"Getting this essay published was just proof to myself that I was capable of achieving something that I assumed was an unobtainable goal. As a student, it gave me more confidence in my writing abilities."
When Emmalee Baker ’15 read John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run” in her American Cultural Studies course, she was struck by the characters Ruth Leonard and Jack Eccles. These names reminded her of the biblical books Ruth and Ecclesiastes, which she’d previously studied in her Introduction to the Old Testament course. Intrigued, she decided to focus her paper on religious naming in Updike’s novel—and her professors took note.
“It was a very astute observation,” says Robert Hauhart, Ph.D., professor of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, who co-taught the course with Julia Chavez, Ph.D., assistant professor of English. “We wanted to be candid and honest with Emmalee. We said, ‘We think this is a really good paper. With some work, it’s possible it could be published.’”
This feedback came as a surprise to Baker. An English major and creative writing enthusiast, Baker had always dreamed of being published but she hadn’t envisioned that outcome for her paper. A meeting with Hauhart and Chavez, however, inspired Baker to revise and submit her paper to “The Explicator,” a quarterly journal that publishes literary criticism.
In the weeks that followed, Baker made substantial changes to her paper, such as re-evaluating her audience and adding more research. “My works cited page grew from two citations to nine, so the essay had a lot more depth by the time it was published,” she explains.
“We all went back and forth with emails and edits,” recalls Chavez. “The unique aspect of this experience was that Emmalee was the primary author. She could consider suggestions, but she had the final power to say, ‘Yes’ or, ‘No, that’s not the direction I want to take it.’”
Baker agrees. “This was definitely more of a conversation than a one-sided thing,” she says, adding that the process helped prepare her for her senior thesis, another situation in which students are the primary author.
After a year of waiting, Baker received an email from the editorial board of “The Explicator,” stating that her paper had been accepted in its current form. Baker was ecstatic. “I was definitely excited,” she recalls. “As a student, it gave me more confidence in my writing abilities. It’s kind of validating when someone accepts your work for publication.”
“It is a great accomplishment for an undergraduate to publish in a peer-reviewed journal,” says Chavez. “These journals evaluate submissions anonymously and that means that Emmalee’s article was competing with pieces written by tenured faculty working in the field for years. This really says something about the quality of Emmalee’s paper.”
“Emmalee is a very capable student with a broad range of knowledge,” adds Hauhart, who has assisted two former students—Courtney Choi ’11 and Kim Menius ’12—with publishing their papers in peer-reviewed journals. “She made important connections between sources that originated, on the one hand, in religious studies and, on the other, literature. This is what a liberal arts education should achieve. A student like Emmalee makes it work.”
When Baker saw her paper, “Religious Naming in John Updike’s ‘Rabbit Run,’” printed in Volume 73 of “The Explicator,” she not only achieved her dream of being published but also realized her extraordinary gifts as a writer.
“I learned that I could publish an essay. I’ve always wanted to be published, but I didn’t necessarily think I’d ever have the opportunity to do so,” she reflects. “Getting this essay published was just proof to myself that I was capable of achieving something that I assumed was an unobtainable goal. Overall, I’m very grateful for Dr. Hauhart and Dr. Chavez for helping make my dream a reality.”