Focus on Anthropology

Kate Adams '02 performs a high-wired act.

"You are invited to check out Kenyon's newest national journal," wooed Kate Adams '02 in an all-campus e-mail message she circulated this spring. The web journal, entitled Focus: An Online Publication of Undergraduate Articles and Photography in Anthropology, was created and produced by Adams as her senior honors project. The inaugural issue can be viewed at

Two years in the making, the peer-reviewed journal devotes itself to publishing the finest articles and photography produced by college anthropology students. Articles in the first issue explore topics ranging from French feminism to Tibetan legends in Darjeeling, and from caffeine and bone research to experimental stone-tool butchering. The photography gallery publishes images shot in international locations with diverse settings, such as protests and celebrations, markets and workplaces. A journal of truly national proportions, Focus has attracted contributors from institutions including the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, Davidson College, the University of Chicago, and Washington University.

Adams, seeing a niche for an online undergraduate journal during her sophomore year, developed the idea for her honors project in consultation with her advisor, Robert A. Oden Jr. Professor of Anthropology Rita Kipp. Adams, from Portola Valley, California, sought ideas and models in existing anthropology web magazines devoted to the work of graduate students and professionals, then went to the library to learn how to construct a web site including sophisticated devices like frames and rollover buttons. Winning an Oden Fellowship enabled Adams to work intensively on the project during the summer following her junior year. She had generated a prototype of the site by December 2001.

Adams called for submissions by advertising the new journal to four hundred undergraduate anthropology departments and to relevant listservs. Although her project timeline records a moment of anxiety in September 2001--"Discussed what to do if there are no submissions with Prof. Kipp"--Adams had no cause to worry, ultimately garnering fifty submitted essays for twelve slots and forty photographs for twenty-three gallery places. "I had a great response, considering it was the first year and the site didn't even exist yet," she says. "I'm really pleased with the high quality of what we were able to publish."

The project also required her to assemble a roster of peer reviewers who would read and evaluate the submissions according to scoring rubrics developed by Adams, with each submission to be graded by two reviewers. The nineteen reviewers hailed from departments across the nation and from England. Adams coordinated a tight schedule, moving each submission in a timely fashion through the stages of review.

The calls for submissions also brought feedback from professors across the country. Some raised issues she had not previously considered, such as questions of copyright, which propelled her to consult an intellectual property-rights lawyer. Several professors requested that the journal publish two issues per year, so that papers written in spring courses could be submitted for a fall issue.

Once the works were chosen for publication, Adams had three hundred pages of copyediting ahead of her. To reduce this burden, she has recommended that future editors put stronger style requirements in place. And for next year, the work done in 2002 by Adams alone will be shared among three editors.

"I've had fantastic support for this project at Kenyon and from LBIS (Library and Information Services)," Adams says. Staff at LBIS were happy to provide a domain for Focus on the Kenyon server. Director of Information Systems Ron Griggs initially helped Adams set up the site, while librarian and technology consultant Tom House ("he's great!") served as her main liaison and source of support. Assistant Professor of Art Karen Snouffer assisted Adams in locating images for the site. Andas for Kipp, Adams cannot praise her enough. "Without Professor Kipp's support, this project would not have been possible," she says.

With an eye to its future, Adams has registered Focus as a funded student organization, with Kipp as its advisor, starting next year. Three rising senior anthropology majors--Steven Berry, Alison Michel, and Amy Wagaman--have been appointed its editors. "I hope it will continue and thrive," Adams says of the journal, which earned her highest honors at Commencement. "Otherwise my honors project will have been trivial. But I'm encouraged by the level of interest here at Kenyon and in other anthropology departments I've heard from."

Following graduation, Adams is off to New Haven, Connecticut, where she has been offered a year-long internship with a cultural anthropology organization at Yale University, helping to produce encyclopedias of research. "It's a web-intensive position," says Adams. "I'm sure I got the job because of this project." After that, she's hoping to work with nonprofit organizations dealing with homelessness or domestic violence--unless, that is, academic anthropology sings its siren song.

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