An Education in Publishing at the Bucknell University Press
January 17, 2017, BY Samantha Wallace
It was nothing more than a quick study break that led Jennifer Weber '13 to a sudden realization during her sophomore year: Bucknell University had its own scholarly press.
"I was at Bertrand Library and was surprised to see a display featuring new titles from Bucknell University Press," she recalled.
Weber, who wanted to enter the publishing field, knew that involvement with the press on any level would be a benefit to her postgraduate opportunities. However, when she inquired about credit-bearing internships at the University Press, none were available. So Weber reached out to its director, Professor Greg Clingham, English.
"He recognized that some sort of internship at a university press would have value for other students who, like myself, were interested in a publishing job, and he was happy to help try and figure out a solution for me and future students," said Weber, who now works as education project manager for Guilford Press, an academic publishing company based in New York.
Clingham knew that there were students like Weber at Bucknell: those interested in publishing who wanted to obtain credit for yearlong work at the University Press "rather than monetary compensation or financial aid," and a long-term opportunity was one he had long considered. Weber's inquiry finally set the idea into motion, and 2016-17 marks the sixth year of the Cynthia Fell Internship for Undergraduates, a competitive position that introduces students to the field of scholarly publishing.
Bucknell is in prestigious company when it comes to its University Press, Clingham said. It's one of only a handful of liberal arts universities in the country with its own scholarly press — a group that includes Amherst College, Dartmouth College and Wesleyan University — and it's arguably the most eminent, he added.
"We're the oldest of the four and the most substantial, in terms of titles per year we publish and our national and international presence," Clingham said. "We have a powerful profile in what we do."
It's a reputation that's held steady for nearly half a century, an impressive mark for a university that is not research based, unlike the majority of academic presses. Specializing in Luso-Hispanic, Latin American, Irish and 18th-century studies, Bucknell's University Press will celebrate 50 years in 2018.
"Cynthia Fell was the first associate director of Bucknell Press and made an important impact on the shape of the press in its first 20 years," Clingham said. "It is not an exaggeration to say that she ran the press in those years, and was highly instrumental in enabling it to acquire the reputation it did before I took over in 1996."
Practical experience While some internships offer a semester's worth of experience, the Fell internship's yearlong aspect "makes for fuller, all-around exposure for the student, exposure to what we do and what is done in a scholarly publishing cycle," Clingham said. Weber credits the experience with helping to launch her career.
"It showed potential employers that I had a serious interest in the field," she said of her time at the press from 2012-13. "My time there exposed me to the different elements of academic book publishing, and that gave me a strong foundation for moving forward postgraduation."
Interns hold a variety of responsibilities, depending on their personal interests, including proofreading manuscripts, designing book covers and attending meetings of the editorial board. By design, Clingham said, interns "learn a little bit of everything" in order to fully grasp what a career in publishing might entail.
"We have enough to do so that it can be geared toward their interests, if they're the right fit and their interests can align with ours," Clingham said.
He believes the Fell internship has been immensely positive, impressing upon students the importance of in-depth discussion and engagement with particular issues or needs.
"The student becomes a member of our group," he said. "When we're doing something like looking at proposals, we ask them things like, 'What do you think of this book proposal and why? What's strong about it? How can we understand it?' We want their opinions."
That the press has a small team is one of the most positive aspects for Tong Tong '17, this year's intern, an English and comparative humanities major who wants a career in publishing.
"The intern has the opportunity to participate in almost every step in the publishing process," Tong said, including interviewing current authors of books or collections of essays and learning about their process.
"It's a very special and touching moment when I hold the books in my hand and learn about the authors, their devotion in producing and spreading new knowledge and their support to the young scholars," Tong said. "The internship has expanded my horizons."
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