Tamminen named press director

By Hilary Moss and Hilary Moss, Assistant News Editor
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Suzanna Tamminen, the new Director of the Wesleyan University Press, began working at the press in 1990. Elizabeth Ody Suzanna Tamminen, the new Director of the Wesleyan University Press, began working at the press in 1990.

After having served as interim director for six months, Suzanna Tamminen ’94 has been named the new director of the Wesleyan University Press.

“An excellent university press adds to the reputation of a strong university,” said Judith Brown, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. “University presses are important venues for scholarly publishing. I am very pleased with the appointment of Suzanna Tamminen as director of the Wesleyan University Press.”

The Wesleyan University Press was founded in 1959 and is responsible for twenty-five publications each year. The press is devoted to producing scholarly books in the areas of music, dance, poetry, science fiction and film and television. According to Tamminen, 95 percent of the published authors are professors at other colleges and universities.

“Our press is well-established in the areas of publication,” Tamminen said. “We are a known quantity to people writing. Manuscripts are submitted to us quite regularly, but we also attend conferences to hear professors present papers, read scholarly journals, and a lot happens by word of mouth.”

Tamminen received a B.A. in ’90 and an MALS in ’94. She has been working at the press since 1990 and as the associate director and editor-in-chief, and the interim director for the last 6 months.

“My role as director and editor-in-chief is to make sure we have a healthy number of book projects in the works and lined up for the new season,” Tamminen said. “Each book must work for us, both in terms of subject matter and financially, if they will sell. We aim to have a good balance.”

Wesleyan is the smallest university to have its own press and it boasts the second-oldest poetry series in the U.S. Books published by the press have been awarded with four Pulitzer Prizes, three National Book Awards, and many other honors. The most recent National Book Award was for Jean Valentine's “Door in the Mountain,” in 2004.

There are four full-time staff members working at the press: a director/editor-in-chief, a second editor, a marketing manager, and a publicist. Production and design work are freelanced, and customer service, warehousing and distribution are done at another office.

“We just hired a new editor, Eric Levy ’97, and he's coming in on Monday,” Tamminen said. “This is a big change because we haven't had two editors here with as much experience.”

Tamminen will continue to do much of the acquisitions work and focus her attentions on the music, film and television areas.

The press also employs 10 to 12 students every semester who act as support staff. In 1998 Tamminen created a summer internship program to further educate those interested in publishing. Students working at the press have pursued careers at Condé Nast, Random House, MIT Press and the NYU Press.

In the upcoming months, Tamminen plans to have new, efficient budgeting and accounting systems put into place. She will also work with a distributor to generate comprehensive sales reports.

“The main thing I'm going to do is to make sure the press is looking to the future in terms of electronic media,” she said.

The press has been celebrated by other departments of the University in the past. In 1999, in a partnership with the press, Olin Library presented “Press On! Four Decade of Innovative Publishing at Wesleyan.”

“In the big picture, [having a press] is a sign that the University is interested in disseminating information and publishing scholarly work,” said Leslie Starr, marketing manager. “We are interested in academic subjects and ideas, and furthermore, the press is a valuable resource to undergraduates because we are a real business providing good work experience.”

“Ultimately, everyone is part of the same broad mission to support scholarly work, new knowledge, and independent thinking,” Tamminen said.