Work at the speed of the body and don’t manage professionals: Celebrating ten years of the Journal of Integrated Studies
The 10th-anniversary edition of the Journal of Integrated Studies (JIS) was published in December 2020. This blog is based on the 10th anniversary editorial of that issue. The JIS is produced by Athabasca University (AU) graduate student volunteers, and Dr. Lengelle serves as their faculty coordinator.
All good writing involves rewriting, and as academics, we know that excellent writing requires the accompaniment of peers who care enough to critique our work. As scholars, we continue to hone our craft and clarify our thinking in the process of submitting our work to journals, receiving comments from reviewers and editors, parking our egos usefully on receipt of that feedback, and ultimately experiencing the joys of sharing our work.
These tasks and the learning they imbue are precisely what the JIS provides graduate students within the MAIS program and beyond. All AU graduate students can volunteer with us, while we allow interdisciplinary-focused submissions from graduate students all over the world. Some students stay on with us after graduation and help train other graduate students who come to volunteer with us, and everyone involved learn the submission side and the production side of the peer-review process.
As an online journal, in addition to the tasks already mentioned, our 30-plus student volunteers from across Canada—and even some outside Canada—produce the journal within Open Journal Software (OJS). They deal with the technical side, and also run into the all-too-familiar challenges of this academic work: too few reviewers, author hesitation to revise, well-meaning writerly procrastination, and the occasional ornery author.
In my role as faculty coordinator, I’ve worked with hundreds of such willing volunteers. We have produced at least one issue each year, despite my own extremely limited digital-publishing skills. JIS editors are up to the task and anything they don’t yet know, they figure out.
My job is to keep an eye on the big picture, ensure our policies and procedures reflect our professional approach, update announcements, create a sense of connection between all of us, bring inspiration (I hope!), appreciate efforts made, recognize needs, and clear any obstacles that students may face. My approach is characterized by what Dutch management guru Mathieu Weggeman in 2014 called “stepping back in order to move forward.”
In a 2015 book on how to work with professionals, Weggeman summarizes his message in these succinct, and simplistic-sounding terms: “So, how do you manage professionals? You don’t!” This insight confirmed for me the way that I can best support JIS work is to respect the ability and autonomy of these developing professionals. I am most useful to the team by anticipating needs, voicing these, and asking editors whether my hunches are correct.
I work with the intention of applying no pressure; I know that the group I am dealing with are intrinsically motivated learners. The journal is theirs and its success depends on their leadership. I am aware of the dangers of volunteers taking on too much, so I try to anticipate the gaps and recruit on demand. As important as deadlines are in publishing, people are more important. There are too many volunteers to thank and feature; so many have made such significant contributions over the years.
History and purpose of the Journal of Integrated Studies
A handful of enthusiastic graduate-student volunteers and I started the journal in 2010 with generous assistance of Shubhash Wasti, IT Systems Coordinator for AU Press. He knew how to set up OJS for us, and the editors taught themselves how to use the software.
The idea behind the journal was to create a space where students within the Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) could showcase their work. Professors noticed the interesting and promising work that came out of course assignments and in early MAIS meetings, faculty would say, “where might students showcase this work”?
The idea of starting JIS was also to give the students the experience of producing a journal so that those continuing in academia would have that skill under their belt to do so. The journal has created a sense of belonging among students, both in relation to their peers as well as the university.
Over the years we’ve created a reviewer document, guides for editors, assistant editors, and copyediting, and held several writing contests. We’ve “trained” hundreds of students to strengthen their writing and editing skills.
Thank you to Dr. Mike Gismondi, Dr. Derek Briton, Derek Stovin, and early MAIS faculty for birthing the idea and to all the volunteers over the years.
- Weggeman, M. C. D. P., & Hoedemakers, C. (2014). Managing professionals? Don’t!: how to step back to go forward: a continental European perspective. Warden Press.
- Weggeman, M. (2015). Essenties van Leidinggeven aan Professionals: Hoe je door een stap terug te doen, beter vooruit komt. Scriptum.