Barry McNamara  |  Published May 17, 2016


Monmouth College publishes sixth edition of Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research
Jade Luthy '16 (left) and Anna Schnerre '16 (right), student editors for MJUR, hand out copies of the 2016 issue at Monmouth's Scholars D...
Jade Luthy ’16 (left) and Anna Schnerre ’16 (right), student editors for MJUR, hand out copies of the 2016 issue at Monmouth’s Scholars Day activities.

Over the last six years, Monmouth College has emerged as a leading voice in undergraduate research. A big reason for that is the creation of the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research, which is housed at the college.

The journal, which was part of a series of seven academic initiatives Monmouth launched in 2010, recently published its sixth edition.

In addition to providing Monmouth students a unique opportunity to work in academic publishing, the journal also showcases outstanding undergraduate research.

“Monmouth is one of only a handful of liberal arts colleges that hosts a national, multidisciplinary journal edited by students,” said associate professor of history Fred Witzig, who is a founding faculty member of the journal. “This kind of experience is exceedingly rare for undergraduate students.”

Unlike other undergraduate journals, which are run by a board of faculty and a staff of graduate students, the MJUR gives undergraduate students opportunities to be involved.

Ten Monmouth students served on the editorial board of the 2016 edition. (The board will be expanded to a dozen next year.) The students, who are paid for their work, average 4-5 hours per week, with the start of the spring semester being the busiest time.

“Our deadline this year was Jan. 15,” said sociology professor Judi Kessler, who is also a founding faculty member of the MJUR. “Forty to 45 percent of the submissions arrive in the last 15 days.”

MJUR staff members are then under their own deadline, working diligently to ensure that a hard copy of the journal is available by the College’s Scholars Day in late April.

The 2016 edition attracted 44 submissions. Seven were published, which were written by nine students from five colleges and universities.

Kessler expects the number of submissions to be even higher next year, as 19 have already been received. She credits that growth, in part, to Monmouth’s participation at this spring’s Undergraduate Research Conference in North Carolina, where she and Isaac Willis ’18 of Morton, Ill., manned a MJUR booth.

MJUR submissions are put through what Kessler called a “double-blind review” – the reviewers don’t know the identity of the work’s author, and the author is not told who reviewed the work.

“We go to great pains to enforce that,” said Kessler. “Anything from Monmouth College that shows up in the journal, it’s earned its place.”

This year, two of the seven accepted submissions were written by Monmouth students: “The Third Place Experience in Urban and Rural Coffee Shops” by Kelci Foss ’18 of Mount Morris, Ill., and Stephanie Saey ’18 of Galesburg, Ill.; and “Towards a New Lexicon of Fear: A Quantitative and Grammatical Analysis of ‘Pertismiscere’ in Cicero” by Emma Vanderpool ’17 of Frankfort, Ill.

Other institutions represented in the edition were Macalester College, Drake University, Carleton College and Coe College.

Kessler explained that publishing a journal includes more than simply choosing the featured submissions and editing the copy. Responsibilities also include coordinating the issue, managing submissions, formatting the publication, publicity to attract future submissions and budgeting.

Each year has seen important developments in streamlining the overall process. Also important was last year’s determination that a bequest from the estate of Louise Pyle Ruble ’37 would be devoted to an endowment to support MJUR.

The journal has helped make Monmouth synonymous with undergraduate research. As one college professor noted in an email to Kessler, “Monmouth’s dedication to undergraduate research is very impressive.”

That dedication will be on display even more so next spring when Monmouth serves as the host institution for the next Undergraduate Research Conference. Slated for April 21-22, 2017, the conference is open to students from all colleges and universities. Kessler said journal staff will be actively involved in the conference’s development.   More information is available at the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research.

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