Leading the Pack: Georgia College starts nationwide undergraduate journal

Leading the Pack: Georgia College starts nationwide undergraduate journal

Georgia College's inaugural "Undergraduate Research" journal with cover art by senior Joshua Worthy.
Georgia College's inaugural "Undergraduate Research" journal with cover art by senior Joshua Worthy.
S cholars with impressive projects from prominent schools all over the country vied recently for a spot in a new academic journal based on undergraduate research.

Kind of neat, then, that this new research journal came from Georgia College—a small public liberal arts school with about 6,000 undergraduates. In fact, Google “undergraduate research,” and you’ll likely to find Georgia College in the top pickings.

“More and more, colleges are going to start integrating and trying to grow their undergraduate research programs and start seeing the value of undergraduate research, and we’ve just got such a great head start,” said Dr. Jordan Cofer, associate provost for Transformative Learning Experiences.

“What we’re seeing is we’re a leader in this area,” he said. “We’ve got a national reputation for doing great work both internally and externally.”

This month marked publication of the first edition of “Undergraduate Research,” founded at Georgia College and put together by two Georgia College assistant professors: Dr. Kelly Massey in Exercise Science and Dr. Alesa Liles in Criminal Justice. Three other faculty served as associate editors: Cofer; Dr. Doreen Sams, professor of Marketing; and Dr. Kasey Karen, assistant professor of Biology.

The 174-page magazine showcases research by students in their freshman, sophomore, junior or senior years of college. The journal is free and one of few in the nation to highlight undergraduate work in all disciplines.

Back cover art by junior Mary Douberly.
Back cover art by junior Mary Douberly.
The cover and back artwork are by two Georgia College art majors. The front, by senior Joshua Worthy, is an “intaglio print” of a wolf wearing a mask. The back, by junior Mary Douberly, is a “multi plate color intaglio etching” of intertwining snakes.

Fifteen Georgia College faculty signed up to review research projects. Each submission was given a “blind review” by two academic scholars before decisions were made on what to include. This means reviewers saw content only—not which student or school it came from. Reviewers worldwide came from schools like the New York Institute of Technology; University of California, Berkley; University of South Africa; Notre Dame of Maryland University; and the University of Wisconsin.

The editorial board had members from distinguished schools, as well, and representatives from CUR (Council on Undergraduate Research) and the AACU (American Association of Colleges & Universities).

Out of 45 submissions, only six—about 13 percent—were accepted. To compare, 60 to 70 percent of all applicants are accepted to undergraduate research conferences and just less than half are admitted to the annual “Posters on the Capital” exhibit.

“Our publication rate was harder than most journals,” Cofer said. “It was pretty selective. I think that makes the journal more prestigious. It just means you’re getting a better quality of work.”

There are some disciplinary journals for one university or on one topic. But we wanted to be an undergraduate research journal for all disciplines, so any student can submit. Our hope is it will continue to grow; it’ll start to gain some prestige and draw attention to the work we’re doing here,
– Dr. Jordan Cofer
The six submissions came from a variety of schools like the University of Virginia College at Wise, University of North Carolina, Columbus State University and Middlebury College. Topics ranged from the effects of parental relationships on academic success and music education to reflections from 1st-Century Christianity and Chicano identity.

Diversity of topics from multiple disciplines is what makes Georgia College’s publication special.

“There are some disciplinary journals for one university or on one topic. But we wanted to be an undergraduate research journal for all disciplines, so any student can submit,” Cofer said. “Our hope is it will continue to grow; it’ll start to gain some prestige and draw attention to the work we’re doing here.”

Undergraduate research at Georgia College.
Undergraduate research at Georgia College.

In the front of the journal, there’s a section called “About Georgia College,” which describes the university as a place “where practical education meets life-altering, real-world experiences.” There’s a letter from Dr. Costas Spirou, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, who called undergraduate research “transformative” and a “central focus” at Georgia College.

Georgia College has made yet another mark in undergraduate research and has become a force to reckon with.
– Dr. Kelly Massey
At back, there’s an ad for earning graduate degrees at Georgia College. There’s also the website link: www.undergraduateresearch.org, where a digital copy of the journal will soon be housed.

Massey called the first issue a “great success” and especially thanked the university's administrators, faculty and Brooks Hinton, Print Shop manager and lead graphic designer, “for making sure the journal is a shining example of the greatest that is Georgia College. In just six months, Georgia College has made yet another mark in undergraduate research and has become a force to reckon with.”

Plans are ambitious to publish Georgia College’s “Undergraduate Research” journal twice a year. Editions were mailed to schools throughout the United States—with an introductory letter from President Steve Dorman—and copies given to each reviewer and student submitter.

Posters at the Capitol, 2019.
Posters at the Capitol, 2019.
This is just one of many efforts to highlight undergraduate research on campus. There’s already an internal undergraduate conference and internal undergraduate journal. Georgia College helps host the statewide undergraduate research conference, as well, and founded “Posters at the Capitol,” a research exhibit by undergraduates from around the state before legislators.

“There aren’t a lot of schools that are expanding in the area of undergraduate research. Especially right now, everyone’s tightening the belt,” Cofer said, “But we’re putting in the resources here, and we’ve invested, so I really think it’ll continue to pay off.”

Long-term, this’ll be a nice boost, and I think it’ll draw attention to the work we do. It shows we’re really committed to undergraduate research at Georgia College.
– Dr. Jordan Cofer