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MPub Alum Jazmin Welch on receiving credibility and experience with the MPub program

Jazmin Welch graduated in 2021 from SFU’s Master of Publishing program. She now owns and operates her own book design studio, fleck creative studio and design books for Arsenal Pulp Press. Jazmin spoke with us at SFU Publishing to share more about her experience with the program and the impact it has made on her career to this day.

 

Tell us about your background before applying to SFU’s Master of Publishing program.

I went to school for fashion communication at Ryerson University and I always knew I wanted to be in art or design. As someone who spent much of my youth drawing and painting, I applied for the fine arts program at the Ontario College of Art & Design University, but I decided that I would prefer to keep art as a hobby, and try to get into design instead.

At Ryerson I was learning about colour theory, typography, photography, web design, and all sorts of fun design skills.

When I graduated, I just started trying to pick up odd jobs as everyone does, and I thought I would get a quick job in graphic design but that was definitely not the case. There were just so many other graphic designers who were entering the job market. So I did other things like photography and anything I could get my hands on. I eventually got a job in a really tiny creative agency, and started working in project management and then switched around a little bit and worked as an account manager in corporate marketing working on our projects for some fortune 500 companies. I worked with a lot of freelancers to do our production work and that was slightly soul crushing because I was always wanting to be the creative person. Because of my typography experience in my undergrad, I was hoping I would end up doing editorial layout for magazines. So I saved up to eventually quit, and started my own business — I wasn’t 100% sure that it would be in the book world, but I knew I loved everything to do with paper and book design.

 

Why did you choose to apply for the master of publishing program?

While I was at my marketing job, I interviewed for a couple of design positions, but the feedback was always like, “We liked your portfolio, but we want to go with this other person who actually has book design experience.” No one would hire me on the basis of having design knowledge. And of course, I didn’t have much of a portfolio for book work yet. I knew I had to do something that would actually get my foot in the door. 

I was also going on LinkedIn to look at all the people who had jobs that I wanted, and looking at what their experience was. It pretty much came down to just the Ryerson University Certificate in Publishing or the SFU Master of Publishing. I wasn’t very interested in some of Ryerson’s classes so I moved from Ontario to BC for the Master of Publishing. It was always a dream of mine to end up in Vancouver, so it wasn’t a hard sell for me. 

The Master of Publishing program was good for me because I just felt like something solid needed to be put on my resume to actually get a job in book design. So that’s what landed me at SFU.

 

What was your most impactful experience in the SFU Publishing program?

Meeting a lot of people in the industry had the biggest impact. The idea of meeting CEOs of massive companies was so terrifying at first, but the professors and people in the industry that came to the school were all there for us, and were very easy to talk to. It made me realize that we’re all in this together.

The greatest thing was just meeting people and knowing that they are people that I could reach out to, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to make connections. Having the master’s degree on my resume became a huge bonus that also gave me the confidence to be able to reach out to people for work as well.

 

What was your biggest takeaway from the MPub?

Honestly, my biggest takeaway has been learning to think more critically about the industry, because I think publishing is such a traditional industry in the sense that so much of what we do is the way it’s always been done. I think the program did a good job of training us to think more broadly about societal and systemic issues happening in the industry. Of course, there are a lot of tangible skills — like learning how to do a profit and loss sheet — but I think the critical thinking piece is the most important element. It’s not something I’m necessarily acting on now in my business on a day-to-day level, but it is something that’s always running through my head — like, how can we change the way things are being done? How can we bring more inclusivity and diversity to the industry? 

The critical thinking component has impacted the way that I respond to the people around me and the type of work I take on. I wasn’t expecting the masters to actually touch on many of these things, but they did a good job of recognizing the destructive role that publishing has had on colonization in Canada. There are human issues and there are so many issues to address, no matter what part of the industry you’re in! I think that the critical thinking piece stayed with a lot of us when we left.

 

What skills did you gain from the MPub that you find yourself applying to your day to day work?

I think the biggest one for me was editorial. I came into the program with a fairly robust design understanding, so there were definitely a bunch of book design skills that I brushed up on and enhanced through the program that I do use on a day to day basis, but I really learned a lot about specific skills like editorial markup, which I now use. Publishing is a very traditional industry and things are done in quite a systematic, straightforward order, so learning all the steps in how things are done, and the phases of editorial has been really integral for my role as a designer and where I fit into the publishing process.

 

Do you have any professors that stood out and impacted your education?

I feel like John Maxwell was such a great resource for us to sit and talk through anything. His Text & Context class was the critical thinking piece that I mentioned, though all the professors incorporated it as well. I feel like it’s always the teachers with the hardest courses that I like the most because they’re really encouraging us to dive way deeper than we would on anything else. We had to write 1,000 word essays, which is so short, but so difficult to get right because we had tackle important issues with so little space while researching it well and creating a good summary. I think the beauty of the course was that we were trained for situations where we’d need to speak out about important issues — you can’t just get into a long rant about something, you have to make it accessible for a larger audience and be concise. So having someone like John who has an endless wealth of knowledge, but also encourages you to look for the answer to your own question was awesome. 

All the MPub professors were accessible and available and I knew they were always there for us. Anyone from the program could tell you how much they loved Jo-Anne who wasn’t a professor, but a manager for the program. She’s always there to help us with admin questions, but she’s also just a fantastic resource for pretty much everything. She’s the number one cheerleader for all the students. 

 

Tell me a little bit about your work with your fellow MPub grad Leanne Prain. What was it like to design her book?

Her book is coming out this spring, and it just arrived like the other day from the printer! It’s called The Creative Instigator’s Handbook and Leanne was so lovely to work with. We did the cover and layout together. and then the layout on the inside. 

It used to have an illustration only cover, but when the sales representative recommended that we add photos. So we revamped the cover and changed the book title. I’m very happy with where it landed! The whole book from front to back is so bright, fun and cheery with a lot of little icons within it’s pages as well. We’re trying to make all of our books more accessible, so Leanne wrote the alt text for all the images for us, which is a lot of work, but she was all hands on deck. I love this book. It’s such an exciting read for people that have any love of craft or art but want to use it for their own activism!

 

What kind of advice do you have for people thinking of pursuing the Master of Publishing degree?

My one piece of advice is that you’ll get out whatever you put in. And I think that’s always a tricky balance because everybody’s got their things going on outside of school. I worked the entire time that I was in the program, and of course many of us have bills to pay, but I think it’s important to put your all into projects, go to extra meetings, and use the extra library help. It’s also good to know that if you have a specific thing you’re passionate about, you can talk to your professors about adjusting certain projects to focus on what you specifically want to learn. 

For example, I had already done an undergrad in design, so in one design class I asked if I could research something else for one of the projects that I was interested in. My professor was happy to accommodate and I really enjoyed getting to learn something new!

Making connections is incredibly valuable as well so getting the most out of the program also involves meeting as many people as you can!

In a small program like this, you can really take advantage of so many learning opportunities. That would definitely be my biggest piece of advice — just know that you have control over what you get out of the program.

 


SSHRC Connection grant of $21,695 awarded to Associate Professor Juan Pablo Alperin

Juan Pablo Alperin is an Associate Professor in the Publishing Program, the co-Scientific Director of the Public Knowledge Project, and the co-Director of the Scholarly Communications Lab. As a leading voice on issues of developing regions to the scholarly community through a combination of published research, presentations, and membership in the board of major international initiatives, Dr. Alperin was recently awarded a SSHRC Connection grant of $21,695 for research on “Broadening our understanding of Open Science.” Juan Pablo spoke with SFU Publishing about his plans.

 

Tell us a bit about your work on “Broadening our understanding of Open Science.” What will the research surrounding this topic entail?

The goal is to host a series of events, both in-person and online, that serve to feature Latin American experiences with Open Science, especially those that extend beyond the academic community

 

How do you plan to conduct the research for this?

The plan is to host 3 in-person events this year, if the public health situation in each country allows: one in Argentina, one in Brazil, and one in Colombia. These events will be targeted at the local populations. We will also host a series of online events with an international audience. The goal is to advance the conversation about OS within the region and to use them to shape the global OS agenda.

 

How will the SSHRC connection grant help with the research for this subject?

SSHRC funds will be used to hire a program coordinator and to subsidize travel so we can bring speakers to the national events, and so that we can help more locals attend from beyond the capital cities where the events will be held. We also intend to put in place simultaneous translation at the online events.

 

In what way does this research relate to the courses you teach in the SFU Publishing program?

In the last few years, I have taught a course on Public Knowledge  that has been small, but very well received. The course built on the work we did in the President’s Dream Colloquium in 2018. This series will help grow the global dimensions of that course, with the focus on Latin America.

 

How would students benefit from taking your courses?

The undergraduate courses that I teach help students understand the potentially powerful role that universities play in society. I like to think they finish my courses feeling more proud of attending university, and with a strong sense of the responsibility to society that comes with the privilege of gaining and creating knowledge.

 

Learn more about Dr. Alperin here.


SFU Publishing Launches the Greg Younging Publishing Award Endowment

Cree man with dark hair and glasses guest lecturing at a university

It is with great pride and pleasure that the SFU Publishing Program announces the establishment of The Greg Younging Publishing Award Endowment.

The endowment will create a fully funded opportunity for an Indigenous student to complete the Master of Publishing (MPub) degree at Simon Fraser University.

This award honours Dr. Gregory Younging, who was the first Indigenous graduate of the MPub. It was during his studies at SFU that Greg began his work on what would become the influential book, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guidebook for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples. The guide is fast becoming a staple for writers, editors, and publishers throughout North America.

“Greg was a huge presence in publishing in Canada. We worked very closely with him here at SFU and following his passing on May 3, 2019 we knew we wanted to establish something lasting that would further his life’s work, which was to build a stronger Indigenous publishing infrastructure in Canada. Greg was very aware of the opportunities that education can provide, and we hope this endowment will be one of those opportunities. Having the support of publishers from across the country has been affirming. We are thrilled to announce today our first multi-year commitment: a three-year, $45,000 donation from Penguin Random House of Canada,” said Suzanne Norman, industry liaison for the SFU Publishing Program.

The endowment will be built over the next three years, with the goal of welcoming the first award recipient in fall, 2025.

The Master of Publishing Program is an 18-month professional program comprising academic and professional experiential learning. It was founded 25 years ago in consultation with members of the Canadian publishing industry which continues to strongly support the program’s students through hosting professional placements and as new hires, as well as teaching as guest faculty and serving on advisory boards and funding projects.

Applications to the MPub close each Feb 1, with successful applicants beginning their studies that fall.

For more information, please contact Suzanne Norman snorman@sfu.ca.

Download the full press release.


Interview with Current MPub Student, Olivia Johnson

As the Master of Publication application deadline fast approaches, we had the chance to interview Olivia Johnson, who is part of this year’s 2020/2021 cohort. Learn more about Olivia Johnson’s publishing experience and don’t forget to apply by February 1! 

1) What was your background before applying to SFU’s Master of Publishing Program?

Before I was a student of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program, I majored in English literature at UBC. After graduating, I thought I was going to go into journalism and got accepted into the Ryerson School of Journalism. After one class, I realized that journalism was not a good fit for me. Instead, I switched to the publishing program at Ryerson because I was more interested in the editorial and marketing aspects of publishing. After completing the publishing program at Ryerson, I applied to the Master of Publishing Program at SFU.

2) Why did you choose to apply to SFU’s Master of Publishing Program? 

I chose to apply to SFU’s Master of Publishing Program because it is Canada’s only master’s program for publishing. The publishing program at Ryerson was highly informative and interesting, but I wanted a more hands-on publishing experience. SFU’s Master of Publishing Program offers exactly that, where you get the opportunity to go more in-depth and have the chance to do an internship and more collaborative work. Also, SFU’s Master of Publishing Program was back in Vancouver, my home city.

3) What is the most valuable experience from SFU’s Master of Publishing Program so far?

I think the group projects are valuable because you get to take everything you learned in class and create something from start to finish. For example, in one of our projects, we created a business from scratch and learned about all the steps to develop and make the idea tangible.

One of the projects that Olivia worked on with her group was a catalogue for the Fall 2020 Book Project. Olivia’s group was an imprint company of Greystone Books, calling themselves Judith Press. Their catalogue includes all non-fiction titles they came up with and had to sell for their project.

Click here to see their full project: http://ow.ly/yF3050DgaIf 

 

4) What are some skills you have learned from SFU’s Master of Publishing Program so far?

I learned a lot about hands-on design and working with different software such as Adobe to create those designs. I also learned a lot about the different stages such as editing, designing, and business to create the final publication. For each of these stages, it is very in-depth, so you get a chance to figure out what you like. I also find that you can really have your own input in the program. You are definitely not lectured at but taught how to do things and be hands-on. The more effort you put in, the more you learn and take from the program.

5) Upon obtaining your Master’s in publishing, what do you aspire your future career to look like?

SFU’s Master of Publishing Program does a great job at allowing everyone to explore lots of different categories, so you know where your interests lie. For me, since completing the publishing program at Ryerson, I knew that I wanted to work in publishing.  Upon obtaining my Master’s in publishing, I can see myself pursuing a career in a marketing or publicity position in literary fiction or nonfiction books.

6) Who do you think should apply to the Master of Publishing Program program?

People who are looking to learn more and become more hands-on in publishing should definitely apply. Publishing is not just about books all the time. You get to learn so many skills that you take onto different careers such as marketing, freelance, editing, and more. If this is something that you want to do, I highly recommend applying.

7) What is your advice for people who are applying to the Master of Publishing Program or considering applying?

I think this is a valuable program because you get to interact with so many industry professionals and receive advice or feedback from them. As well it is such a small cohort, so you get to always work closely with the same people who share the same passion as you. I highly recommend reaching out to the publishing team to ask any questions or concerns you may have because they are super helpful and kind.

Apply to the MPub Program

Contact
To request more information on the Master of Publishing program, please contact:

 Jo-Anne Ray, Program Advisor

Phone: (778) 782-5242
Fax: (778) 782-5239
Email: pub-info@sfu.ca

Address: Program Advisor
Master of Publishing Program
Simon Fraser University Vancouver
515 West Hastings Street, Room 3576
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6B 5K3


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