Graduate Student Spotlight: Megan Palmer


Like most graduate students, Megan Palmer (WRTC, ’20) has read a lot of academic journal articles. As a student, she’s also been encouraged to submit her academic work for publication in various journals. What really interests Megan, however, is what happens in the middle space between submitting an article and reading an article that has been published – the space of a professional editor.

As an incoming WRTC graduate student, Megan applied for a fulltime assistantship when she entered the program in September 2018. She was hired by the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs to work 20 hours per week in academic cataloging. She quickly set to work, balancing the job with fulltime graduate classes. But when an opportunity came along to work as an editorial assistant for English Education Journal, one of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) journals, Megan knew this would be a great chance to gain experience in her chosen field. Without hesitation, even though it would add an additional nine hours to her work load, Megan applied for and landed the assistant editor position, and she is now learning, first-hand, how a major academic journal is published from beginning to end.

Under the guidance of the incoming editor, Dr. Melanie Shoffner, Megan’s first task has been to learn to use a powerful software program called Editorial Manager, a cloud-based manuscript submission and peer-reviewing tracking system. She is currently sorting through a database of over 500 reviewers so that she and Dr. Shoffner can begin assigning incoming submissions to reviewers. Megan says that this has been interesting because she is learning how professionals in the field of editing critique other professionals’ work. “I can read everything that they say behind the scenes,” she says, “and now I know what people look for and what they don’t look for.”

Megan hopes to work for a large publishing house such as Penguin when she graduates, and she knows that this experience of being an editorial assistant for a national publication will be valuable on her resume. She will be working with Dr. Shoffner until the journal is published in September 2020 and she values this extra time to work in a professional context. Opportunities like this are what Megan hoped for when she picked WRTC at JMU for her graduate studies. She saw WRTC as a program that was flexible in allowing students to pursue their passions, while also offering professional opportunities to build their resumes. She feels that the classes that she has taken in the WRTC program so far have helped prepare her for this job. “Classes have given me a handle on organizational skills, learning systems like the one I’ve been using, and learning how to write and communicate effectively,” she says, “but I feel like the assistantships are where you get that professional experience that is going to help you get a job, ultimately.”

Life in the publishing world moves quickly, and Megan and Dr. Shoffner are busy managing incoming submissions and any questions that come in from reviewers or authors. Current bi-weekly meetings to set goals and plan tasks for the coming week will likely increase to weekly meetings once the reviewing and editing process begins.  Megan isn’t daunted by the extra workload that taking on a second assistantship created, and is excited and ready for the next phase. As she says, “That’s where all the lines on the resume are going to come from!” 

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Published: Friday, November 8, 2019

Last Updated: Monday, December 2, 2019

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