Unique course produces academic journal

by Mary Isca Pirkola

Undergraduate students are accustomed to writing essays and research papers, but not many expect to see their work published in an academic journal. That opportunity is growing at Grand Valley, thanks to one of the newest student-run publications.

The Grand Valley Journal of History was established by the History Department as a special topics course taught by Jeremiah Cataldo, center.

The Grand Valley Journal of History was established by the History Department as a special topics course, taught by Jeremiah Cataldo, assistant professor of history in the Honors College. Each semester the 10 class members make up the journals editorial staff. The first volume, including issues 1-2, was published last year.

It is a high-impact class where the students learn the entire process, from soliciting articles and peer review, to publishing and marketing, said Cataldo. My role is to facilitate the process as a mentor and resource. In addition to my involvement, the academic expertise of a faculty review board is utilized during the editing process.

Cataldo stressed that both the class and journal are open to students from any discipline. The first journal class members made the decision to use a broad scope, giving consideration to any works with a historical context or theme. Articles have ranged from capitalism and the science of history to the successful integration of Buddhism with Chinese culture.

The journal gives all students another way to explore the past, no matter their field of study, and recognizes the cross-disciplinary nature of historical study in general, said Cataldo. This encourages a broad reach in both submissions and readership.

Hollie McDonald, a senior from Novi with a double major in English and history, serves as the current editor-in-chief. Every submitted article is read by a team of two students and a faculty expert following the same established criteria of guidelines, she said. A double-blind review process ensures no possible influence from knowing the names of authors or editors until a final decision is made.

Ayra Ghiasvand, a senior international relations major from Iran, serves as assistant editor. He and McDonald meet with Cataldo each week to decide what specific tasks need to be tackled during the next class meeting.

I do a lot of writing in my own classes and enjoy history, said Ghiasvand. This class has also given me the opportunity to become involved in marketing and work in a leadership position with the class as we generate ideas and reach a consensus on where to best focus our promotional efforts.

Andrew Smith is a senior marketing major from Grand Rapids and was a member of the editorial team that produced the journals first volume. He enrolled in the course again this year because of the unique experience it affords him. This year he is working on a video and trailer to help promote the journal on Facebook and YouTube.

The Grand Valley Journal of History has already enjoyed readership in the thousands, thanks in part to its availability online as one of more than a dozen student publications included in the University Libraries ScholarWorks database. Software that uses search engine optimization enhances opportunities for content to be discovered from anywhere in the world. ScholarWorks also supplies journal authors with statistics on how many viewers downloaded their article and what search words were used to find it.

Overall, marketing efforts have paid off with increased submissions to the journal for Volume 2, Issue 1, published in December. The class hopes to publish another issue at the end of spring semester.

We are always looking for ways to improve the publication, said McDonald. One example is that we have increased our efforts to encourage student article submissions by reaching out to deans at every four-year college in Michigan. One surprising result was a request from Saginaw Valley State University to learn more about our class in hopes of emulating the experience for their students.

Learn more about the Grand Valley Journal of History by visiting Scholarworks, or by sending an email to

Page last modified February 19, 2013