University's First Undergrad Research Journal Set to Debut
By Stephen Gawlik
The University's scholarly community will have a new, and youthful, voice starting next month with the inaugural issue of Elements, the first-ever undergraduate research journal of Boston College.
The first issue to be produced by the staff of 20 undergrads will feature nine student research papers covering such topics as the poetry of Stephane Mallarme, teen pregnancy, mental health among Asians, and European currency and oil prices. Many of the papers are the fruit of projects that began as coursework, while others were the result of research study grants won by the students earlier in their college careers.
"BC is comprised of so many undergraduates doing excellent research and we know Elements will be reflective of that," said editor-in-chief Greg Wiles '06.
Wiles said the journal is meant to cover all fields, but the first issue will be heavily slanted toward topics from disciplines represented in the College of Arts and Sciences.
"Next time we will have to work a little harder to get submissions from the business, nursing and education schools," said Wiles.
Some 40 papers were submitted for consideration, said Wiles, and the Elements staff has been busy all semester reviewing, editing and selecting the best ones for publication. Wiles says the nine papers appearing in the debut issue were accepted for their clarity and subject matter.
"It had to be something that was accessible to undergraduates. There was an important balance to maintain between readability and credibility. If we don't understand it, it's likely that some of our fellow undergraduates won't either."
Wiles said the goal of the publication is to become a forum for the exchange of original ideas within and across disciplines at the University.
"It's something that was really needed on this campus," said Wiles, an economics major in the A&S Honors Program from Englewood, Col. "Research is essential to one's intellectual development and it's important for a university to have a showcase for that."
The origin of Elements was due in some part to good timing, according to its creators. Wiles said he was interested in working on an undergraduate research journal when he first came to BC two years ago. At around that time, Boston College Fellowship Committee Director Prof. Donald Hafner (Political Science) was discussing with other BC administrators the possibility of creating such a publication. Hafner finally launched the project last summer.
"What pushed the idea of the journal along recently has been BC's own Advanced Study Grant program, which underscored what all of us had been seeing - that with encouragement and support, our undergraduates are capable of truly exceptional research work," said Hafner, who credits Office of Marketing Communication Executive Director Ben Birnbaum for his efforts to get the publication under way.
"So arranging a publication in which their accomplishments could be presented to a larger audience, on campus and off, seemed a natural next step."
Knowing of Wiles' interest, Hafner asked him to apply for the job as the journal's inaugural editor, and he was selected from a field of 12 applicants.
Elements was designed in conjunction with the staff of the Office of Marketing Communications, which publishes Boston College Magazine. The new publication will feature attractive graphics and include a page of biographies for each author. An on-line version will be available at www.bc.edu/elements.
"It would stand to reason that because there are so many faculty publishing really outstanding research here at BC, that so many of our outstanding students would be interested in publishing as well. It's synergy," said A&S Honors Program Director Mark O'Connor, who serves as an advisor to the staff of Elements. "This is a great group of students and they have worked very, very hard."
The journal has the financial and technical support of many faculty and administrators across the University, said O'Connor, who credits A&S Dean Joseph Quinn and Associate Dean Barbara Viechnicki, among others, for their help.
O'Connor said few universities have undergraduate-published research journals, citing Stanford University and Northwestern University as examples. Copies of Elements will be sent to those institutions in exchange for their publications, he noted.
Said Hafner, "The future success of Elements will depend upon a conviction by the students that this is 'their' journal and that they must recruit and train their own replacements for the staff. In exchange for doing all the hard labor, Greg and his staff will be fully entitled to all the praise that Elements earns."