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A Look Back at Almost 20 Years of the Journal


YSW has been publishing the research of undergraduate students for almost two decades now. In fact, later this month, the journal will start accepting submissions for its 20th volume. For the duration of its run, the journal has always put the undergraduates and their research first. While there are certain guidelines put in place, the goal of YSW has never been to try and stifle any type of research or topics undergraduates attempt to push forward. Ever since Volume 1, previous editors, such as Laurie Grobam and Candace Spigelman, have believed that “YSW is a place where undergraduates have the opportunity to publish their research.” This idea has not changed over the years, rather they have simply improved on that statement. What is amazing about YSW’s history is the undergraduates in the publication. Each year, the research undergraduates do are grounded in our society, and many use rhetoric to show and express some sort of social justice. Matthew Bunce, an undergraduate, wrote a research article in 2003’s publication of Volume 1, “Online Texts, Online Identities: Designated Free Space or a Space Constrained?” Within this research article, Bunce discusses the rhetoric of the usage bias of the internet. Bunce’s research focuses on an underlying concern in society that arose in 2003 and interestingly enough, looking back this has been a concern that has grown in prevalence over the years. Fast forward to today, in Volume 18 Megan Kelley wrote an article about the rhetoric of digital abortion storytelling and how this helps in pushing forward the feminist movement. YSW wishes to be a venue for undergraduates, like Bunce and Kelley, to share their research on topics that both matter to them and can make an impact in society.

Over the years, YSW has had several institutional homes with editorial teams that each had a specific vision for the journal. At the start back in 2003, Grobam and Spigelman of Penn State University - Berks believed “research can and should be a crucial component of rhetorical education” and  “that  undergraduates engaged in research about writing and rhetoric should have opportunities to publish their work.” In 2005’s publication of Volume 3, Grobam took over as lead editor, and in her Editor’s Introduction, she states “Continuing the Young Scholars in Writing tradition of excellent scholarship, the articles in Volume 3 offer significant insights while addressing a variety of issues.” In 2010’s publication of Volume 7, Jane Greer from the University of Missouri-Kansa City, found it fitting to start her Guest Editor’s Introduction with 3 stanzas from Marge Piercy’s poem titled To Be of Use as “a celebration of work.” In the poem, there is a metaphor between how a pitcher lives for water to carry, and alongside those same lines, a person lives for work that is real and that they can be proud of—on both sides, it’s their purpose. Greer uses this analogy in the context of YSW and how it proudly presents the work of its undergraduates who have undertaken “real” work and this is YSW’s way “To Be of Use.” Greer operated as the lead editor until 2016 when Volume 13 was published with Doug Downs from Montana State University as lead editor. Around this time was when the Young Scholars in Writing’s website began taking off and this volume is the first volume to feature a designed cover. Downs has worked and been a part of the YSW Editorial Board since 2005, but in his first volume as lead editor, he discusses how he’s writing it just a day after a Chicago rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and how it was canceled in fear of a potentially “violent clash between his supporters and protesters.” He uses this tidbit to set up the scene for this volume as he states that “As it happens, not only does every article in this year’s volume carry on the tradition of scholarly troublemaking via critical inquiry and disputation, but our first three articles (as well as the closing First Year Spotlight article) commemorate and analyze public discourses of dissent specifically.” He is elaborating on an earlier point on how YSW wishes to be a venue for undergraduates to publish research on topics that matter to them, and in the world, and has the potential to instill change; Downs believes that that year’s publication was another example of the journal being packed with change-inducing articles.

Flash forward to today where Volume 19 is just months away from being published, and the editorial team of Emily Murphy Cope, Gabriel Cutrufello, and Kim Fahle Peck from York College of Pennsylvania continue to push forward and fulfill the mission of promoting the “Young Scholars.” Since their takeover for Volume 18 in 2020, they have articulated that their goals are to “demonstrate our commitment to achieving two goals in particular: 1) situating Young Scholars in Writing (YSW) as a teaching and learning resource to a wide range of students beyond just those who have the opportunity to publish in its pages, and 2) better representing the methodological diversity of writing studies in the articles we publish.” They continue to push forward and progress in the values established by previous editors through steps such as running social media accounts to reach out to undergraduates around the globe; operating a website that features both a blog and archives to previous volumes; engaging a  number of students from a variety of institutions to help out with the journal; bringing in a production editor, Travis Kurowski, who works with students on the visual design or the journal and choosing appropropriate cover images; working to become more truly an “international” journal, and even interviewing incoming undergraduates who are set to be published to showcase who these researchers are.

The YSW journal has come a long way in these past 18 years, only one can imagine how far it will be in another 18 years!


Blog post by: Kameron Cherry and Jalil Dixon. Cherry is a YSW Intern and senior at York College of PA, expected to graduate in May 2022, with a major in Professional Writing and Literary and Textual Studies. Dixon is a YSW Intern and junior at York College of PA, expected to graduate in May 2023, with a major in Professional Writing.