$682,000 Mellon Grant to Help Academic Publishers Increase Workforce Diversity

Duke University Press, the University of Washington Press, the MIT Press, the University of Georgia Press, and the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) join forces to create the University Press Diversity Fellowship program.

A four-year, $682,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded to the University of Washington will help four university presses and the AAUP create a pipeline program to diversify academic publishing by offering apprenticeships in acquisitions departments.

The collaborative project involves the University of Washington Press, the MIT Press, Duke University Press, the University of Georgia Press, and the AAUP. The University Press Diversity Fellowship program will create cohorts of four fellows per year for three years. The program will recruit fellows who have significant personal experience and engagement with diverse communities and a demonstrated ability to bring the understandings gleaned from such engagement to the daily work of academic publishing.

“We have for many years been thinking about how we could institute and fund a career development program that would support adding more diversity to the university press community, as well as to Duke University Press in particular,” said Duke University Press Director Steve Cohn. “We are delighted that the Mellon Foundation’s generous support will make such a program possible–not only for us but also for three other great university presses—which should in turn help the entire community of university presses become more diverse.”

Fellows will have the opportunity to connect with one another and engage with industry colleagues at two AAUP annual meetings. The program will offer each fellow opportunities for one-on-one mentoring as well as monthly cross-press video conferences led by staff at partner presses, covering a range of topics designed to supplement the hands-on training.

“AAUP congratulates the University of Washington Press, along with the other AAUP member presses participating in the Diversity Fellowship Program,” said Peter Berkery, AAUP executive director. “Because diversity is a core AAUP value, we are eager to welcome Diversity Fellows to our future annual meetings. I know other member presses will be interested in this program, and I look forward to helping our community build on its success.”

The University Press Diversity Fellowship Program is the first cross-press initiative of its kind in the United States to address the marked lack of diversity that characterizes the publishing industry. Although university presses have long fostered and supported diversity-related fields such as Native and Indigenous studies; African American studies; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; and Asian American studies, the fellowship program represents a significant investment in creating career development opportunities and a supportive environment for diversity publishing.

Principal investigator and UW Press editor in chief Larin McLaughlin states, “From editorial strategy and list development priorities to growing revenue from emerging markets to the finer points of culturally sensitive copyediting and cover design, enhancing diversity within the workforce of university press publishing has the potential to improve the relevance and efficacy of publishers for an increasingly diverse audience of scholars, students, authors, and readers.”

Another desired outcome of the fellowship program is to develop best-practice strategies and tactics for fostering diversity at all levels of the profession. Further, this collaboration will focus attention on the centrality of diversity in all its forms to the future of global academic discourse and, it is hoped, will inspire related efforts to prioritize diversity more broadly in the publishing industry.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this much-needed diversity fellowship program,” says Courtney Berger, senior editor and editorial department manager of Duke University Press. “This fellowship will help Duke University Press to foster a more diverse staff that better reflects the wide-ranging perspectives and backgrounds that inform the Press’s publications, our authors, and our readership.”

Outreach and recruitment by the program’s selection committee will begin in January 2016, with the first cohort of Diversity Fellows starting their apprenticeships in June 2016. We will post information about how to apply for the fellowship early in 2016.

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