The Journal of Integrated Studies

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Reasons why we have a peer-reviewed graduate journal at AU staffed by MAIS students and open to any graduate student writer on the planet

Reinekke Lengelle, PhD (Faculty coordinator for JIS)

When I did my master’s degree twenty years ago, we learned about communication, policy development, power relations, and research methodology. We learned what social scientists aim to do: study humans, build good theory, and perhaps even translate what we learn into practical programs. We had a student publication back then in the Pedagogy department – we were eager to articulate and share our ideas. I wrote book reviews and short articles and we printed our little booklet at the university’s press service using bright-coloured card stock for our covers. We distributed it freely to fellow students.

We were proud of our small 15-page quarterly publication and met in our spare time to discuss new themes and cover art. But when we scheduled an appointment with an approachable professor from our department to ask for his feedback and ideas, he made a disparaging remark and asked us to bring him a cup of coffee. Maybe he was having a bad day. Didn’t he know a little encouragement, a little constructive criticism, and some of his own publishing experience would have meant a lot to us? We didn’t have the Internet in those days and email was just up and coming; a database with access to academic journals hardly imaginable. We had no budget and most of our fellow students were too busy studying and raising families to consider joining in. While we brought him his coffee, our efforts dried up.

Not surprisingly, most of us left the university with little publishing experience. I was an eager writer, but only much later learned what peer-review publishing was really about and what it had to offer my thinking and work as an academic. In hindsight, I see that what my university sorely lacked, Athabasca University – in particular MAIS directors – had the vision to start: a peer-reviewed graduate journal run by students for students.

We started the Journal of Integrated Studies about six years ago and have been publishing students’ articles, narratives, poetry, artwork, and book reviews using the peer-review process since 2010. MAIS student volunteers serve as reviewers, editors, proofreaders, layout experts, and copy editors. Our budget is modest, but our ‘human resources’ motivated and constantly learning. The quality of the work published is not only the result of inspired and hard-working authors (all graduate students) but the joint work of authors and reviewers and editors who provide feedback to help shape the pieces. Submitted ‘drafts’ become well-written, thoughtful, and interesting articles – many go through a series of drafts before publication. Narratives and poems become polished pieces. Art is juried and artists are given feedback. A conversation about ethics is alive and well (e.g., can we publish this family photo? Why or why not? What permission do we need to get first?).

Work that might otherwise have been abandoned in earlier stages becomes publishable and published and graduate students gain reviewing, editing, and communication skills while working in a ‘virtual’ team. Students from across the country meet by phone to envision next steps and create manuals for the different roles and processes.

Besides the acquisition and integration of new knowledge and perspectives and the ability to write papers, graduate learning and teaching involves the ability to reach new audiences and present our ideas so they become accessible to a wider readership. That said, graduate learning is not only about becoming a peer in the academic world, but also about being a peer to our colleagues – a worldwide ‘group’ of researchers and intellectuals that are essentially committed to learning, teaching, and yes, improving the lives of real people.

The Journal of Integrated Studies aims to contribute to the growth of graduate students, first for MAIS students and then for any other graduate student who would like to submit a piece that fits within the JIS mandate (i.e., integrated/interdisciplinary work from the humanities and social sciences). Personally, I hope that the process of working and publishing with us does more than help future academics survive in a ‘publish or perish’ world, but that it indeed contributes to teaching and learning that allows academics and those they inspire to be nourished and thrive.

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Note: MAIS volunteers or students who have taken a course with MAIS and understand the integrated focus of the journal may volunteer with us. Any graduate student can submit work to us.

We are currently looking for volunteers to fill the role of assistant editor. For those interested, please send a current CV and 200-300 words about why you’d like to work with us to