A national magazine may launch from Northwestern College in the future if a new English course meets its long-term goal.
“I don’t think there is any other school our size trying to pull this off,” said English professor Richard Sowienski, who is teaching a publishing course that centers on developing a national magazine for Christian college students.
Cardboard, as the magazine is titled, explores culture and faith from a creative Christian perspective.
“The reason why I’m so excited about this magazine is because of the mission,” Sowienski said.
The magazine’s name refers to cardboard as a container, representing the belief that humans need to be filled by God. The name also reflects the impermanence of earthly life.
For now, Cardboard is written entirely by Sowienski’s class. However, the magazine’s future will include freelance articles by college students across the country.
“We want to be a national magazine, so we want to hear from students at other schools, too,” Sowienski said.
To develop an audience, Cardboard is initially targeting students at schools in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. The association comprises 116 member institutions, including NW.
“It has to be beyond NW. I want it to meet the same professional standards as any consumer magazine,” Sowienski said.
To achieve a more professional standard, the publishing class has partnered with Journey Group, a custom publisher based in Virginia whose clients include Habitat for Humanity, Campus Crusade for Christ and The Salvation Army.
Sowienski contacted Journey last spring when he sparked the idea for the publishing course. During the first offering of the course last spring, the class devised the concept for Cardboard.
“When the first group of students developed the mission statement, I was so amazed and touched,” Sowienski said. “I was just moved by their passion for this magazine with its Christian mission.”
Because of the magazine’s potential, the publishing course was offered again this semester. In this stage, a fresh batch of students have worked to bring the magazine to life.
“Class this semester is in essence a bridge,” Sowienski said. “The main goal for this particular class in terms of bridging is to start developing an audience through social media.”
As part of this effort, publishing students take turns posting to Cardboard’s blog. Sowienski discourages them from approaching their writing as assignments for a professor.
“I want students to learn what it takes to succeed as a writer, not what it takes to get the grade,” Sowienski said. “If you write to attract an audience, the grade takes care of itself.”
The publishing course will continue permanently as two classes. The introductory class, which is offered for fall 2012, will prepare students to write for Cardboard in the advanced course, tentatively offered for spring 2013.
“Publishing started out as a one-time offering, but the more the students worked on the magazine, the more excited they got, and the more excited I got as well,” Sowienski said.
In Sowienski’s plan, students who pass both courses will be able to continue working on Cardboard as editors and advisors, possibly in paid work-study positions. Sowienski hopes to eventually reach a staff size of approximately 20 NW students who would cooperate with student writers at other colleges.
“Magazine publishing is a collaborative process and an expensive undertaking,” Sowienski said. “It isn’t just slapping a story on a page and calling it good.”
If anyone can spearhead this effort, it’s Sowienski.
“Magazines are in my blood,” he said. “Before going into academia, I worked in publishing for 20 years.”
In his publishing career, Sowienski has served as the parenting and education editor of Better Homes and Gardens, senior editor of Successful Farming and managing editor of The Missouri Review, a top literary magazine.
To read Cardboard, visit cardboardmagazine.wordpress.com. On Twitter, the magazine tweets as @CardboardMag. To “like” Cardboard on Facebook, search “Cardboard Magazine.”