Building your CV with Classics and Crossings

On-campus initiatives include students in academic activities

U of W rhetoric professors Andrew McGillivray (left) and Tracey Whalen are the co-editors of the academic journal Crossings.

Students are often excluded from participating in many of the activities, events and accomplishments that are hallmarks of academic careers as academics themselves. But at the University of Winnipeg (U of W), there are initiatives trying to change that and engage undergraduate and graduate students as academics rather than assistants.

The University of Winnipeg Classics Students Association (UWCSA) is holding its annual colloquium on Jan. 28. While there are many departmental colloquiums held at the U of W that feature student work, the UWCSA is one of the few entirely led by students and the only student-led colloquium that has become an annual event.

This year, the UWCSA colloquium is organized by UWCSA co-consuls Marina Milne and Samantha Frost. Both have been part of the UWCSA since their first year and have memories of attending the colloquium earlier in their degrees.

Ordinarily, students are responsible for advertising the call for papers, reviewing and selecting the papers to be presented, communicating with participants and organizing the food and logistics. While the UWCSA had initially planned to hold the 2022 colloquium in person, it will instead be the event’s second virtual iteration.

Milne says attending the colloquium in her first year of university “felt like a really special experience. It really added to my university experience, because we were such a tight-knit group that was able to do so much together. The colloquium is a big part of that, (and) our trivia night is a big part of that.”

“Usually, the faculty is really excited to attend, as well,” she says. “It’s a big event for our club, even if it’s virtual.”

“I hadn’t realized that other colloquiums aren’t student-led,” Milne says. “This was just something that we came into, but it also lets us get to know the profs really well, which is so great, because the classics department is small but really mighty. We also include the history and anthropology departments, so it’s just a really exciting opportunity to make connections at such an early university level.”

Crossings, an interdisciplinary journal based at the U of W, publishes articles by undergraduate and graduate students. Tracy Whalen and Andrew McGillivray, the current co-editors of the journal, emphasize the importance of providing publication opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students. Whalen and McGillivray are also both professors in the rhetoric department.

McGillivray points out that, as a professor, he benefits from getting to read essays with new perspectives and approaches by undergraduates. “But I’m the only one benefitting as a reader from those essays,” he says. “I think part of the mission (of the journal) is bringing undergraduate and graduate essays to a larger audience.”

The journal is “designed to acknowledge and circulate some really superlative work that was going on in our classes,” Whalen says. “Sometimes professors will read these really amazing papers that really warrant a larger readership, and this gives students who maybe would never otherwise have an opportunity or access to a published venue to see their fine work in publication.”

“A lot of these papers are important and timely,” she says. “These are papers that engage with identity, climate change, representation, BIPOC writing and scholarship, discourse around power and even more of what you might think of as classically oriented scholarship in literary critique and classics.”

Milne says the younger scholars who contribute to the UWSCA colloquium also tend to focus more on “minority groups, women, LGBTQ+, putting spotlight on those who would historically have (had less research attention) in academic settings” in their submissions.

The publication also provides firsthand experience with the peer-review process, as every article goes under an editorial and review process from academics with relevant expertise at the U of W. An interdisciplinary approach also allows students to get a glimpse at what’s going on in other departments and how it might relate to their own academic interests.

Crossings has published an annual journal since 2017 and is in the early development stage of its sixth volume. The first four were primarily edited by Jane Barter, with the others co-edited by Barter and Jenny Heijun Wills, but the Crossings editorial team also includes additional editors from different disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

McGillivray says one benefit of publishing student work is that it provides students with “something extending beyond the end of the course.”

“Often there’s a term paper in the humanities or social sciences that’s graded, perhaps with comments depending on the course and the content, and that’s the endpoint – completing the course components to get a grade,” he says.

“This provides the opportunity for students who have done exceptional work to develop that paper, to refine it further based on not only comments they may have received from their instructor but editorial and peer-review comments, as well,” he says. “It gives that piece of writing a new life beyond the classroom.”

Developing scholarship outside of a classroom model can also help students consider their work from new perspectives.

“There’s a lot at stake when a student is composing a final paper that might be at the top of their mind, including the grade (and) the student’s relationship with the instructor,” McGillivray says. “Publishing for a public audience has a whole different set of factors at stake entering that public discourse, perhaps less practical in terms of ‘is this paper going to get me the grade I need for this course.’ There’s something different about publishing for a general audience.”

Whalen says the process of revising and editing an essay for a wider academic audience can also be empowering for students and push them further in their approach to writing about their research.

“Sometimes undergrad students might have two people read their work, but this requires imagining a wider readership, and that can be very empowering,” she says. “They’re contributing in new and novel ways, that they’re making new knowledge claims, that their ideas are shared and get uptake.”

Whalen further emphasizes that this process shows students the value of their work and gives students more time to develop their ideas and insights. Students get to sit with their work and take the time to push their insights further, and the resulting articles become contributions to a larger collective volume.

“You occupy the practice of a published scholar, and I think there’s a change in ethos when you go through this process,” she says. “I think it can really boost confidence.”

Crossings can also publish articles in any language taught at the university. So far, they have published in English and French, but Whalen says they would like to publish Ojibway scholarship in the future.

Submissions to Crossings Volume 6 are due on Jan. 31, 2022.

Published in Volume 76, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 20, 2022)

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