Kairos 16.1 (Fall, 2011)


Julianne Newmark, Xchanges Editor

This website is the creation of a student of mine, Jacoby Boles, who is the Editorial Assistant for the e-journal Xchanges, of which I am editor. Jacoby reflects, via this site, on his experiences as a member of the Technical Communication 371 “Publications Management” course at New Mexico Tech. TC 371, in Fall 2010, was a course explicitly designed to engage students with a unique “client project,” the production of an issue of the online journal Xchanges. Before you move along to Jacoby’s content, I want to give, as an introduction to this site, a brief history of Xchanges and offer an overview of the TC 371 course content and goals. 

In 2010, faculty members in the Technical Communication program at New Mexico Tech decided that integrating a new kind of client project into the existing elective “Publications Management” course would help to further our institutional goals regarding student professionalization and audience awareness. As a faculty member associated with the Technical Communication program and as editor of Xchanges, I was excited about this programmatic direction.

For a decade, I have strongly believed in the mission of the Xchanges journal, which I founded at Wayne State University in 2001. Xchanges’s mission as an electronic-only publication has always been to publish forward-thinking undergraduate research as well as the work of emerging scholars at the graduate level. Since moving the journal to New Mexico Tech with me in 2007, I have worked with students and colleagues to reinvent the journal with a specifically “writing and communication”-oriented focus so that it directly supports our institution’s and TC program’s goals explicitly.

Because of my long-standing investment in the furtherance of undergraduate student research and publication through Xchanges, I was thrilled that the Technical Communication program at New Mexico Tech, and, on a larger level, the Communication, Liberal Arts, and Social Sciences (CLASS) Department also believed in the good work of the journal. This institutional commitment is essential for all of the students nationally who publish in the journal and for the Technical Communication students at New Mexico Tech who have worked, and who will continue to work, on the production of each issue. The “institutionalization” of the journal in 2010 as part of the “Publications Management” class was a positive step forward in the journal’s life, as it indicates that the journal has a recognized pedagogy-support role for our TC program that is an enhancement of and addition to its research-support role for TC students at various institutions nationwide. My colleague Julie Ford and I have addressed this curricular and programmatic integration in a forthcoming article in which we seek to link our work of journal-production as a TC teaching and professionalization tool to previous calls by scholars in the field to develop such efforts, such as those by Blakeslee (2001) and Ford, Bracken, & Wilson (2009) and less recent indications of such needs by those such as Grice (1997) and Olds (1987).

So, in August 2010, TC 371, “Publications Management,” began. The half-dozen students in the class divided themselves into three groups within the first week of the class. During that first week, as the journal editor, I gave the students an overview of the journal’s history and I educated them about the journal’s life in its two years since relocating to New Mexico Tech. The previous journal issue to the one on which these students were working, Issue 6.1, had been produced by a Technical-Communication-major intern during Summer 2009. Prior to that student’s internship, another TC intern had moved all of the Wayne-State-era archives to New Mexico Tech servers and had redesigned the site to signal its “renaissance” since its Wayne State days (for further discussion of these internships, see Ford & Newmark, 2011). The TC 371 students, then, came to understand the journal’s past, its present, and its hoped-for future. It was this future that these TC 371 students were instrumental in pursuing.

The three students groups – web redesign, editing, and promotions/correspondence – began work in week two of the course to strategize their own group’s project plan, which followed upon my meta-level instructions to all groups about what needed to be accomplished by the end of the course in week sixteen. The student groups interfaced with each other, collaboratively determining an overall project management scheme to use so that the whole class could track progress across groups and determine how close – or how far – the class as a whole was from the overall goal: the release of Issue 6.2 of Xchanges, the annual graduate-student research issue. 

Over the previous summer, I had routed all of the graduate-student submissions to members of the Xchanges faculty review board, at institutions across the country, for blind assessment. By week two of the course, I had received these reviews back from the readers and the TC 371 students were ready to take their first steps, which were to return editorial decisions to submitters, to advise accepted writers on the necessary changes that would need to be made to projects prior to publication, to begin redesign work for the Xchanges website so that it would be more administrator- and user-friendly, and to develop a management scheme for the production and maintenance of all of the documents associated with journal administration, promotion, and production. The journal-production tasks with which the students were charged were many. Even so, the TC 371 students also had to perform many other required tasks in the class. They wrote a research report (with an accompanying annotated bibliography) on academic journals in the Technical Communication, Writing, and Rhetoric fields. They participated in guest lectures and Q&A sessions with established journals’ editors (in person and via Skype). They constructed a procedures manual that documented their group’s processes and progress, which was the project with which students concluded the term. Finally, students sat for “exit interviews” with me, the journal editor, in the final days of the semester, to reflect on their experiences as vital contributors to the production of an issue of the Xchanges journal (and as vital contributors to the reimagining of some of Xchanges’s key features, including its very web presence).

What follows on the pages of this website are the insights about and analyses of the course by one of the course’s students, a student who is currently continuing his work for the journal as Editorial Assistant: Jacoby Boles. From a student’s vantage point, this website reveals how well (and whether) the TC 371 course, “Publications Management,” worked to further institutional and programmatic goals, in teaching students via a specific “client project” the nuances and technologies of document design, publication, and dissemination. By reflecting on his own experiences and by putting his own thoughts into conversation with the “exit interview” feedback the editor received from other TC 371 students, Jacoby offers here what only a student can provide: direct commentary on the TC 371 course as a hands-on learning experience for undergraduate students.

Now, let’s hear from Jacoby…