Last spring U.S. News & World Report released their annual rankings of public policy schools and the LBJ School community was dismayed to discover that we had slipped to number fourteen in a tie with ten other schools. We, the senior editors of the LBJ Journal of Public Affairs, believe that the quality of the Journal directly impacts outsiders’ perception of the quality of School. We are, therefore, striving to make our Journal one of the best in the country. But we can’t do it alone. The Journal belongs to everyone at the school and for it to be as good as it can be everyone must take ownership of it.
A high quality journal is a hallmark of an excellent policy school. It is the window through which the outside public views the school and can often be the basis for an individual assessment of the school. A quick perusal of the schools ahead of the LBJ School in rankings reveals that many of them boast some of the best policy journals in the country. Among these are the Journal of Public and International Affairs of Princeton’s fourth ranked Woodrow Wilson School, PolicyMatters of UC Berkeley’s sixth ranked Goldman School of Public Policy, and the Heinz School Review of Carnegie Melon’s tenth ranked public policy and management program of the same name. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government sponsors or co-sponsors no fewer than eight well-regarded journals in a variety of policy fields.
The LBJ Journal of Public Affairs has long claimed to be one of the oldest student-run policy journals in the country. We should also be one of the best. Unfortunately, the quality of our journal is currently not as high as it should be and we, as editors, are painfully aware of this. Last year, the co-Editors-in-Chief made many improvements and produced a redesigned journal with several top-notch articles. The process, however, has only just begun.
This year, we will be taking major steps towards transforming the Journal into an accurate reflection of the quality of the policy dialogue at the LBJ School. First, unlike previous years, we plan to produce two print editions: a full-length journal covering a wide-range of topics to be published in the spring and a shorter special edition to celebrate the launch of the new Masters of Global Policy Studies program. This should help to increase the Journal’s profile amongst other policy schools as well as providing valuable publicity to the new degree program. It will, however, require an increase in the number of quality submissions, which we need your help to solicit.
Next, we have taken up the task, begun by last year’s editors, of expanding and revitalizing the LBJ Journal website. The recently re-launched website has a new look, an improved mechanism for perusing archived editions of the Journal, and, most importantly, the ability to react to published op-ed articles. The intention is to create an interactive venue for vibrant discussions about the pressing policy issues of the day. Like last year, the Journal will continue to publish a number of weekly op-ed pieces; unlike last year, however, we are actively soliciting submissions from other UT graduate departments and other policy schools in an effort to engage a wider and more varied audience with broader perspectives.
Finally, we are exploring potential synergies with two exciting new initiatives that promise to stimulate ideas and debates: the LBJ Journal Policy Forum, begun last year as the LBJ Student Colloquium, is a weekly round-table colloquium that provides students with a setting where they can present their research or opinions and illicit feedback from their classmates. This can also be an open setting where students can explore ideas for op-eds and longer papers before they sit down to write, as well as react to already published pieces. We are also involved in a new weekly radio show that will allow LBJ students to present their ideas to an audience inside and outside of our school community. The Journal’s online publication of op-eds will serve as a starting point for discussion at both of these venues.
These ambitious initiatives will, however, require the participation of the entire student body and the faculty. First and foremost, the Journal needs a staff of committed editors. Becoming an editor for the journal is an excellent way to contribute to the improvement of the school’s reputation while developing your own writing skills. Editing the writing of others is often more challenging than putting your own thoughts into words and can improve the your own writing skills by exposing you to the style and approach of other writers. The senior editors are all experienced editors and will provide ample support for anyone who feels under-qualified. The only prerequisites to be an editor for the Journal are proficient writing skills and a desire to promote the Journal and the School. There are positions available for print and online editors, as well as on business and marketing committees. All members of the editorial staff will be integrally involved in creating a sustainable Journal that can continue to improve in future years.
There are also plenty of opportunities for contribution if your schedule is already too full to serve as an editor. Everyone who comes to the LBJ School has already developed opinions about some policy issue or a desire to search out policy solutions to the challenges of the day. Healthy discussion of these opinions and challenges is the first step toward implementation of the solutions. Writing and submitting an op-ed to the Journal is an excellent way to start such a discussion while developing your own ideas for future writing assignments or longer policy papers. There are also opportunities to engage in policy discussions through the Forum, the radio show, and reading the print and online journals.
Students, however, are not the only members our academic community. A quality faculty is critical to a vibrant school. Similarly, engaged professors are a necessary component of a successful journal. In the past, quality faculty submissions to the LBJ Journal have been sorely lacking despite faculty publications in other journals. While we recognize that faculty members want to publish in the most highly regarded and widely circulated journals, the LBJ Journal and the LBJ School need increased involvement from the faculty if we are to produce the kind of Journal befitting of a top-ranked school. This may mean writing new articles for this year’s editions, submitting existing but shelved work, collaborating with students on their research, or simply promoting the Journal to outside colleagues and friends. The senior editors call upon the faculty of our School to exhibit a renewed commitment to the Journal of their chosen academic home.
The aim of the LBJ Journal of Public Affairs is to promote substantive policy dialogue throughout the LBJ community. The Journal is much more than a handful of students producing a bound volume once a year that few people ever read. It is a representation of the quality of our School and, as such, belongs to all students, faculty, and staff. We need your help to present our best face to the world.