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Northwestern University Press joins initiative to diversify academic publishing

$1.2 million Mellon grant will fund diversity fellowships at five participating presses

A four-year, $1,205,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been awarded to the University of Washington Press to support the continued development and expansion of the pipeline program designed to diversify academic publishing by offering apprenticeships in acquisitions departments.

This new grant will provide for three annual cycles of editorial fellows at six university presses: Northwestern University Press, the University of Washington Press, the MIT Press, Cornell University Press, the Ohio State University Press and the University of Chicago Press.

This new grant builds on the success of the initial 2016 grant from the Mellon Foundation, which funded the first cross-press initiative of its kind in the United States to address the marked lack of diversity in the academic publishing industry. Graduates of the first fellowship program hold professional positions at university presses across the country, including Columbia University Press, the MIT Press, University of Virginia Press, the Ohio State University Press and the University of Washington Press. Additionally, for the four participating presses, the initial grant expanded applicant pools, improved outreach to underrepresented communities, created more equitable preliminary screening practices in hiring and enabled dedicated attention to diversity, equity and inclusion overall.

“University presses share a responsibility to make both their workforce and publishing output more equitable and inclusive,” said Jane Bunker, director of Northwestern University Press. “We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for the opportunity to become a stronger community of publishers through this fellowship program.”

The 2016 grant also served as a catalyst for broader changes at the partner presses and within the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) as a larger organization.

“Diversity is one of AUPresses’ core values. As such, we are proud to partner in the expansion of this significant program,” said AUPresses Executive Director Peter Berkery. “Our participation in the original initiative over the last three years has led, not only to more inclusive programming choices at our annual conferences and webinars, but also to the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which will evolve into a Standing Committee to help us sustain momentum in this area of vital importance to our community, higher education and the entire publishing industry.”

This new grant offers opportunities for more sustained engagement with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion among the new partner presses and the university press community more broadly.

“Continuing the fellowship program will enable us to focus on longer-term issues of retention and leadership development among the program’s participants,” says Larin McLaughlin, editor in chief of the University of Washington Press and principal investigator on the grant. “With this new grant, we want to provide the opportunity for new presses to participate in the program while benefiting from the experience of the original partner presses.”

Gita Manaktala, editorial director of the MIT Press, said, “The fellows have inspired a strong sense of responsibility among partner presses, which have demonstrated this in several ways: by developing more inclusive press environments, by opening processes to welcome the fellows’ perspectives and input into the daily work of acquisitions, and by providing fellows with focused career advice for job placement and professional development.”

The first and second grants combined provide for a total of 30 fellows in six years, which will generate marked shifts in acquisitions staff across university presses not possible without this kind of dedicated funding.

Jabbar Bennett, associate provost and chief diversity officer at Northwestern University, said, “We at Northwestern University regard differences as strengths. The goals of this grant are perfectly in alignment with that vision, and it is a privilege to participate with other eminent institutions in the quest to achieve our shared goals.”

Angela Ray, associate dean for academic affairs, The Graduate School, and chair of the Northwestern University Press editorial board, said, “Acquisitions editors engage with scholars and select the stories that advance knowledge. A more diverse community of editors can tap into a greater variety of stories and scholarship with greater richness from which all can benefit.”