Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Willamette Bubble by Mary-Gray Mahoney

Being at senior at Willamette University, I have a good grasp on something students call the “Willamette Bubble.” This is a strange phenomenon where we feel as though we are our own community entirely separate from Salem. We aren’t usually engaged with events within Salem, and tend to stick to a very small area around campus.

While this can lead to a bit of “cabin fever” for a lot of students, it also allows us to foster a great sense of student community. Like many colleges, we have a school newspaper, a literary journal, and there has been a movement this year towards starting a peer-reviewed academic journal. Being able to read my peers’ work constantly allows me to expand my own ways of thinking and shape my own writing. While it is not a formal critique group, immersing myself in the literary culture on campus is similar to meeting with a group of community members to discuss what we’re writing. I reflect on my peers’ news pieces and the creative work being produced.

The prospect of an academic journal becoming available for students is particularly exciting for me, since I do not write fiction or poetry. I focus my attention on academic analysis of literature, but am not offered many opportunities to actually publish and get my thoughts out there. Working for Gold Man Publishing has given me a head start towards getting this project started and being a major component in making a Willamette University peer reviewed journal a major part of campus life. There are many other students on campus who are not engaged in creative writing and the thought of having a forum for students to engage critically with one another is extremely exciting. Sometimes the literary life on campus can become focused on the same few people. Since this is a liberal arts school, this focus can be very limiting. By publishing an academic journal, more disciplines can be represented. For instance, I would have loved to take more Anthropology classes during my time at Willamette, but it was simply not possible. If I had been able to turn to a database of student work, I could have gained a huge knowledge of these subjects through my peer’s eyes. It is often easier to engage with material written by a peer than a person of higher academic standing or expertise. While these materials are indeed helpful, the peer engagement fosters the community within Willamette even further.

Though the development of an academic journal will not help the “Willamette Bubble,” it does allow students to expand their education beyond a specific discipline, which is truly the goal of a liberal arts education. Once students graduate, this sense of community may disappear, but students will leave Willamette with an idea of how to engage with a literary/academic community and foster the smaller journals like the Gold Man Review.

Mary-Gray Mahoney is an assistant editor for Gold Man Review. To read more about Mary-Gray go to http://www.goldmanpublishing.com/marygray.html

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