History conference gives students a chance to present

Ben Glick

Students at Grand Valley State University were given a chance to present their research at a first-ever undergraduate research conference on Wednesday.

“This conference is to benefit undergraduates by putting something out for the community that not only have you published, but to present is an important skill if (students) are going to (graduate) school,” said Brandon Piotrzkowski, the general secretary of the Grand Valley Journal of History. “If you have a doctoral thesis in the future, you have to get up in front of peers and argue your ideas. Not only argue, but share.”

The Grand Valley Journal of History, which began in 2011, operates as a class officially designated as HST 410. The purpose of the journal is to give exposure to GVSU’s history majors who do research over a variety of topics across the historical spectrum. This research gives them experience with academic publications that is valuable for furthering their studies in the field.

“We receive submissions from history papers from undergraduates from any subject, major and from other universities,” editor Marcee Wardell said. “Most come from Grand Valley, but we’ve also had submissions from Ball State and other schools in the region.”

Most of the staff are not history majors. The publication attracts students who are interested in writing, editing and journalism careers.

“It’s good for me to see how a journal worked, because if I want to submit scholarly papers, the same process is involved even for different majors,” said Piotrzkowski, who is a physics major.”

This was the first public exhibition for the history journal, and it was organized by assistant editor Evan Smeenge, who wanted to give the journal more recognition in the academic sphere.

“Before this semester, (no one had ever) even heard of the history journal,” Wardell said. “And that sort of translated to one of our goals: to increase awareness of this organization.”

The writers of the top picks from this semester’s submissions were asked to recite their pieces at the conference before a body of the history journal, fellow submitters and other history majors and minors.

“One of the biggest benefits of getting published in the journal is getting your name, your ideas and process out for people to look at and consider professionally,” Piotrzkowski said. “That makes you stand out objectively.”

The selections for this semester’s journal were chosen by a committee composed of all the members of the HST 410 class, who sifted through all the submissions and identified the strongest candidates for publication.

“People submit through an online platform, and papers go out to peer editors where I can view them,” Wardell said. “I try to assign papers that are in the interests of the reviewers. After two weeks of revision, they are sent on to the faculty adviser for review, who sends them back. Based on their choices we make our decision.”

The process has been more frantic this semester as the group received more submissions than was expected based on previous years.

“We’re getting a lot,” Wardell said. “It was slow at the beginning of the semester, but we amped up our public relations and tried to do a lot more with social media and talking to upper-level history classes, and right now we’ve had 17 submissions, which is by far more than any other semester.”

Coming from a maximum of 10 submissions per semester, this was a surprise to the class.

“We definitely have some overflow, but we always welcome more,” Wardell said.

Future events similar to the one held on Wednesday are being planned.

“We hope it will continue in the future,” Wardell said. “I think it’s was successful. It was a good experience and I think people walked away with something here tonight.”

For more information, visit www.scholarworks.gvsu.edu/gvjh.