Rice undergrads launch Rice Historical Review

A little over a year ago, two then-junior history majors, Mary Charlotte Carroll and Rachel Landsman, sat together in a classroom on the third floor of the Humanities Building and discussed ways to more widely share their classmates’ historical research with the Rice community. Last month Carroll and Landsman, together with five of their peers, published the inaugural issue of the Rice Historical Review, a student-run, open-access journal featuring historically focused papers written by Rice undergrads.

The members of the Rice Historical Review editorial board presented the journal at an April 26 launch party: from left, Christina Hahn, Monica Melendez, Mary Charlotte Carroll, Ephraim Griffith, Rachel Landsman, Roger Liang, Katie Beiter and faculty adviser Lisa Spiro.

The members of the Rice Historical Review editorial board presented the journal at an April 26 launch party: from left, Christina Hahn, Monica Melendez, Mary Charlotte Carroll, Ephraim Griffith, Rachel Landsman, Roger Liang, Katie Beiter and faculty adviser Lisa Spiro.

“We wanted it (the journal) to be an opportunity for students to learn the publishing process as well,” said Carroll, who served as co-editor-in-chief with Landsman. “It has two ends. On the one hand, we’re sharing the scholarship with the community. On the other, we’re also learning about copy editing and peer review and footnotes, and all of these different things that go into in making what you see right now.”

The journal, a letter-sized blue paperback spanning 62 pages, invites readers to explore essays that range from “The Blockade of Leningrad and the Mixed Results of Sovietization” by Dane Burrough, a Hanszen College graduating senior majoring in history, to “Preserving the Spirit of National Parks: The U.S. Army in Yellowstone” by Tim Wang, a Hanszen College junior majoring in biochemistry and cell biology and history. Fifteen essays were submitted; five were selected.

In addition to McMurtry College residents Carroll and Landsman, other members of the journal’s editorial board were Ephraim Griffith, a McMurtry College junior majoring in history who served as managing editor and will be editor-in-chief in the upcoming academic year; Christina Hahn, a Brown College junior majoring in history and political science who served as director of publishing and will return in that role; Katie Beiter, a Jones College senior majoring in history who served as director of copy editing; Roger Liang, a Hanszen College junior majoring in history and biochemistry and cell biology who served as assistant managing editor and will be managing editor; and Monica Melendez, a Brown College graduating senior majoring in history and Latin American studies who served as director of media and technology.

The students were supported in their efforts by Lisa Balabanlilar, associate professor of history and director of undergraduate studies in history, whom Carroll and Landsman first approached about creating a space for students to share their historical scholarship; Lisa Spiro, executive director of digital scholarship services at Fondren Library; and History Department Chair Alida Metcalf, the Harris Masterson Jr. Professor of History. Spiro served as faculty adviser to the students over the course of a special class offered in the fall and spring semesters, which introduced them to the art and science of journal publishing, from articulating a mission and forming an editorial board to making a formal call for submissions and instituting a review process.

Christina Hahn, a Brown College junior majoring in history and political science, served as director of publishing and designed the journal. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Christina Hahn, a Brown College junior majoring in history and political science, served as director of publishing and designed the journal. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

“This group worked extremely hard,” said Spiro, who earned her bachelor’s degree in English and history from Rice in 1992. “They thought through the core questions and confronted a range of different challenges. They managed to work through the complex process of launching a journal and of publishing a quality first issue in an amazing way. And these are all really busy people who are involved in other campus initiatives and in their own academic work as well. They had a complementary set of talents, from writing to copy editing to art and design to managing ‘stuff,’ and it all just worked really well together.”

Balabanlilar commended the students’ efforts. “We had in the past occasionally toyed with the idea of a journal that would publish the best of our undergraduate research, but at Rice it is student initiative and student leadership that really makes things run,” she said. “I think a common misperception is that historians emphasize memorization of names and dates. What we really do is explore and contextualize the human experience. The Rice Historical Review now gives our majors a platform to showcase their research, and I think people will be surprised by the depth and thoughtfulness of their work, as well as the wide variety of subjects represented by the really diverse faculty in the History Department. And I really hope it encourages people who are interested in doing work that is independent, intellectually exciting and creative to take some classes with us in history.”

Contrary to what one might think, finding a name for the journal was not a simple task; it was a process that consumed more than an entire class period, as a group of editorial board members recalled laughingly over a conversation at Brochstein Pavilion recently. “We had several pages of possible names,” Landsman said. “We settled on one that we thought was sort of classic and timeless, and no matter who is leading the editorial board and who is running the journal in the future, Rice Historical Review will work and there will be no question on ‘Why did they choose that name?’”

Hard copies of the journal are available in the History Department, located in Room 326 of the Humanities Building. It can also be accessed online at www.ricehistoricalreview.org.

The creation of the journal was sponsored by Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership, the Dr. Bill Wilson Student Initiative Grant, the Department of History and Fondren Library.
Rice Historical Review will accept submissions on a rolling basis between late November and mid-January. For more information about the journal or submitting a paper, visit www.ricehistoricalreview.org

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.