Remember that paper you wrote for history class? You know, the one you worked your ass off writing and the hard work paid off with a good grade, but now the paper sits in a stack of old work in the bottom drawer of your desk. Well, you have the opportunity to see that work published in an academic journal strictly for undergraduates by entering the Michigan State University Undergraduate Historian.
The Historian is the brain-child of the History Association of Michigan State, better known as HAMS. The journal will be a collection of 10-15 student works to be published in early April 2005.
“The vast majority of history material published at universities of course comes from professionals,” said Nate Cummings, the editor-in-chief of the Historian. “And this journal is something that will give non-professionals a chance to get their work out there and read.”
Undergraduate history journals are not common at universities. “I can not stress the uniqueness of an undergraduate history journal,” HAMS president Jeff Kersten said. “[The rarity of it] makes this journal a trendsetter and thus unique and important. Potentially the MSU Undergraduate Historian could stimulate broadly increase interest in history, plus it could attract a larger pool of passionate students that will serve as tomorrow’s historians.”
The benefits to getting published as an undergraduate are huge. It looks great on all resumes, especially if you are applying to grad school. Interested students should submit their papers to 301 Morrill Hall by Dec. 10, 2004. There will also be a spring submission deadline on Feb. 10, 2005, but students are strongly recommended to submit early. Essays need to be double-spaced and in 12 point Times New Roman. A paper copy of the essay and a digital copy in disk form are necessary, in addition to a submission form which can be downloaded from the journal’s website, There is no limit to the amount of papers you can submit; and the submission does not have to be an essay. A book review, an interview with a historian, or anything related to history is acceptable.
Once turned in, the papers will be reviewed by a group of peer editors and a board of editors. The board of editors, in addition to the editor-in-chief, will determine which quality papers will be published. Those papers will then be given to faculty members for review and then go back to the writer for revisions.
The cooperation between the students and faculty will continue to make MSU a better learning environment. The process of publication will bring faculty and students together as they work side-by-side. “We think it is something that will bring a greater sense of community to the history department,” Cummings said. “Like most other departments at MSU, there is often too great of a separation between professors and undergraduate students. This isn’t the fault of the professors or of the students either. But we think that by allowing students and professors to work together on a collective project, this journal will help bridge this small divide.”
I can speak from personal experience when I say that one of the defining things about this journal is the dedication of its members. As a member of the board of editors, I have seen how passionate these people are about making this work for the good of MSU and HAMS. All involved are committed to making this project work.
Vast amounts of hard work have already gone into the development portion of the journal. “A lot of hours have gone into researching how a journal is edited and put together,” Kersten said. Another task was establishing a staff to work on the project and develop the technical process. The staff organized and outlined the itinerary for the journal. The major challenge to overcome in order for the journal to succeed was funding, Cummings said. Fortunately, the History Department faculty has pledged full support to the project. The department is granting HAMS the money to publish the journal, which is a very generous donation. “Publishing is not a cheap business, and we were pretty worried that we wouldn’t have enough money to publish an appropriate number of journals,” he said. “But the journal staff is a great group of hard workers and deep thinkers, and we never gave up on the project.” Kersten said the next challenge the Historian faces is getting the word out. E-mails have been sent and presentations will be made to classes as the first deadline comes closer.
Hoping the word will get out and the journal will be a success, Cummings wants to see the Historian become a permanent yearly activity for HAMS and history students. “I want to give something back to an organization that’s been such an important part of my life here at MSU,” he said. “It is also important to me because, as a history major, I feel a desire to make some sort of contribution to the history department before I graduate.”
HAMS is a relatively young organization as it was created in 2002. Many of the students who founded it, like Cummings and Kersten, are still involved in the association and have a strong desire to see the journal become a success for HAMS. “This is important for HAMS because it leaves a wonderful legacy and tradition that HAMS members can be proud of, as well as lays the foundation for future HAMS endeavors,” Kersten said.
In addition to the Historian, HAMS also has a variety of other activities. The organization sponsors faculty member lectures, plans field trips, graduate school panels, round table discussions, and social activities. Upcoming events include a lecture from Dr. Rosentretter on Nov. 30 about Michigan History Magazine and a HAMS field trip to Meridian Historical Village on Nov. 20. You do not have to be a history major to participate in HAMS or the Historian.
Digging up that old history paper that you’re still proud of and submitting it to the Historian isn’t too bad an idea. You just might get published, and as an undergraduate student, that’s quite an honor. You could be a part of something that “will display the talent and hard work of many of its undergraduate students,” Cummings said. “MSU is known nationally for its great undergraduate programs, and this journal will contribute to that reputation by demonstrating the academic excellence of its student body.”

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