The Ivory Tower: ‘By students, for students, featuring students’

The undergraduate staff of the art and literary magazine is creating the 10th Anniversary edition.

Danylo Loutchko

On-campus art and literary magazine Ivory Tower is a yearlong academic course, a Campus Life Program within the English department and a nonprofit organization that receives all its funding through donations. 
 
Belonging to these categories is one of the things that makes Ivory Tower work, the other being the dedicated undergraduate students who make up its staff.
 
The magazine’s yearly issue appears in the spring, and it began as an insert in the Minnesota Daily in 1952, running until 1969. The Ivory Tower published notable faculty and student fiction, nonfiction and poetry — it even had a young Garrison Keillor as one of its editors during that time. 
 
In 2006, the magazine was given new life in its current form — as a handsome, student-published, annual literary journal that publishes only undergraduate work.
 
The theme for the 2016, 10th anniversary issue of Ivory Tower is “Woven Voices,” which celebrates the diversity of creative expression in the magazine’s previous years as
well as the diversity on campus and in the Twin Cities area. 
 
As the Dec. 8 submission deadline approaches, the publication’s staff balances viewing submitted work with other responsibilities like fundraising and marketing, all while learning about the nuts and bolts of publishing a literary journal.
 
“If you haven’t had experience editing or publishing, it’s kind of a hard thing to get into,” said Ruth Zwick, a senior studying English and Italian, as well as one of the editors-in-chief for this year’s Ivory Tower. “The class is set up as a workshop. It’s really valuable, and you learn to do the things you need to do to put out a magazine, and you wouldn’t have the opportunity to have that hands-on experience otherwise.”
 
She said students get a lot out of the class, feeling that it provides a practical outlet for the creative skills of students in English and similar academic subjects. 
 
“I wasn’t sure coming into it, but I think a lot of us over the course of this semester have decided we want to go into publishing,” English junior and managing editor Erica Beebe said. “We’ve had some speakers come in to talk to us, so that’s really persuaded a lot of us.”
 
Jim Cihlar, a lecturer in the English department, is the supervising faculty member for the Ivory Tower class. He “hires” students when they “apply” for the Ivory Tower — students must include a resume and cover letter when registering for the class.
 
Cihlar facilitates the course and assigns students positions at the magazine such as editor-in-chief or fiction editor, but ultimately the students make the final decisions.
 
“We’re together for a year, and there’s so much work to be done that pretty much everyone wears a different hat at some point,” Cihlar said.
 
Most of the students have never had any heavy-duty editing or publishing experience. 
 
“At first it was kind of hard to know where all of us stood and what we were supposed to be doing with each of our roles,” Beebe said. “I think a lot of us have built our own roles, and we’ve formed this community where we’re playing off each other.”
 
Zwick said the smaller class size lets students use each other for support.
 
“If you don’t have the skills to do something, maybe one of your classmates does and could teach you something.”
 
While Ivory Tower exists for the students working to create it, it also exists primarily to publish the best in undergraduate fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art. Undergraduates from all majors and years are invited to submit their work. 
 
“I think it’s so important for students to have a voice, a creative voice, an outlet,” Cihlar said. “It’s important to get a first taste at being a published author. … I think it’s really important for a large state university [to have something] like Ivory Tower that is by students, for students, featuring students. That has to be there.”