Each June, university presses from all over the world are invited to attend and participate in the annual industry conference of the Association of University Presses. Here, seasoned professionals and those in earlier stages of their career have a chance to share expertise, learn best practices, network with colleagues, and understand new trends in the publishing world. Panels address topics from across the various business departments, from acquisitions to marketing and production to rights, and usually generate lively conversation and generous feedback. Panelists can come from the scholarly publishing world, but also often include other stakeholders, including teachers and faculty, librarians, intellectual property lawyers, publishing technology experts, book agents, booksellers and bookstore owners, and others.

When the conference is in-person, the exhibit hall is packed with vendors hawking new printing technologies, sustainable publishing tools, electronic book platforms, high-end production services, and business tools to create efficient workflows. Swag abounds!

This year, the AUP conference was held virtually (in-person every other year), and the schedule of events did not disappoint. Panel topics crossed the spectrum: from understanding the Amazon behemoth to discussing strategies for optimizing reach through the sale of subsidiary rights; from leveraging the backlist to converting content to open access; and from building relationships with campus communities to overcoming inequities in the publishing world.

Many UC Press staff participated in virtual panels, speaking about fundraising and development, subsidiary rights, innovative book designs, and global perspectives on academic publishing. UC Press was also invited to speak about its FirstGen Scholars Program in a panel dedicated to sharing publishing initiatives that are community-facing.

Alongside publishers from Columbia University Press, Michigan State University Press, and University of Guam Press, FirstGen Program Coordinator Raina Polivka spoke about the FirstGen Scholars program as a way to partner with our parent institution in strategic mission alignment in order to cultivate and support new voices in publishing. Panelists spoke about developing new series and working with local stakeholders to explore the reciprocal nature of community-based publishing and how it adds value to the mission and work of university presses. 

Among the initiatives discussed were Columbia UP’s new series in partnership with Howard University, Black Lives in the Diaspora; the Makwa Enewed imprint at Michigan State University Press, which is dedicated to books encompassing the varied views and perspectives of people working in and with American Indian nations and community; and local initiatives underway at Guam UP to partner with local communities in projects of literacy, textbooks, and writing workshops. 

A defining feature of the UC Press FirstGen Scholars program is its infusion across the press organization, reaching across departments and disciplines, and providing a platform for unique perspectives and new voices that seek to contribute to important intellectual debates. Our program leverages press strengths as a progressive publisher linked to one of the largest public university systems in the world to amplify under-represented voices in scholarship.

Our program launched in November 2021, and is founded on two principles: to contribute to the larger first-gen community by sharing knowledge and connecting people to resources in the publishing world; and to support UC Press first-gen scholars via monetary and project development support in the form of an outright grant upon contract signing. While the program is still growing and developing, we strongly believe that first-generation scholars have a unique story to tell, and it is our goal to provide pathways to publishing so that first-gen voices may contribute to important intellectual debates.

To see a list of current publications supported through the FirstGen Scholars program, please click here.

Learn more about our FirstGen Scholars Program