Welcome MPub Cohort of 2014

September 09, 2014

Last Tuesday Publishing@SFU welcomed the 20th cohort of MPubbers to the Master of Publishing program. Not only are the students new, so are some of the faculty. Indeed, a whole bunch of things are new.

This fall, the Publishing Program at SFU enters a phase of major renewal. We have a new faculty complement—John Maxwell, Roberto Dosil, Monique Sherrett, Juan Pablo Alperin, Scott Steedman and Shannon Emmerson—some of whom are new to the Masters Program, others new to SFU, and that brings a lot of new energy to the program.

Industry members and MPub alumni may notice that this year is the first year the Publishing Program will be running without its founding director, Rowland Lorimer. Rowly, who founded this program back in the late 80s, early 90s, designed it to strike a balance between rigorous research-based graduate study and hands-on, industry-engaged practice. The success of the program over the past two decades is very much due to his vision, and that balance. Rowly is on sabbatical this year, leading to his official retirement in 2015.

John Maxwell is the new Program Director. He has been with the program for a dozen years and is actually a product of the MPub program. John was a graduate of the very first cohort way back in 1995.

In his welcome message to students, John said the following:

"Publishing was a different beast back then. Much has changed.

"The world today, in 2014, is a much more exciting and interesting time to be studying publishing.

"What we are witnessing today is nothing less than the very infrastructure of modern democratic culture in tumultuous evolution, on its way to its next phase.

"If you ask me, there is no more interesting place to be in the world than right here. No more interesting time to be here. The world of publishing is in revolution; we will shortly witness which parts of it are destroyed, and which parts remain.

"Better, you are positioned to have a hand in it.

"Congratulations on a good choice! Congratulations on being here!"

The new faculty and students are all eager to get underway. For those readers unfamiliar with MPub, students spend two classroom terms at SFU—September to December, and January to April—doing a combination of practical, lab-based courses; seminars, and project courses in which they create things; make things. It's a heavy workload, and each cohort goes through it all together.

The following summer, students participate in an internship at an industry placement. During the internship term, each student must define and conduct a research project on, and on behalf of, the internship host. Students conduct original research: a piece of description and analysis of how things actually work. Or perhaps how they should.

In the fall following the internship, students draw the research up into a formal project report. It's like a masters thesis but a little shorter, more practical, and there is no thesis defense. There is, however, a supervisory committee of 3: two from the Publishing@SFU faculty, and one industry supervisor.

If all goes well, by next Christmas, this year's cohort will have completed all the requirements and be able to put those sought-after little letters after their names: MPub

More important, the program will change them and challenge them in unique ways. They will know vastly more than they do now. They will have experienced things, and accomplished things that are not even dreamed of today. They will have met a lot of fantastic industry professionals, and they will have a practical, working sense of what publishing is really about, and what matters.

By the end of the program, this year's cohort will know enough, and know enough people, that each can forge a career in the field of publishing---whether that's by landing a job in an existing publishing company, or by starting their own, or by doing something else that nobody's thought of yet.

As John eloquently put it in his welcome message to the students:

"You will become—you are already, really, by virtue of sitting here this morning—part of a network of MPub people, who are shot through the publishing industries in Canada and even around the world. More than two hundred alumni, you will find them in every corner of the publishing world.

"Those people are your family now; they have been through what you are about to undertake. There's a certain rite of passage element to this (and you'll understand especially when you get into the Book Publishing Project towards Christmas) that binds all MPubbers together."

One of the program's many strengths is its ability to introduce students to alumni and industry guests over the eight months of in situ time, as well as the core faculty it draws. Briefly:

  • Roberto Dosil (MPub 1998 and multi-award winning book designer) is and has been one of the core faculty for 7 or 8 years.
  • Monique Sherrett (MPub 1997 and leading marketing consultant to Canadian publishers) has taught in the program before and is joining the core faculty this year.
  • Juan Pablo Alperin (fresh out of doctoral work at Stanford) is a new member of the core faculty this year.
  • Scott Steedman (professional editor) has taught in the undergraduate program, and joins the faculty to take over the editorial course from Mary Schendlinger, who retires this fall.
  • Shannon Emmerson (who runs Forge & Spark Media) is back for another year to teach the periodical publishing project.
  • Jo-Anne Ray (program manager) is the extraordinary woman who has the last word.

So, with this faculty—and with the MPub cohort of 2014—Publishing@SFU begins a new chapter in this program's history.