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.
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.