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Notre Dame Press’s Community Imprint: Tales from a “Plus One”

Christopher C. Rios-Sueverkruebbe, University of Notre Dame Press’s 5+1 postdoctoral fellow, represents the Press’s commitment to both the power of ideas and the formation of the next generation of scholars, readers, and thinkers. 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:

Academic publishing as an industry is filled with an array of people from a diversity of backgrounds and interests. If someone were to ask me what quality they share that might explain their chosen career path, I wouldn’t say that it is simply their passion for books. Rather, I would answer that they share a passion for what it is that books do—that is, for the impact they have on their readers. 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. My longstanding interest in the publishing industry and eventually in the postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Notre Dame Press emerged from my early recognition of this extraordinary capacity of books. 

Notre Dame Press’s postdoctoral fellowship, which offers its recipients an exceptional opportunity to learn about all that goes into producing world-opening and horizon-expanding academic and trade books, exemplifies the positive impact that the press has on the campus community at Notre Dame. In this position, fellows acquire hands-on experience in academic publishing each day while working alongside the acquisitions, editorial, production, marketing, and sales teams as they take what begins as a proposal or manuscript and turn it into a successful book with a catchy title, clean text, substantial content, and attractive cover. For my part, I work primarily with the acquisitions department as we develop compelling, discourse-changing books in a variety of fields, including religion, philosophy, Latin American studies, and others. Whether I am assessing manuscripts and book proposals, securing qualified peer reviewers, presenting projects to the editorial board, transmitting projects to manuscript editorial, or acquiring my own titles for select projects, the experience I obtain is comprehensive. That said, I also work closely with the other departments at the press regularly, whether I am copy editing, indexing, or translating for manuscript editorial, readying images for production, or preparing metadata, margin sheets, and promotional copy for marketing and sales. The press’s mission suffuses every aspect of these processes, and it is incredibly meaningful to me to work with colleagues who are so intentional about putting their passion for books and what books 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. The impact this team has had upon me personally and—through the 5+1 postdoctoral fellowship—upon my career in academic publishing is indelible, and it is but one example of the many ways in which Notre Dame Press operates as a force for good on our campus. But its reach extends even further.

As I considered applying for the press’s fellowship in order to pursue my interest in publishing, 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 could best contribute to an impactful and successful career in academic publishing, and in acquisitions specifically. 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 and academic 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 in order 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 impactful, balanced lists that serve a community of readers who represent and respect different backgrounds and beliefs while sharing a common appreciation for intellectual exploration exemplified by books. 

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, impactful, and it is the role of an academic publisher to help bring about such change. Notre Dame Press has been a leader in effecting such change, and I would encourage anyone reading this who has a passion for books—or more precisely, a passion for what it is that books do—to consider supporting the University of Notre Dame Press this Notre Dame Day.

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