Working in Academic Publishing Before and During the PhD

May 24, 2019

Before I came to Berkeley I worked for two years for the University of Chicago Press, and in my first year here I worked part-time for the University of California Press. At Uchicago Press, I was a part-time subscription fulfillment assistant, and later became a full-time Business Development Associate in the Journals Division. At UC Press, I was publications assistant to the editorial assistants and editors of Books Acquisitions. Though the two presses are very different, and my roles changed over time, both were wonderful places to work.

My colleagues’ backgrounds at both presses were by no means homogeneous, and there was a real sense that everyone, no matter what their job, was interested in the press’s enterprise. Many people had ended up in academic publishing because of their own serious intellectual interests. I received great suggestions for books, music, films and shows that I would never have thought of myself from many of my colleagues. Given that I was also working with scholars and university librarians from all over the world and in a variety of disciplines at both Chicago and Berkeley, I also learned a lot about directions of current scholarship, diverse academic cultures, and how university libraries work. The interest of my colleagues and customers in the world around them, and, often, their eagerness to share it with me - a faceless stranger on the other end of a phone or email - showed me that while universities might be the powerhouses of academic inquiry, they could not exist without the dedicated work of university presses which support and disseminate everything that they do.

It was both frustrating and inspiring that the many people I looked up to at both presses told me that they had just ‘fallen into’ whatever position they held. Frustrating because of my mentors’ endearing modesty and because being in the right place at the right time is important, but inspiring, because it showed me that there was a whole world that relies on the kind of intellectual pursuits and understanding of academic life that our graduate education provides.

My interactions with colleagues and clients at the University of Chicago Press showed me the value of academic inquiry for its own sake, but even more importantly, I learned that the academic world is not confined to universities. The boundary between university and university press is permeable. Thanks to my colleagues at both presses who became, and are still, mentors and friends, my time at the presses played an enormous part in my ongoing academic education. Becoming a publisher does not entail leaving the academy; university presses are the infrastructure that enables our scholarly discourse to take place. As graduate students, our communication skills, understanding of research processes, and scholarly networks can only help us, should we wish to become academic publishers.

Claire Wrigley is a PhD student in European History specializing in British History at UC Berkeley. Before attending graduate school she worked at the University of Chicago Press and for a variety of media companies in London.