“There were days when I really felt like I was sinking under the weight of something I couldn’t even name. And then there were other days when it was just fabulous, when I felt really on top of the world,” Glen Isaak recalls.
Isaak, now an English instructor at Langara College, is speaking about his stint as the student editor of the first issue of Pacific Rim Magazine. With this latest issue, the magazine celebrates its tenth anniversary. The magazine’s continued existence is due largely to the individuals who have worked devotedly to ensure its production each year for one simple reason: PRM offers a unique and exceptionally rewarding learning experience for all who participate-students and instructors alike.
Sensing that working on PRM was a rare opportunity, Isaak postponed his transfer to Simon Fraser University and accepted the invitation of the publisher of the first issue, Alban Goulden, who also happened to be one of his English instructors.
Goulden knew that PRM was going to require a lot of work. He refused twice before being convinced to assume the role of publisher. What finally persuaded him was receiving negotiated release time from his regular teaching duties and his confidence in the expertise of Ron Woodward, the originator of PRM. “He talked a good line and I could see that he was hard-working, that he was a person who would deliver,” Goulden reminisces. And deliver he did.
To many, the idea of a magazine produced by students may seem risky. Woodward, however, was not intimidated. He knew that it could work because he had done it before at Selkirk College, where he developed and chaired the Graphic Communications Program. A magazine would facilitate the collaboration of students from different disciplines. Not only would it serve as a valuable exercise in teamwork, it would provide students with portfolio-worthy material. “The magazine would act as a calling-card for students,” Woodward explains.
Finding A Home For Pacific Rim Magazine
On sabbatical from Selkirk College and in Vancouver to pursue a Ph.D. in Communications at Simon Fraser University, Woodward happened to meet Bruce Maclean, then director of Instructional Media Services for the Langara campus of Vancouver Community College. Maclean, and later VCC’s administration, enthusiastically embraced the idea of a magazine that would showcase the talents of students while offering the three VCC campuses the opportunity to work together.
From the beginning, Langara was a perfect fit and City Centre campus with its Computer Graphics and Printing Production program, made a vital contribution. The King Edward campus was more of a challenge. So PRM made its permanent home at Langara, but each spring shifted its base of operations downtown to Judy Roy’s computer graphics lab at City Centre.
The Process is Rewarding
Cooperation was also emphasized among the concerned departments at Langara. Keith Murray, latterly the Chair of Langara’s Business Administration Department, was invited to bring a business perspective into the academic fray, and advertising revenue into the pages of the magazine.
Like the other instructors, Murray saw the potential for a valuable learning experience for students in his sales workshop. “I was quite happy to participate because of the opportunity it presented to provide a real-life selling situation.”
Just as Murray’s students invariably describe the rush of a signed advertising contract, and Isaak remembers a profound and unequalled sense of satisfaction, the instructors were similarly rewarded.
Goulden had no idea he would find the involvement of the various students so gratifying. He remembers one meeting with editor Isaak and David Chan, who worked on the photography. “I suddenly realized that these two students were going to be really helpful. In this one meeting it just became clear to me. Suddenly these marvellous photographs were sitting in front of me on the table and I was getting Glen’s input, and I then realized that this is really what education is supposed to be. It’s something more hands on and it’s something in which the students do not just receive direction. It’s learning something, creating something, and presenting it. That, to me, was a revelation and I’ve never had quite that level of satisfaction in teaching.”
Woodward, who is now a member of the faculty of the Master of Publishing Program at SFU, agrees. “The highlight for me is that now, when I run into students that I worked with during those first years, they are working in the industry. So it works.”
A Success Story
Perhaps one of the major success stories, Woodward points out, is Michael Lee, a former student at the City Centre campus. Lee was invited to join PRM and eventually quit his full-time job to focus on the magazine. “I remember thinking that I had found my career in life,” he confides almost in a whisper. His commitment to the magazine did not go unnoticed or unrewarded. Lee has been the production director of PRM for seven years and is an instructor in the Publishing: Techniques and Technologies program at Langara-a program developed in large part because of the magazine.
The Major Force of The Publishing Program
The magazine has also been a labour of love for Richard Hopkins, PRM’s current publisher. This issue marks his ninth year of involvement with PRM, his seventh year as publisher, his second year as coordinator of the Publishing Program, and, unfortunately, his last year at Langara-he retires this spring.
Hopkins was the major force behind Langara’s Publishing Program. The idea for the program had developed naturally during the production of the magazine.”It gathered momentum and we realized that the technological changes occurring in the publishing industry offered new opportunities for the college and the students,” Hopkins explains.
Retirement will not entirely sever the bond that Hopkins has with the magazine or with the Publishing Program that he helped establish; he plans to stay in touch with his colleagues and will be an interested observer as they continue their work. Such dedication is typical of all involved in the production of the magazine.
Woodward, who modestly downplays his role, describing himself merely as a catalyst, says, “the fact that PRM survived and is the centrepiece of the Publishing Program is a testament to the administrators, faculty, and students. This was a real group effort.”
Happy Birthday PRM. Here’s to many more issues!