Travel Grant Recipients Reflect on AUPresses 2022 Annual Meeting, Part 3

Observations from Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Grant Recipients

The Association of University Presses was pleased to award a number of grants to support attendance at its Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, this summer. Equity, Justice, and Inclusion (EJI) Grants, covering meeting registration fees as well as up to $1,000 in travel expenses, were awarded to seven attendees who each identify as a member of an underrepresented group within the Association.

Grant recipients Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, Cindy Lim, Wren Morgan Myers, and Khelee Williams offered the following brief descriptions of their experiences.

Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, Director of Publishing, University of Guam Press

Attending the AUPresses Annual Meeting was transformative and inspirational for me on many fronts. I appreciated the opportunity to meet directors from other presses and learn about their work and their commitment to continuing to grow and do better. I found the Directors’ Meeting and “Leadership with Dignity” training especially enlightening and enjoyed unpacking the idea of treating others with dignity in the context of the work we do in our presses. I also really enjoyed the breakfast space created for BIPOC members to talk about our work and how we engage our communities. This type of space allowed us to share more deeply and make lasting connections. The sessions about peer review, problematic titles, open access, and book banning were especially informative and I have already begun applying a lot of what I learned to the work we do here at University of Guam Press. Since this was my first time attending an AUPresses conference and meeting folks from other presses, I felt rejuvenated and affirmed. Guam is so far away and in a time zone that makes it difficult to meet others doing similar work or to learn about best practices, so I look forward to continuing to learn from other AUPresses members and to attending next year’s meeting. 

Cindy Lim, Editorial Assistant, Stanford University Press

It was amazing to witness the university press community in full swing, hear amazing speakers, and meet people from different presses at the AUPresses Annual Meeting—all within the liveliness of Washington, DC! As a first-time attendee and early-career individual, I found the experience to be incredibly rewarding in terms of my own professional development, and I hope to be able to have the opportunity to attend in-person again in the future.

Throughout the conference, I attended multiple panels and collaboration labs focusing on the diversity, equity, and inclusivity issues that persist within academic publishing, as well as those that focused on building professional networks. During the networking sessions, I got to meet other early-career individuals (especially those with similar job titles) and learn about the different ways that our experiences intersect. I appreciated the conference’s commitment for providing spaces for early- and mid-career staff. While there were many important takeaways throughout, many of the sessions demonstrated how issues surrounding equity, diversity, and inclusivity can lurk unnoticed within our systems, and how those inequities can (and will) build over time if left unchecked. This lesson was particularly highlighted in panels such as “Are You the Problem?,” “Equity in Peer Review,” and “Improving HR Classification, Compensation, and Career Pathways for University Press Staff.” It was eye-opening to hear from these panelists and learn about how even something as seemingly inconsequential as a job title in HR systems can be a root to large-scale issues like pay inequities and under-representation. As someone who is still relatively early in my career, I found it incredibly empowering to be able to discuss these topics so openly and broadly with my peers. In a time where it’s increasingly important to reevaluate the systems we have in place and hold space for new perspectives, the conference’s themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) could not have been more timely, and I hope to use these valuable lessons from the conference to pinpoint and tackle these issues within my own publishing career.

Wren Morgan Myers, Senior Project Editor, University of Virginia Press

My most important take-away from AUPresses 2022 was the opportunity to connect conversations happening at my own press with wider conversations taking place across the university press community. Looking at the conference program, I was excited to see how many of the panels and keynotes addressed questions of diversity, equity, and inclusion as they impact both publishing programs and press staffs. During the conference itself, I was impressed with the candor with which many of the panelists and speakers confronted the challenges facing academic publishing in these areas.

In 2021 the University of Virginia Press (UVAP) took part in the AUPresses EJI Committee’s pilot demographic survey, which led to my participation in a panel discussing that pilot at the conference. The panel gave me a wonderful chance to meet some of the EJI Committee members and to learn new strategies to improve UVAP’s data collection program from them and from members of the audience. Other panels addressed the related issue of accessibility as well as the frustrations facing early- and mid-career publishing professionals around compensation, workload, and advancement.

In particular, the panel “Are You the Problem?: How to Grow Diversity through Equity, Justice, and Inclusion” drew a strong connection between DEI issues and these problems of workplace structure and climate: If we want to increase the diversity of our staffs, we must make sure that the workplaces into which we invite marginalized people will reward their participation justly and give them a chance to stay and grow. As a participant in another panel noted, this also applies to the freelancers upon whom editorial, design, and production departments rely and who should be considered part of the university press community.

As Anjali Vats’ closing plenary made clear, addressing these issues effectively will require seriously rethinking what we do, and the structures within which we do it, in fundamental ways. Conversations like the ones at the AUPresses 2022 Annual Meeting are an always necessary—if often preliminary—step in that process. My efforts at my home press will be stronger for having taken part in them.

Khelee Williams, Marketing Officer, University of the West Indies Press

Attending the 2022 AUPresses Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, was an enriching experience.

The lead-up to the conference set the tone as information was posted on the AUPresses website and Twitter feed, thus making the registration a smooth experience. The Association brilliantly used colour-coded lanyards to give attendees the choice to signal our level of comfort and boundaries of physical distancing expectations. We were also encouraged to carry our own totes which stylishly showcased attendees’ personalities whilst being efficient and environmentally friendly.

The opening reception at the Library of Congress was an honour to attend and it marked the importance of the location for this year’s conference. We were able to meet new colleagues, connect with existing peers, and view spectacular exhibitions. As an attendee from a small press, I was pleased with the range of topics and themes covered throughout the conference; I was also able to attend a few sessions outside my core functions but relevant to my press. The Collaboration Labs proved especially insightful; the presenters were engaging and we all were encouraged to participate in vibrant discussions for the benefit of all.

The AUPresses Annual Meeting is important for our community and I would recommend that it be permanently placed on the calendars of university presses worldwide. The in-person or virtual attendance of a single team member will prove to be invaluable as the presenters are truly knowledgeable and willing to share their experience for the advancement of our industry.