Our student assistants from Fall 2022—Ivette Rodriguez, Chad Lobo Munteanu, and Murielle LeMaire—reflect on their experiences at the Press below. They joined us for our “Exploring Diverse Stories of America through Humanities Publishing” initiative, part of the Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Our sincere thanks to University of Florida’s African American Studies ProgramCenter for Latin American Studies, and Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere for partnering with us as we build a diverse future for humanities publishing.

Ivette: Working at the Press, I have learned that a book is not just the creative output of a single individual, but the creative and administrative work of a team. It’s impressive how much attention to detail and meticulous organization is required to keep so many projects moving at the same time. I admire how gracefully the marketing team achieves this. Employers in every field, especially publishing, look for a high level of attention to detail and ability to manage multiple tasks involving several coworkers, so these are some of the major skills I will be taking with me.

I have also enjoyed the opportunity to use my academic background and ideas to support meaningful work. As well as developing my ability to create digital content, especially in the humanities, one of my favorite assignments involved creating author Q&As for this blog. As a fellow researcher and lover of writing, it was such a pleasure to open a dialogue with scholars about the inner workings of research and writing and the curiosity for new, often overlooked, knowledge.

For instance, one of the books I worked on, Lacandón Maya in the Twenty-First Century: Indigenous Knowledge and Conservation in Mexico’s Tropical Rainforest by James D. Nations (forthcoming in Fall 2023), highlights the wealth of ecological knowledge the Lacandón Maya community has used to live from the land without harming it. As owners of the largest tropical rainforest in Mexico, Lacandón families have combined ancestral and contemporary ecological knowledge to create sustainable living practices that can serve as a model for other indigenous futures.

As a Caribbean studies scholar, I also significantly learned from and enjoyed helping to organize an informational webinar for the new Caribbean Studies Series. I was thrilled to learn what kind of work and methods of research editors in my field are looking for right now. And I was excited help spread the word about this opportunity for other Caribbean scholars to publish their work.

Academic publishing combines many of my interests and passions—books, of course, but also being part of a team of colleagues that share similar ideals about amplifying diverse voices and areas of study. I am grateful I had this opportunity to learn about the industry, fall in love with it, and gain so many practical skills that have already proven useful in my professional pursuits.   

Ivette Rodriguez is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at the University of Florida, specializing in Caribbean women’s historical fiction. She is the founder of the Caribbean Reading Group at UF and has worked for two years as a content creator for UF’s Digital Library of the Caribbean.

Chad: I was privileged to intern in the Acquisitions Department through a grant provided by the NEH. Quicker than anybody anticipated the fall semester came and went, but over the course of my weeks spent assisting the department I gained a priceless possession: the gift of possibility. Over the course of my time at the Press, I was blessed to receive honest guidance and encouragement and exposure to a wide variety of research and literature. I came here to learn publishing and I did learn a lot about the business—but I learned the most about my own potential and the possibilities that publishing presents.

When you decide to get a degree in the humanities there are two assumptions that the misinformed often make: that you want to be a teacher or you want to be an extremely well-read barista. In contrast, the Press showed me that through publishing there lies a career that is academic without necessarily being strictly in academia. Through observing the work done in acquisitions and by the editors throughout the publishing process, I was able to see a team invested in scholarship that stands out and stands up for minority communities and consistently pushes forward conversations surrounding them.

More so, I learned how much publishing is about cultivating relationships and managing minds, how sometimes the peer review process can be demanding and an editor’s hand has to be steady. All the editors I worked with shared an open mind and a desire to listen and gain perspective from anywhere they could find it. Early on in my internship I was asked for my opinion on a manuscript I didn’t feel strongly on, and I spent most of my day trying to find the words I thought my supervisor would want to hear as opposed to my honest reflections. To my chagrin, I learned that she didn’t feel strongly about the manuscript either. A bunch of half-hearted approval wasn’t what she wanted. What she wanted was my opinion. Through conversation and discussion my true opinion became apparent, and the lesson became clear: my opinion and perspective not only had value at the Press, it was actively being valued. I knew it was empowering because going forward, I felt powerful and I didn’t bite my tongue or hesitate in sharing my thoughts.

I am seeking a degree in literature and a minor in African American studies because my passions and own desires for future research lies in looking at an Afrofuturistic and literary interpretation of hip-hop. Part of the challenge, as I see it, is often convincing people that hip-hop is worthy of scholarship and that Snoop Dogg can fairly be positioned next to William Shakespeare. The first work I read at the Press was a graphic novel, the first of the format to be published by UPF, depicting the life of Tom Petty (forthcoming in Fall 2023). This introduction revealed a character that made me proud to be a part of the organization: they saw value in the unconventional and they saw value in the community they were representing. The chorus of “Won’t Back Down” rang a bit louder at Gator games after that. In my time at the Press, I spent days searching for experts on the margins of medieval literature AND for female and queer reggaetón artists. I read books on Black Panthers and saw pitches involving Spanish television legend astrologer Walter Mercado. As I said before, I came here to gain knowledge in publishing—but the power came from the gift of possibility.

There are a few staff members at the Press that made my internship a rewarding and enriching experience. Romi, who was my first point of contact here; Stephanye and Mary for the research I got to read and the opportunities to give insight well above my qualifications; Carlynn for a constant kindness and unwavering patience in assisting me in my day to day; and Sian for her tremendous mentorship, example, and encouraging spirit.

I would recommend without hesitation an internship with the University Press of Florida. Every day I gained more than I gave and was blessed with colleagues more than willing to share and wish success. My time spent here was short, but the skills and lessons learned will last forever.

Chad Lobo Munteanu is an undergraduate student at the University of Florida pursuing a major in English with a minor in African American studies with research aspirations largely focusing on Black media, specifically music, literature, and sports. A proud native Floridian, born and raised in the County of Dade, Chad is scheduled to receive his BA in English in Fall 2023 and thereafter pursue a post-graduate degree in African American studies.

‘Cascada Mágica,’ El Chaco, Ecuador, June 13, 2022 during thesis fieldwork experience

Murielle: Some of you may recognize my name or picture from blog posts earlier this year. I am Murielle LeMaire, and have had the honor of being a graduate assistant with UPF for two semesters, almost all of 2022. As a master’s student in Latin American studies and tropical conservation and development, I have worked closely with our expansive Latin American and Caribbean studies list. Our newest series, Caribbean Crossroads, has been an exciting venture, and I have gotten to weigh in on proposals, hear from the series editors in the informational webinar, and learn more about the process that goes into planning, implementing, and publishing a new series.

The SHARP NEH grant for the Press has been instrumental in facilitating intern positions like my own, as well as helping us to continue publishing diverse and important works, some of which have garnered acclaim, like The Cuban Sandwich, an exciting foray in Florida Latinx food history and culture. It also allowed us to hold webinars, which are instrumental for Press outreach and allow us to get to hear from scholars themselves. I was particularly excited by the webinar this fall titled “Race, Environment, Culture, and Political Ecology across the Americas.” In my master’s thesis work, political ecology has become an important framework, and I have been especially interested in environmental humanities publications that we have in the works. Political ecology focuses on intersections of ecological and political issues, and is important in studies that focus on human-environment interactions, and can be especially important in Latin American contexts. Scholars in the webinar presented their research topics, opening space for us to hear about thoughtful, intersectional work being done in and about the Caribbean, North, and South America. Webinars are a great way to keep up with research in the fields we publish on, and can also help recruit new authors or topics. 

In my two semesters with the Press, I have learned so much. The practical skills I gained working with the Acquisitions Department will provide me with the opportunity to continue working in the publishing world. I appreciate the efforts university presses make towards bringing diverse voices and histories to print, and it has opened up a world for me to continue to explore. Upcoming books I will be looking forward to seeing include a graphic novel about Tom Petty and the Caribbean Crossroads books.

As an intern, I have been grateful to have weekly discussions with editor-in chief Stephanye Hunter, which have provided me insight on author-editor relationships, the decision-making process for proposals, and management of both lists and series. I have felt like my opinions at UPF really matter, and that my insight on manuscripts has been important. It is truly a team (actually, multi-team) effort at the Press to get a book from submission to print, and varied opinions and voices are always welcomed. For example, acquisitions, editorial, and marketing work together on one of the last steps—deciding on accurate, catchy titles!  

I write this with excitement and sadness, as my time with the Press is coming to an end. I am beyond grateful to the Center for Latin American Studies for facilitating this opportunity, and to the wonderful UPF staff including Romi, Stephanye, Mary, Sian, Marthe, and of course, Carlynn! I am leaving UPF with a new network as well as skills, and a big stack of books.

Murielle LeMaire will complete her master’s degree in Latin American studies with a concentration in tropical conservation and development in May 2023. Her thesis focuses on human-environmental interactions within the border zone of Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, El Chaco, Ecuador. She hopes to go on to work at a university press or an environmental organization following graduation. Murielle is a Gainesville/Micanopy native, puzzle lover, and dog step-mom.

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