November 2008, Volume 12, Number 9

College Notebook

Outlet for Expression

They had meeting after meeting about choosing a name. Even after they voted, it still didn't feel right. It took a comment by an outsider and an impromptu hallway meeting to come up with the name for one of Miami Dade College’s newest literary magazines – Urbana, one of five literary magazines at MDC and the only online publication.

“Someone told me to look at the names of the College’s other literary magazines,” said Emily Sendin, the InterAmerican Campus magazine’s advisor. “They all seem to reflect the area their campus is in.”

The formula seemed to work for MDC’s established publications, which have individually won too many awards to mention and have collectively demonstrated that the College is continuously blessed with immeasurable talent.

Innovations in Art

Building Urbana from the ground up was a challenge, especially when the staff realized they didn’t have the budget for a printed version.

“The students were very much about having a traditional magazine, but when they saw what they could do online, the students really got into it,” Sendin said. “They took charge of the whole thing and learned by trial and error.

“Some students were so dedicated; they continued to work on it even after they graduated.”

What resulted was a 136-page publication that has been viewed in more than six countries, including Australia, where it is used in a college classroom as a teaching tool.

“We’re very happy with the way it turned out,” Sendin said. “Our intention this year is to get more involvement from the students on campus, which was a challenge our first time around because no one knew us and it was a totally different concept.”

The student writers and editors of Urbana join a literary tradition that stretches back more than two decades at Miami Dade College.

The Mainstays

The Wolfson Campus publication, Metromorphosis, launched nearly 20 years ago.

“This magazine is completely student-driven,” said Dr. Michael Hettich, co-advisor with Cheryl Clark. “It reflects how it feels to be a student in the downtown of a rapidly growing city made up of different and interesting people.”

Hettich said the advisors’ role is to teach the students, who are all volunteers, how to effectively evaluate writing. “Sometimes, ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it,’ is their whole critical vocabulary,” Hettich said. “We help them develop their way of critiquing.”

Running a magazine is a huge project. Students receive hundreds of poems, short stories and artwork, and they have to select the best and most representative for publication. Generally, the efforts pay off with a professional publication that wins awards and national acclaim.

“It’s gratifying to see the quality of the work,” Hettich said. “In the pile of student work submitted, there is always genuinely promising and good writing – so good, these students could go on to have a successful writing career if they wanted to.”

Another established literary magazine is Kendall Campus’ Miambiance, which recently released its 18th volume. Among its many honors, the magazine has won six first place awards in the last seven years from the Florida Community Colleges Association. Two recent volumes have also won a first place award from the Community College Humanities Association.

“Every year I think we can’t have a better edition than last year and then it happens,” said Marta Magellan, co-advisor with Ricardo Pau-Llosa.

“It is always interesting to see how the students’ ideas are going to materialize,” Magellan said.

The theme for its last issue was indulgence. “The students photographed every possible indulgence in the world for the cover: legs, gambling, drinking and ended up with chocolate,” Magellan said. “They not only work hard but the level of creativity is amazing.”

Students are already weeding through work for next year’s magazine, which also includes a CD of student-produced music.

“When they finally get to hold it in their hands and smell the ink, it’s a wonderful experience,” Magellan said. “It’s like holding your baby.”

The editorial staff of Axis, the North Campus magazine, has been experiencing this for five years now.

“We started with absolutely nothing,” said Lisa Shaw, who co-advises with Elena Pérez-Mirabal. “The administration was so supportive. They paired us with the graphic and fine arts departments. The collaborative effort has made all the difference.”

The staff has produced a beautiful magazine that has recently won first place for visual art work from the Florida Community College Press Association. Axis also received a Gold Circle Honorable Mention from Columbia Scholastic Press Association for cover art.

“We are able to recruit students to work on the magazine because of its quality,” Shaw said.

Shaw and the editorial staff are now working with media services to get the magazine online.

“We work hard and run it like a magazine is run,” Shaw said. “It’s grown so much.”

New Voices

Also hoping to grow is Café Cultura, Hialeah Campus’ literary magazine, which launched last spring.

“The first step was to establish a foundation, a core group of students to start the magazine,” said Víctor Calderín, who co-advises with Yvonne Lamazares. “Then it was the call to the campus for entries.

“We are a literary campus.”

The environmentally conscious campus chose to make the magazine 100 percent green. They hired a Hialeah printing company that uses vegetable-based ink and green-certified paper, which comes from sustainable, renewable forests.

The 32-page first edition, which was open topic, was entered into four competitions.

For the next issue, which is currently in production, students were asked to consider origins, families and memories.

“Every campus has its own flair and offers something unique,” Calderín said. “We worked hard to put the first issue together and the effort really showed.

“It was a great place to start.”

— Pilar Ulibarri de Rivera

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