Tag Archives: AUPresses

Celebrating Gita Manaktala, Recipient of the AUPresses Constituency Award

This week the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) meets in Detroit. At the same time, participating presses are hosting a special blog tour to celebrate the colleagues with whom we collaborate to make university press publishing happen. At the opening reception to the meeting I had the honor of presenting the AUPresses Constituency Award to Gita Manaktala, Editorial Director of the MIT Press. Below are my remarks.

Larin McLaughlin

Editor in Chief, University of Washington Press


First given in 1991 to Naomi Pascal, my predecessor at the University of Washington Press, the AUPresses Constituency Award recognizes active leadership and outstanding service to the association and the wider scholarly publishing community.

In university press publishing, our collective work is full of moments, ideas, and encounters that inspire and transform. Readers of our books and journals find new ideas that shift their understanding, buried and little-known histories, and remarkable people and communities they might otherwise never know. We hear of our authors’ amazement and joy when their first books arrive, we celebrate bestsellers, and watch readers pore over eagerly anticipated new releases.

Undergirding those experiences we create for others are the daily ways we inspire, challenge, and transform each other—and this award gives us the chance to celebrate those. This year’s Constituency Award recipient, Gita Manaktala, has been a brilliant and passionate exemplar of the best of what we are in her nearly 30-year career with the MIT Press and her ongoing commitment to and work with AUPresses.

At the MIT Press Gita has overseen a large and complex acquisitions program since 2010, with direct management responsibilities for 14 acquisitions editors in her role as Editorial Director. Prior to that, she was Director of Marketing, with oversight of global sales, marketing, publicity, and electronic product development. She shares her wide-ranging expertise and immense wisdom readily—one colleague mentioned that she is one of the people you hope to see immediately on arrival at the annual meeting because she “will have insights to share with you that no one else has thought of.”

Gita’s contributions to the work of AUPresses over more than a decade would take me beyond my time limit to detail, but highlights include chairing the program committee for the 2011 annual meeting, which was described as “one of the most vibrant, creative, lucrative and community-building programs of the last decade.” She also played an active role in the large collaborative project of creating the Peer Review Best Practices handbook, which brought together dozens of acquisitions editors to create a single guiding document.

I have worked with Gita most closely as part of the Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship program and as co-chair of the AUPresses Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. In this work Gita’s seasoned engagement, clarity of thought, and practice of skilled listening contributed immensely to our efforts. I have been so grateful to benefit from the example of Gita’s graceful leadership as well as her incisive editing—and I know so many of those of us who have worked with Gita have similar experiences.

Her letters of nomination for this award illustrate how much so many of us cherish Gita’s contributions to our work. One points out how “her knowledge, her charisma, her humor, her charm—are all generously bestowed on our membership.” Another colleague described Gita as “a strong ambassador for the cooperative and collaborative spirit that defines the AUPresses”

Gita’s passion for and expertise in so many areas of publishing has provided rich mentorship within the AUPresses. Her willingness to put generous and significant effort behind her clear commitments to publishing and justice has been key to the work the MIT Press, the Mellon fellowship partner presses, and the AUPresses have undertaken in the area of equity, inclusion, and justice more broadly. Please join me in celebrating her today.

$1,205,000 Mellon grant to expand the University Press Diversity Fellowship Program

The University of Washington Press, the MIT Press, Cornell University Press, the Ohio State University Press, University of Chicago Press, Northwestern University Press, and the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) join forces to expand the University Press Diversity Fellowship Program.

A four-year, $1,205,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been awarded to the University of Washington Press to support the continued development and expansion of the pipeline program designed to diversify academic publishing by offering apprenticeships in acquisitions departments. This new grant will provide for three annual cycles of editorial fellows at six university presses: the University of Washington Press, the MIT Press, Cornell University Press, the Ohio State University Press, University of Chicago Press, and Northwestern University Press.

This new grant builds on the success of the initial 2016 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which funded the first cross-press initiative of its kind in the United States to address the marked lack of diversity in the academic publishing industry. Graduates of the first fellowship program hold professional positions at university presses across the country, including at Columbia University Press, the MIT Press, University of Virginia Press, the Ohio State University Press, and the University of Washington Press. Additionally, for the four participating presses, the initial grant expanded applicant pools, improved outreach to underrepresented communities, created more equitable preliminary screening practices in hiring, and enabled dedicated attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion overall.

The 2016 grant also served as a catalyst for broader changes at the partner presses and within the AUPresses as a larger organization. “Diversity is one of AUPresses’ core values. As such, we are proud to partner in the expansion of this significant program,” says AUPresses Executive Director Peter Berkery. “Our participation in the original initiative over the last three years has led, not only to more inclusive programming choices at our annual conferences and webinars, but also to the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which will evolve into a Standing Committee to help us sustain momentum in this area of vital importance to our community, higher education, and the entire publishing industry.”

This new grant offers opportunities for more sustained engagement with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion among the new partner presses and the university press community more broadly. “Continuing the fellowship program will enable us to focus on longer-term issues of retention and leadership development among the program’s participants,” says Larin McLaughlin, Editor in Chief of the University of Washington Press and principal investigator on the grant. “With this new grant, we want to provide the opportunity for new presses to participate in the program while benefitting from the experience of the original partner presses.”

Gita Manaktala, Editorial Director of the MIT Press, comments, “The fellows have inspired a strong sense of responsibility among partner presses, which have demonstrated this in several ways: by developing more inclusive press environments, by opening processes to welcome the fellows’ perspectives and input into the daily work of acquisitions, and by providing fellows with focused career advice for job placement and professional development.”

The first and second grants combined provide for a total of 30 fellows in six years, which will generate marked shifts in acquisitions staff across university presses not possible without this kind of dedicated funding.

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Washington Mark Richards says, “At the University of Washington, we value and honor diverse experiences and perspectives and prioritize promoting access, opportunity, and justice for all. I’m excited about the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s investment in diversity and inclusion in transforming academic publishing, and delighted that UW Press is a leader in this area.”

Betsy Wilson, Vice Provost for Digital Initiatives and Dean of University Libraries, to whom the UW Press reports, says, “UW Libraries actively supports the university in sustaining diversity, creating inclusive experiences for the UW community, and confronting institutional bias and structural racism. This new grant augments our existing commitments and programs to equity and social justice as a world-class research university.”

For more information, please contact Larin McLaughlin, Editor in Chief, by calling (206) 221-4995 or emailing  lmclaugh@uw.edu.

2018–2019 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship

The University of Washington Press (job number 152934), Duke University Press (Careers), MIT Press (job number 15648), and the University of Georgia Press (job number S00514P) are now accepting applications for the 2018–2019 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship Program. The program seeks to increase diversity in scholarly publishing by providing year-long fellowships in the acquisitions departments of the four university presses with the support of the Association of University Presses and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Search committees will begin reviewing applications after March 15, 2018. Selected fellows will be notified by April 14, 2018, to begin the year-long fellowship on June 1, 2018.