To #KeepUP up with the highest standards of scholarship, an academic press must be committed both to the power of ideas and to forming the next generation of publishers. Christopher C. Rios-Sueverkruebbe, University of Notre Dame Press’s 5+1 postdoctoral fellow, represents its commitment to both. He looks forward to carrying on the Press’s forward-looking dedication to excellence as he pursues an impactful career in academic publishing. He writes about his experience below:
If someone were to ask me what type of person pursues academic publishing as a career, I wouldn’t answer that they are those who simply love books, although without question it is true that many if not most of those in academic publishing have a passion for books. Rather, I would answer that the type of person that pursues academic publishing is one who also has a passion for what it is that books do. Works of fiction or poetry open worlds previously unexperienced, works of nonfiction—especially scholarly nonfiction—expand our horizons of understanding. This was especially made clear to me through books like Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers, Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and Mikel Dufrenne’s The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience and L’Œil et l’Oreille. Books—good books—are transformational: readers can become more of who they are through the pages of the books they read. The opportunity to contribute to the publication of such books is what drew me to the 5+1 postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Notre Dame Press.
Notre Dame’s 5+1 initiative is an outstanding program that enables doctoral graduates to explore various career paths within the academy that are adjacent to the more conventional research/teaching track. My appointment with Notre Dame Press specifically is an exceptional opportunity for me to learn about everything that goes into producing world-opening and horizon-expanding academic and trade books. Each day I acquire hands-on experience in academic publishing working alongside the acquisitions, editorial, production, marketing, and sales teams as they take what begins as a book proposal or manuscript and turn it into a successful volume with a catchy title, clean text, substantial content, and attractive cover. As I interface with each team regularly, I am enhancing my ability to communicate with authors and peer reviewers effectively, to carefully edit and proofread manuscripts in preparation for print, to visualize and implement effective production strategies and schedules, and to plan and execute impactful marketing and sales campaigns for the benefit of our authors, the press, and its readers. The press’s mission suffuses every aspect of the process, and it is incredibly meaningful to me to work with a team that is so intentional about putting their passion for books and what they do into realizing this mission on a daily basis. On a more personal note, they are also a remarkably friendly and generous group of people who have made being a “plus one” nothing but delightful.
When I was applying for the 5+1 fellowship with Notre Dame Press, I was deeply interested in publishing. That said, I wasn’t sure I had the necessary preparation for entering the field, even having participated in peer review and publication processes myself as a scholar. It wasn’t clear to me how my background in music performance, history, classical studies, and historical and systematic theology would help me establish an impactful and successful career in academic publishing. My time at Notre Dame Press and the supportive nature of the team, however, have shown me how well interdisciplinary experience and thinking interlock with publishing. Academic publishing as a whole appreciates the intrinsic value that experience in other fields and disciplines offers to its functioning. Each of my colleagues has unique work backgrounds, and it is rewarding to see how they apply it to their respective roles to the benefit of the press and its authors. My colleague’s familiarity with American studies is just as beneficial for his work in editorial as my other colleague’s background in German is to her work in marketing and sales. Thriving academic presses can only be strengthened by a team with varied experiences. This diversity of perspectives creates a space for the free flow of ideas and constructive discussion that results in the forward-thinking work that publishing houses must produce to keep up with the speed of research today. Indeed, it is this sort of diversity of perspectives that is in part responsible for the high quality of Notre Dame Press’s publications, its consistent output, and its institutional resilience, particularly during a time when many academic presses have experienced marked contraction. I would add to this Notre Dame Press’s admirable commitment to publishing differing perspectives to enrich public discourse and debate. This has led to the publication of a balanced list that serves a community of readers who represent and respect different backgrounds and beliefs while sharing a common appreciation for intellectual exploration.
Academic publishing’s recognition of the value of interdisciplinarity is inseparable from its commitment to gathering diverse voices in the exercise of its critical role within the academy and without. Non-profit academic publishing houses like Notre Dame Press provide a platform for scholars of all stripes to engage in rigorous academic work. They also curate the review and publication processes to bring the best and most transformational research to light, so that our intellectual landscape can change and grow with each new idea in service of the advancement of knowledge. Beyond the academy’s corridors, the books they publish serve as mediums through which readers can engage in civil discussions about diverse topics across spatial and temporal bounds, contributing in that way to the common good. Academic publishing’s responsibilities within and without the academy thus sit alongside its duty to its readers: to inspire critical self-reflection, to champion the power of ideas in the public arena, to help create an informed society, and to bring about positive change in the world. Books are, after all, transformational, and it is the role of an academic publisher to help bring about such change. It has been an immense privilege to be Notre Dame Press’s “plus one,” and I would encourage anyone reading this who has a passion for books—or more importantly, a passion for what it is that books do—to consider pursuing a career in academic publishing.