The Right Job for a Grad Who Reads Scholarship for Fun
A master’s in Women’s and Gender Studies readied this class of ’22 grad for a role at NYU Press.
In April, Jennifer Rossberg (M.A. ’22, Women’s and Gender Studies) started a new job as a publicity manager at NYU Press. The position is a step up from her previous role as a senior publicist at Pegasus Books. It also gets her back into academic publishing, which is the perfect place for someone who reads scholarly books for fun. She spoke to us about why she loves book publicity, how the Graduate Center readied her for her career move, and her tips for students who, like her, need to balance school and work.
The Graduate Center: What excites you the most about your role as a publicity manager at New York University Press?
Rossberg: Major national media hits always give me a rush as a publicist — scoring an author interview on NPR for example, or getting a book reviewed in the New York Times — but what’s really satisfying is connecting a book with its perfect audience. For example, I worked on a biography of the abolitionist newspaperman Elijah Lovejoy, who was killed by a pro-slavery mob ransacking his printing press in Illinois. I secured an interview for the author on Illinois public radio, and later at a virtual book talk, an audience member started gushing about how much she loved the author’s interview and explained that after she heard it, she went out and bought the book right away. That felt like the perfect hit for that book.
GC: How does your new role differ from other publicity roles you’ve had?
Rossberg: NYU is a leading academic press, so we’re often publishing cutting-edge scholarship that the rest of the reading public hasn’t caught up to yet. A large part of my job involves translating this scholarship into accessible language and explaining why it’s so important to understanding current events, politics, class, race, society, criminology, gender, and onwards. I really need to sink my teeth into a book, and then think creatively about how to grab potential readers’ attention.
GC: How did your Graduate Center experience prepare you for your new role?
Rossberg: My job involves a lot of rigorous academic reading, which was a huge part of my experience as a student at the Graduate Center. When I interviewed for the job, I had to hold up multiple academic books on the Zoom screen to prove that yes, I actually read scholarship for fun, I’m not just saying that to get the job! Being able to demonstrate that I was familiar with the press’ scholars helped, too; a bunch of my CUNY professors actually published with NYU.
GC: For your master’s thesis, you wrote about the popular graphic novel “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” and how it conveys a “complex vision of generative, queer identification with monstrosity.” Can you explain in plain terms what this means?
Rossberg: If I could do that, I wouldn’t have had to write this whole thesis! (Just kidding.)
Basically, this incredible graphic novel takes the iconography of classic comic book monsters — werewolves, vampires, ghosts, Frankenstein’s monster — and uses all the things that make these monsters different to stand in for things that make real people different, like race, class, mental illness, sexuality, and gender identity. Being different can make a person feel like a monster, but this book says, “I love that! My favorite thing is monsters!” and celebrates those differences instead of condemning them.
GC: What did you find most valuable about your experience at the Graduate Center?
Rossberg: Hands down, the most important takeaway from my time at CUNY was the relationships I made with fellow students and professors. I met one of my best friends at the open house for our program, and now three years later, I’m attending her wedding, we co-authored a paper, and are attending multiple conferences together. The folks who come through the Graduate Center, both to teach and to learn, are so incredible; it was a pleasure getting to know and work with so many creative, intelligent people.
GC: What advice do you have for students about pursuing a master’s degree to advance their careers, especially if they’re working full time?
Rossberg: Well, I’ll be honest, I didn’t get a women’s and gender studies degree because I thought it was going to be a big money-maker (shocker, I know). I went back to school because I knew that I had so much more to learn about being a better feminist, academically and in my day-to-day life. When I graduated, this job kind of fell into my lap and ended up being a perfect combination of my academic passion and my past work experience. So, I’d say to prospective students: Make sure you’re studying something you love, because it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but that’s the best way to end up with a job you love, too.
GC: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your Graduate Center experience?
Rossberg: Take advantage of the library! The physical space at the Graduate Center is so beautiful — sadly I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I’d have liked to because of COVID-19 — and the extra services like Interlibrary Loan are incredibly useful. Every librarian is knowledgeable and helpful and awesome, so ask them for assistance when you’re doing research and read every book you can get your hands on! Especially if it’s published by NYU Press.
Published by the Office of Communications and Marketing