About a dozen student-run journals operate as a part of UAlberta’s Library Publishing Program, which supports open access publishing using the open-source platform, OJS (Open Journal Systems). These journals are edited by students, and feature the work of hundreds of student researchers from a variety of disciplines.
One of these journals is Axis Mundi: A Journal of Religious Studies. Axis Mundi is an online journal edited and maintained by Religious Studies graduate students at the University of Alberta, and affiliated with UAlberta’s Religious Studies Graduate Students Society (RSGSS). The publication accepts contributions from students in any year of study—undergraduate and graduate—from universities and colleges across North America.
We interviewed Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson, a PhD student in Religious Studies and of one of Axis Mundi’s editors, to learn more about this publication!
Autumn, thanks for agreeing to chat with us! Tell Us About Axis Mundi.
Axis Mundi is a graduate student journal of religious studies here at the University of Alberta. It’s been around since the early-2000s but has tended to have periods of dormancy as people came and went from the Religious Studies program. Right now, we’re working on getting it back up and running again, after a years-long hiatus. Religious studies is an interdisciplinary field so we publish quite widely. The secular, academic study of religion can be done within many fields such as anthropology, history, sociology, psychology, etc. We’ll review and publish work from any field that addresses the topic of religion. Though we’re a graduate journal, we accept work from undergraduates and independent scholars as well.
How Did You First Get Involved With Student Journals?
My own involvement with Axis Mundi came about when a friend in the department said that the journal was looking for a new editor. She knew that I loved publishing, from the writer’s point-of-view, and asked if I’d be interested. I immediately knew I wanted to do it! I’ve been a writer, both freelance and academic, for a few years and was considering publishing as a career. Working on Axis Mundi was a great way to see the publishing world from the other side. I did have to convince Melody (Everest Harkema) to agree to co-edit, since she held an insane amount of institutional knowledge from having worked on the journal previously and, thankfully, she agreed. UAlberta librarian David Sulz has also been instrumental in getting the journal back on its feet. David decided that the project of resurrection (Religious Studies pun intended!) was interesting enough that he became something of an editor, as well; helping us to understand the platform we use for publishing our journal, as well as giving guidance from a librarian’s and user’s point of view. Basically, I’m pretty sure we have the best team out there. It also helps that the library’s publishing group has been by our side since day one, running us step by step through the backend of the journal interface.
What Has Been Your Biggest Challenge?
The biggest challenge for me, personally, has been the aesthetic side of “starting” a journal. I’m design-challenged, to put it mildly. I’m a former librarian so I like writing journal policy, etc., but when it came to making a logo or having input about the design of our site, I was completely lost. It helped quite a bit to have the library publishing team walking us through some of the things we might want to consider when designing our site.
What Would You Tell Other Students?
I think it’s important for new journals, or even students just thinking about starting a new journal, to identify their supports early on. Find a faculty member who would be supportive of the project and get in touch with library publishing early on. I was really amazed at how much support there was for student journals. Whether it was simply OJS hosting, or detailed meetings about design, library publishing was on the ball.
I also think it’s important to identify other students who may want to help. This seems like a no-brainer but it’s harder than you think. People are busy. But, more than that, I think it’s a good thing for a journal to have more than one editor. We have three. It does make it a little harder to reach consensus, and scheduling meetings can be tough, but it has been invaluable both to me, and the process, to have input from my co-editors. Our journal reflects the multiplicity of strengths we each bring to it. Don’t be afraid of conflict or disagreement. That’s how the good stuff gets done.