BY SARAH FOOTE
After spending hours in the bowels of Beinecke and the stacks of Sterling, most seniors gain a great deal of satisfaction merely by handing their senior essays. Every year, though, some seniors refuse to let their projects go so easily. Determined to see their essays live on, some seniors forge determinedly into the world of publishing, seeking to immortalize their essays in real-world publications and to make them visible to the world outside of Yale.
COURTESY KARISSA ZIMMER
Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, DC ‘06, originally had no plans to publish his senior essay.
Publishing, however, isn’t ordinary for Yale College seniors. Unlike academics, undergraduates do not face the “publish or perish” maxim; few seniors actually embark on their senior essays aiming to publish the finished project. Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, DC ’06, a somewhat infamous former Political Science major, did not intend to publish his essay when first he began to write. Months after turning in his paper, though—and through a combination of hard work and personal investment—the new grad became the author of Denial and Deception: A Study of the Bush Administration’s Rhetorical Case for Invading Iraq.
The fact that so few students publish lends a certain mystique to the process. The very idea of publishing work as an undergraduate seems to imply an impressive intellectual capacity. However, as students who have gone through the process know, published is more about determination and persistence than an extraordinary level of intellectual genius. Getting work published requires serious legwork.
For students like Yood and Kennedy-Shaffer, who are willing to seek out publications for their work, one of the main obstacles to publishing seems to be the nature of the senior essay itself. The awkward length of the senior essay—generally from 25 to 50 pages—makes it difficult to translate into a publication. In their original form, the essays are too long to be published in scholarly journals, but too short to be printed as independent manuscripts. Yale’s own University Press said that they would be unlikely to publish senior essays due to issues with length—like most publishing companies, the Press is generally only interested in full-length manuscripts. No matter which route students take to publication, though, they will need to be willing to commit many more hours of work to their essays to condense or extend them.