Getting experience in your chosen field of study as an undergraduate can have a significant impact on your college career and it can give you an edge when applying for jobs after graduation.
Three student-run publications at Appalachian State University are giving students these opportunities. They are Impulse undergraduate journal for neuroscience, a local version of Her Campus online magazine, and History Matters undergraduate journal of historical research. All have similar goals: to reach out to other students while providing experience in students' chosen fields of study.
IMPULSE is the first international online neuroscience journal for undergraduate research and is managed by Appalachian's Honors College. This is the first year that all three editors have been Appalachian students, as the top editor positions may be held by students from any school.
"It's meant to give undergraduates a head start in scientific research," said executive editor Cori Rogers of Raleigh, a senior biology, pre-med major with a chemistry minor. "It has taught me the importance of procedure. It has also shown me different levels of the review process and has helped me in writing my own papers." Rogers hopes to go to medical school to become a clinical scientist after graduation.
IMPULSE was founded in 2003 by undergraduate students at the University of South Carolina and moved operations to Appalachian in 2009, where a reviewer training site was set up in 2008.
The journal follows procedures typical of an academic journal to give undergraduates an idea of what to expect if they submit papers later on in their careers.
"The point of IMPULSE is to promote undergraduate students in research who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to have their research published," said editor in chief Kate Davison of Oxford, a senior biology major with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary science.
Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis and published as soon as they finish the review process. Each submission chosen for publication is then archived by year. IMPULSE only takes research papers from undergraduate students in an effort to encourage more undergraduates to get involved in research and get a better understanding of what it's like.
IMPULSE gives those who participate as either editors or reviewers skills they can carry on into their chosen professions.
"Particularly, my role as managing editor has given me unique experience that I have not had in other areas such as delegating roles among our editorial and review staff, managing a website, and making international connections with our staff abroad," said Meghan Kusper, a junior cell and molecular biology major from Kannapolis. "It also has given me experience in a professional setting. As a reviewer, I learned how to write scientific papers more efficiently and what to expect from reviewers if I submit a paper for publication."
"I've really learned how the world of science works," said Davison. "I know what happens during the process of getting published, so I have a competitive edge over my peers that may not have gotten an opportunity like this. I've also gained professional communications skills and presentation skills." Davison hopes to attend graduate school in neurophysiology after she finishes her undergraduate work.
Her Campus is an online magazine founded by undergraduate students at Harvard University. It was the winner of the 2009 i3 Innovation Challenge, Harvard's college business plan competition, and is now headquartered in Boston. The content is catered to college women, and students from any college or university can apply for their own site.
Four communications students at Appalachian—Laura Maddox, Jessie Reda, Lena Aloumari and Emily Helm—launched Appalachian's Her Campus website in September. They oversee production of seven different sections: campus celebrity, campus cutie, events, poll, photo blog, news and blog, each with information pertaining specifically to the campus's local area. Appalachian's site includes information about the best places to eat and meet with friends in Boone, shopping, fashion, study tips and more.
"We wanted to create a new escape from schoolwork, instead of just Facebook and Twitter," said Maddox, a junior advertising major from Charlotte. "It's fun and Appalachian women can find information about the best places to eat and shop, where to meet up with friends, crafts, and even different trends around the country."
Appalachian's Her Campus founders have developed skills required for school as well as for a professional career. The most important learned so far? Time management.
"It has also taught me responsibility and patience working with different people," said Helm, a senior public relations major from Greensboro, who hopes to work at a public relations firm or as an event planner after graduation. "It's definitely a resume builder and a great entrepreneurship opportunity."
"I've learned to make decisions based on what's best for the publication, not necessarily what is best for me," said Aloumari, a junior journalism major from Pittsboro. "I'm learning how to operate in a professional setting."
"It's been an ideal opportunity to gain leadership skills," said Reda, a senior communication studies major from Charlotte, whose dream job is to work for E! entertainment network.
The students hope that Appalachian's Her Campus site will continue to grow after they graduate. "We're working on building it up for someone else to continue," said Aloumari.
"Without knowing your history, you can't know where you are or where you're going."
That's the importance of history according to junior history secondary education major Haley Kearns of High Point. Kearns is assistant editor of the online journal History Matters.
History Matters is a student-run undergraduate history journal geared towards allowing undergraduate students to publish their work before graduating. In 2003, then Appalachian freshman Eric Burnette wrote a research paper that he was proud of and wanted to find an outlet to get it published. Due to a lack of venues for publishing undergraduate research, he took it into his own hands. With fellow student Matthew Maines, and the support of one of his professors, Burnette started History Matters: An Undergraduate Journal of Historical Research and published the first issue on April 28, 2004.
The editorial staff takes submissions from universities nationwide throughout each school year until January, and publishes each edition of the journal in May. Eighty-nine submissions were made last year, with six undergraduate research papers and four book reviews published. That number has grown from 2005, when History Matters published only two research papers and five book reviews. So far, 35 submissions have been made this year.
"We're one of only a few undergraduate publications around," said Rose Buchanan, senior editor of submissions. "It's a wonderful thing to be able to say you're published as an undergraduate, because it's just so rare, and History Matters has definitely grown since word has gotten out."
While providing an outlet for undergraduate students to get their work published, History Matters is also used as a starting point for later research. Subjects range from the American Revolution to The Grateful Dead.
"Editing papers for History Matters has allowed me to read about so many different topics," said Evan Jones, senior editor of publications. "I've learned about several things I've never really thought about before."
History Matters has also given them skills for the classroom and their careers.
"It has really helped my own writing in general," said Kearns. "I've learned that you have to have a strong thesis and you have to keep it going throughout the entire paper." Kearns hopes to go on to graduate school and to ultimately become a university professor.
"It can really be used as a resume builder, especially for graduate school applications," said associate editor Margaret Edling. "Professors are really interested in students that have been published, because it's almost a requirement to be published at some point or another as a graduate student or a professor." Edling also has aspirations to be a university professor.
"Helping to publish this journal has made me realize that I have to really make myself stand out," said Buchanan. "I really have to go that extra mile and make whatever I'm writing unique so that it gets more attention." Buchanan hopes to stay within the public history sector, either editing or working in a museum after graduation.