In recognition of her exceptional service to her community, Dean Tresmaine R. Grimes, PhD, has been named a national finalist for the Jefferson Award, an honor referred to as the “Nobel Prize of service.”
What makes a book worth publishing? Whose stories are being told? Over the past several years, diversity in publishing has become a national conversation, and Dyson College of Arts and Sciences alumni working in the industry are invested in moving the field forward.
“That’s what excites me most about this industry: the new directions it’s going in and all the opportunities to make sure young readers see themselves in what they’re reading,” said Alma Gomez Martinez ’22, ’23, who completed a combined degree in English and Publishing from Pace and now works as an editorial assistant for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
While at Pace, Gomez Martinez double minored in women’s and gender studies and critical race and ethnicity studies, underscoring her deep-rooted beliefs in representation and social justice. “I like to think that as I’m working toward being an editor, I’ll eventually play a significant role in steering my little corner of publishing in a diverse direction,” she said.
While the conversation of diversity in publishing has picked up steam in the national media recently, Mae Martinez ’20, ’21, notes that it’s not a new concept within the industry. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that this conversation has been around for a while, and largely championed by BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] authors, publishing professionals, and of course, readers,” she said.
If it’s the same group of college-educated, primarily white American, heterosexual, cisgendered people choosing what books ‘deserve’ publication, or ‘deserve’ the limelight, clearly the bookstores and libraries would be uninviting—and frankly boring—places to be.
Martinez, who also completed the English and Publishing combined degree program, is currently working as an editorial assistant for Ballantine Bantam Dell at Penguin Random House. “My job largely impacts what content is published out in the world, and I think all editors have a personal responsibility here,” she said. “My editorial practices are built with an intersectional foundation, meaning that inclusivity, mindfulness, and intention are always at the forefront.”
“For my own part, I try to help those looking to break into publishing by sharing my own journey as a woman of color navigating this world,” said Sabeen Aziz '16, English, a senior editorial assistant at Wiley. “And at my work, we are very particular about finding diverse reviewers and making sure a book has diverse contributors.”
Asante Simons ’17, English, an editor at Harper Collins, noted that increased diversity in the publishing industry is crucial for representation—but also that diversity helps make reading, put simply, more interesting. “If it’s the same group of college-educated, primarily white American, heterosexual, cisgendered people choosing what books ‘deserve’ publication, or ‘deserve’ the limelight, clearly the bookstores and libraries would be uninviting—and frankly boring—places to be.”
At Pace, students enrolled in both the English and Publishing programs dive deep into themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their coursework and beyond. In the English program, students explore whose voices have been amplified throughout the history of literature and whose stories have mostly gone untold.
Associate Professor of English Sarah Blackwood, PhD, chair of the English department, noted in articles for The New York Review of Books, Inside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education that, despite a systemic divestment in the humanities nationwide, enrollment in Pace’s English program continues to grow because of the department’s commitment to keeping students engaged—often through experiential lessons devoted to challenging traditional ways of thinking.
“Studying English teaches you how to critically analyze concepts and create persuasive arguments—skills useful in any position,” said Aziz, who noted that her English professors at Pace, who were passionate and engaging, challenged her to be a better thinker and writer.
In the publishing program, DEI is purposefully woven throughout the curriculum, including in courses such as Book Design and Production, taught by Adjunct Professor Peggy Samedi, senior production manager at Penguin Random House. She said, “DEI is not only for departments with editorial functions. A representative workforce that mirrors the needs and values of our changing customer base is essential for all parts of our industry. Non-editorial colleagues are sometimes the book's first readers and can become their biggest advocates.”
Adjunct Professor James Perry, who teaches the Financial Aspects of Publishing graduate course and works as vice president and director of finance at Random House Children’s Books Inc., added, “One of the goals of DEI is for everyone to have a seat at the decision-making table. An important part of being at the table is understanding the economics of the publishing world. The more informed we are on financial aspects, the better chance we have of making sound analytical choices that are both profitable and equitable for all. In the Financial Aspects of Publishing course, the students have resoundingly and organically achieved this in both theory and reality.”
Through courses like Samedi’s and Perry’s, the professors in the MS in Publishing program ensure that students are well prepared for careers in a changing industry.
“We incorporate DEI in everything we do, ensuring that diverse books and authors are included in any discussions about the industry,” said Manuela Soares, MFA, director of the MS in Publishing program. “Our guest speakers and faculty are drawn from diverse publishing professionals, so all of our students can see themselves in those role models.”
In response to the 2022 Economic Impact Survey (PDF) on the publishing industry in New York City, the first survey of its kind, Soares emphasized Pace’s unique role in connecting future publishing professionals to the industry in the city. The survey underlined progress the industry has made regarding diversity, while underscoring areas for continued improvement and offering suggestions for actionable steps within the field. In alignment with the recommendations, Soares highlighted Pace’s commitment to educating publishing students on diversity, equity, and inclusion practices and on making quality education accessible to all.
Aziz applauded the notion that these important conversations are continuing to happen in the industry, but noted that “if you look at the current data, there is still a long way to go.”
Martinez added that it’s not just those working in the publishing industry who can help push the movement forward: “If anyone is interested in getting involved, a good starting point is to read widely from authors who have experiences that are not your own.”