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Honors College undergrads relaunch old journal with new tech

  • Innovation and Research
  • Students
  • David C. Frederick Honors College

A student-led journal that highlights undergraduate research and creative endeavors returns to Pitt after nearly a decade dormant.

The newest edition of the Pittsburgh Undergraduate Review (PUR), sponsored by the University Honors College, was released in August and is already calling for research, creative writing, reviews and visual arts submissions for its next issue.

At the helm of the editorial board is Editor-in-Chief Chenming Zheng.

“I am excited to provide students with a platform to showcase their work with faculty," said Zheng, a senior studying molecular biology with a minor in philosophy. “The PUR is a great opportunity to share and celebrate achievements here at Pitt."

Launched in the ’80s, PUR was designed as "a vehicle through which undergraduates could contribute to the academic community." 

The relaunch continues a legacy of scholarship with articles on gender perceptions in children with disabilities, political opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic and capturing discomfort on the theater stage, among other subjects.

Advisor Brett Say, who is also director of research and creative programs in the Honors College, said he views PUR as a means of fostering connection and unity among undergraduates — especially during the transition back to campus.

“Among the editorial board, it built a community,” said Say, of collaborating on the journal remotely. “For students who submitted and got their first articles in this issue, I think it gave them a goal and created this sense of community and accomplishment while they were stuck in the house. I’m hoping that continues.”

While PUR is currently only accepting submissions from Honors College students, Zheng envisions the journal soon having a broader reach.

"I hope that PUR will expand submission opportunities to students outside of affiliations with the Honors College, keep growing and become a well-respected undergraduate journal," Zheng said.  

Say also aims to involve more students from different disciplines.

It's not someone's professor grading their paper; it's their colleagues conducting peer reviews,” he said.The board manages this process, writes about complex topics and produces articles that are graduate-level or better."

Early on, Say encouraged the editorial board to make PUR their own, assuring they could simultaneously honor the publication’s history in the process. To do so, the new team engaged alums and previous PUR editors, Guy Molinari (A&S '83) and Anna Quider (A&S '07), for guidance throughout the revival process.

For Zheng, the combination of encouragement and autonomy has enabled a great team dynamic among board members and provided each with a sense of ownership.

As a result, our board is very open; everyone can contribute their ideas and participate in the decision-making,” she said.

The past brought forth

This latest version of PUR is unlike its predecessor because it has partnered with the University Library System (ULS) to promote broader circulation and engagement.

"The Pittsburgh Undergraduate Review is part of a new program we've instituted called Library Hosted Publication, which called for adjustments to our more stringent selection criteria for our primary program," said Vanessa Gabler, electronic publications manager at ULS. "We created that new programming model because we want a home for these amazing publications and very dedicated student editors and peer reviewers where they can showcase their work and learn skills for publishing in the process.”

The new program helps journal staff learn publishing tools and software and maintains partnerships with journals, students, faculty and staff both affiliated and not affiliated with the university.

"The first step for us in helping our partners make their journals more easily accessible and discoverable is the publishing platform we provide," said Gabler. The platform's open-source software "promotes the discoverability of any of the content published on that platform. From there, we facilitate discovery, communication layers, and what can be done with that data and how it can be shared."

Already PUR has seen benefits of the ULS partnership.

"The staff at Hillman, particularly Lauren Collister and the Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing, have been wonderful at providing support and training for the platform that makes the journal open and accessible to all," said Say.

Lauren, director of the Office of Scholarly Communication & Publishing within the ULS, said she’s proud of their ability to deliver.

"We're really excited to support all kinds of new and innovative publishing projects here at Pitt, and [PUR] is an example of the things we're happy to make a reality," says Collister.

With new students, technology, support and vision, PUR is off to a strong start.

We have a new generation of students continuing tradition,” Say said.


— Kara Henderson