Why is there a need for a publication like Compass?
There is nothing like it. There are journals that publish undergraduate essays – mostly (as far as we are aware) in print and not online. But there are no journals that aim to publish papers by undergraduates that are intellectual contributions to public discourse. American public discourse is at a crossroads, and we want to encourage our young people to participate meaningfully in productive, educated, broad-minded dialogue about important ideas.
How does the educative potential of a journal like Compass relate to the central goals of undergraduate classroom instruction?
One of the major educational benefits of Compass is giving undergraduate students the experience of perfecting a paper. In the regular classroom setting, students usually write a paper, then receive a grade for the paper, and move on. Students never have to consider their work in terms of a wider audience and rarely envision the possibility of publishing. Our editorial process involves working with students to tighten and distill their arguments, and to present these arguments clearly and cleanly to an interested wider readership.
You mentioned that there are existing print publications for showcasing undergraduate work. What are the potential benefits of an online journal like Compass in comparison to these more traditional print outlets?
I think the chief advantage is a wider readership. Articles published in Compass have the potential to reach interested audiences outside of academia. If the articles are interesting and insightful, it won’t matter ultimately that undergraduates are publishing them. They will be read for their inherent merit. There is also the advantage of partnering with Compass Journal, which already has a considerable readership that values discussion of American political ideas in broad contexts.
You make a good point—I think we all have experienced moments when our undergraduates teach us through their insights. And since undergraduate education is the foundation in many ways of what we do as academics, it makes sense to incorporate undergraduates into our community of learning. Any concluding thoughts to share?
I want to encourage undergrads to submit papers to Compass, and hope their professors and mentors offer the same encouragement. We look at submissions on an ongoing basis, and we work with undergraduate authors to streamline term papers into pithy, readable articles. We would love to see perspectives from across disciplinary lines that help us appreciate our youngest scholars’ first forays into intellectual dimensions of American life.