Story by Barry McNamara / Photo by Kent Kriegshauser  |  Published June 10, 2024

MJUR-y Update

New issue of Monmouth’s Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research now in print.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The Illinois educator shortage – an issue that Monmouth College is taking an active role in trying to solve – is just one of the topics addressed in the new edition of the College’s Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research, which is now available in print.

Among its 10 accepted papers, the 15th issue of the annual, interdisciplinary publication also includes research on humanitarian aid in Haiti, runaway youths, abortion and the 2022 midterm elections, and creative placemaking in St. Paul, Minnesota.

MICHAEL SOLONTOI: For the first time, the physics professor served as the coordinating advisor for the Midwest Journal of U... MICHAEL SOLONTOI: For the first time, the physics professor served as the coordinating advisor for the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research. The latter article is so cross-disciplinary that it’s hard to classify – and that’s OK, said MJUR’s coordinating adviser Michael Solontoi, a physics professor at the College.

“That’s one of the great things about MJUR – it’s not a topical journal,” he said.

Minnesota is the leader among colleges and universities represented in this issue, with submissions accepted by the MJUR editors from Macalester College, St. Olaf College and the University of St. Thomas. The Illinois educator submission, written by Western Illinois University student Elizabeth Orwig, was one of two from the state, and Canada was also represented, with a paper from a student at the University of British Columbia. Submissions were received from as far away as Indonesia.

The student editors

May graduates Tyler Houck and Larissa Pothoven served as co-lead editors of this year’s edition.

“To finally say it’s in print is a relief,” said Houck. “It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work,” by eight other students on the editorial board, 13 faculty members on the advisory board and other contributors.

Check out this year’s MJUR issue.

Pothoven fulfilled the second half of her duties from Scotland while studying at the University of Stirling.

MJUR is one of the things that drew me to Monmouth,” said the English and history major. “I’m reading disciplines I wouldn’t normally get to read.”

“The faculty and the school really prioritize the interdisciplinary aspect of the journal,” said Houck. “They make a real effort to seek out diversity of thought and background with the submissions.”

“I’m proud of how MJUR has evolved and stayed strong all four years, and it’s helped me do that, as well. Every year, I’ve had more of a voice in how the process has gone, and I’ve learned to be more confident in my opinion.” – Tyler Houck

Houck has been a member of MJUR’s staff since his freshman year, interviewing for a position with the journal when he participated in Scholarship Day as a prospective student.

“I’m proud of how MJUR has evolved and stayed strong all four years, and it’s helped me do that, as well,” he said. “Every year, I’ve had more of a voice in how the process has gone, and I’ve learned to be more confident in my opinion.”

Solontoi said that MJUR has a strong reputation among prospective students.

“I’ve been doing summer registration for incoming students for the past few years, and a surprisingly large number of students have listed the opportunity to interact with MJUR as something they see as a positive here at Monmouth College,” he said. “It’s definitely well-known, and it’s a neat opportunity for them.”

An accounting and business major, Houck was able to do a type of work he didn’t see in the classroom.

“Even though my major doesn’t align with producing a journal, it’s caught people’s attention on the job interviews I’ve had,” he said. “When they ask, ‘How do you deal with conflict and working with other people?,’ I can point to my time with MJUR and the team effort required to put it out.”

Looking ahead to next year, Pothoven was thrilled that the journal has already received six submissions for its 16th issue. On a personal level, she’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in museum studies at Western Illinois University’s Quad Cities campus. A return to Scotland to work in a museum is not out of the question.

Houck, who is studying for a portion of the certified public accountant examination, will begin an audit associate position at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago this fall.

The coordinating advisor

Solontoi, who joined Monmouth’s faculty in 2018, was overseeing his first MJUR.

“It was very rewarding,” he said. “It was very much what I was expecting, but a lot more juggling of things that I hadn’t necessarily expected. I had a great group of folks working with me. Really, it’s on them – they got the journal out this year. It’s pretty exciting to see it sitting on my desk right now.”

“It’s a student-run journal. They edit it. They make the decisions on which articles go in. They review each and every article we receive. … They take control and possession of each of these articles.” – Michael Solontoi

Solontoi credited Monmouth’s students for their exemplary work.

“It’s a student-run journal,” he said. “They edit it. They make the decisions on which articles go in. They review each and every article we receive, in addition to the faculty review. They take control and possession of each of these articles and work with the author to make any changes that are needed. My main role is to keep things organized and on track and keep our student editors pointed in the right direction.”

Like Houck and Pothoven, Solontoi heard about MJUR before he became a regular presence on campus.

“I’m really excited to be part of this. It was a big thing that drew me to the College when I was looking for a place to work,” said Solontoi. “I got involved with it, and I was overjoyed to be given this opportunity.”

Listen Up …

On the “Monmouth College Conversations” podcast, MJUR coordinating adviser Michael Solontoi and co-lead editors Tyler Houck ’24 and Larissa Pothoven ’24 discuss MJUR’s 15th edition.

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