Drs. Terry Zawacki (English and Writing Across the Curriculum) and Lynne Constantine (School of Art). Their support was integral to the successful production of the journal. Thank you to Dr. Born for his contribution of the guest essay, and thank you as well to the Peer Reviewers. Finally, thank you to the submitters for making this process possible and to you, our audience, for engaging in this discussion of scholarship by reading this journal.