What’s more important, Wonder Woman’s superpowers or her female friends?
Do you know—truly know—how the springs on your garage door fit into the laws of physics?
Are videos on YouTube normalizing acts of self-injury such as cutting or burning?
All those subjects and many more are discussed in detail on UReCA, the nationwide online journal published by the National Collegiate Honors Council and managed by five undergraduate students in UTC’s Honors College.
While the core of UReCA (Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity) is at UTC, articles for the journal are chosen and edited by a network of other students from colleges and universities across the country. Honors student edit UReCA, but any undergraduate student can submit work to be considered for publication.
“A national board of students came together to further student publications. That’s huge,” says Dr. Linda Frost, dean of the Honors College at UTC.
An annual publication of the National Collegiate Honors Council, UReCA is unique in U.S. higher education.
“We’re the only peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal that’s published by a national organization as opposed to a single university,” Frost says.
Begun in 2016, two issues have been published so far with the next due in November; the current issue contains 19 articles. The magazine only accepts about 25 percent of the pieces submitted “so it’s competitive,” Frost says.
UTC students are involved in all publication aspects of the magazine, which covers the categories of Creative, Humanities, Social/Behavioral Sciences, STEM and Professional/Business. But they also have the extra responsibilities of recruiting new student editors and writers nationwide, figuring out how to publicize UReCA and managing its social media and its website.
In a recent meeting, one of the main points of discussion was searching the country to find more editors, who must be enrolled in honors colleges.
“We had eight last year and our goal this year … we have an aggressive expansion plan that I’m encouraging us all to reach,” says Zeke Starr to the laughter of the others.
“Our goal is to have consistently somewhere around 20 editors,” he continues. “The idea is that, in order to really get enough eyes on everything and not have people overwhelmed, that’s a number that we can really be sustainable with.
Starr adds that the goal is to have more than 200 writing submissions prior to the publication of each issue, so more editors are not just wanted, they’re a necessity.
Names of the writers are not included on the stories so when they’re edited—each story usually is reviewed by at least three students—there’s no chance of someone OK’ing an article simply because the writer is a personal friend.
Despite the fact that UReCA is writing-focused, only two of the UTC students have majors in which writing ability is paramount; Josh Freeman is a creative writing major while William Garrett is in communications. Starr is political science; Grace McPherson majors in computer science; Daniel Ellis is psychology.
McPherson says she enjoys research, so reading scientific essays for UReCA and getting their ideas out to a wider audience appeals to her. “To promote that is what really drew me in,” she says.
“I came because there was a shout-out that web development was involved,” says Ellis. “But it’s a big project; it’s really multifaceted. It’s interesting stuff that we work on, so I just kind of got roped in by that and liked the projects. I do all kinds of stuff.”
In fact, everyone does all kinds of stuff.
“There’s always so much to do at once, it’s hard to give someone a specific job,” says Freeman.
Russell Helms in the UTC Department of English is the editorial manager for UReCA, but says he is “kind of hands-off.”
“The students are great problem solvers and are always ahead of me,” he says.
UTC covers some of UReCA’s annual budget, but $16,000 has been provided each year by the NCHC for its operations. Most of that is mostly spent on a summer trip to Bryce Canyon in Utah. Dubbed BootCamp, it’s a multi-day workshop attended by the journal’s editors from around the country. The goal is for them to meet each other, learn the basics of journal editing, improve their working relationships and develop friendships. The editors’ travel costs are paid by the NCHC.
“We’re all spread out across the country, so it’s good to get together in the same place and get to know each other as a team,” Starr says.
McPherson became a team member in Fall Semester and says listing the skills that a computer science major will take away after working at UReCA is “difficult to narrow down!”
“There are many lessons I will be taking with me into my career, especially in regards to soft skills and team dynamics, but something I would never have gotten out of college without UReCA is understanding the product life cycle and learning how to adapt and improve it each iteration.”