The journal evolved from advising senior research projects. Ramapo’s Law and Society senior capstone is a two semester, sequential, thesis course, which requires students to conduct independent research and write an extensive thesis. Advising senior research projects is undoubtedly a rewarding process, but it also presents many challenges, one of which is helping students learn how to articulate ideas to a wider audience and grow as scholars. Many times, student papers have immense potential but rarely grow beyond the constraint of the grade culture. Through the journal, we hoped to provide a voice to student research, bring enthusiasm and ownership of their ideas, and engage with student scholarship in other institutions as well. However, given that most of the submissions have been from seniors, the interaction has been mostly limited to student editors and readers. The choice of an online publication platform (which we adopted), unlike traditional publications, hopefully will bring more readership and address some of these concerns.
The journal is a baby step to creating life-long scholars, and familiarize students with the scholarly world of research and publication. While universities have a culture of promoting collaborative research between professors and students, this is a challenge at small liberal arts institutions. Our students are not as familiar with the entire research and publishing process; setting up an editorial team is a step towards collaborative learning and enculturating students into the scholarly world. Editing is one of the primary tasks of the publishing process, as it brings many skills together. The review is a collaborative process, it gets editors to read and critically reflect upon the merits of the submissions, and make recommendations in group meetings. This opens an entirely new level of research and engagement for them, as they are not only working with submissions on topics they may or may not be familiar with, but are also constantly challenged to seek the boundaries or the core of law and society, given the interdisciplinary focus. Students also work with authors on polishing their pieces for publishing, providing constructive feedback. Students learn the tough skills of working with timelines and negotiating with authors to revise and submit within deadlines. Review meetings are some of the more interesting ones, because they add a completely different level to how students read and engage with materials— a pedagogical moment that one wouldn’t get in a classroom setting only. Many of the skillsets learned in the process of editing do translate to their own work at the senior capstone level as well.
The journal is published annually through the collective efforts of numerous undergraduate student editors, a chief editor, and faculty advisors. We have been fortunate in having great student involvement and some excellent student chief editors Jonathan Mangel (2013-14), Molly Hopkins (2014-15), Amer Garlasco (2015-17), Antonino LaRosa (2017-19). Each of them has brought their unique signature to the journal. Jonathan, of course, did some heavy lifting in setting up the journal, Molly introduced a blog page on contemporary legal issues, and Amer steered the journal’s social media page and publicized the journal. As our program has grown, we have also expanded our faculty advisors: Dr. Jefferey Ellsworth, who recently joined the law and society program at Ramapo, has also become an instrumental part of this group.
The rewards have been fulfilling, more importantly it has allowed us to work with a team of enthusiastic students. Guiding student editors through this process is a reflexive teaching moment. It not only gives a chance to work with a young curious group but also provides a glimpse into how they engage with their peers and work collaboratively. It is a joy to see their sense of accomplishment when they see the journey of an essay from a submission to a revised and published paper. Like most endeavors, challenges remain, most of all in sustaining interest and flow of submissions. We have considered collaborating with other institutions as an option, but it remains unexplored. This is something we need to work on; ideas and suggestions of how we can grow and sustain will be much appreciated.
Ramapo Journal of Law and Society can be accessed at: