The arrival of the November 15 edition of The Presbyterian Outlook magazine highlighted a memorable achievement for two University of the Ozarks senior English majors.
Abby Asencio from Gentry, Ark., and Brian Wilken from Claremore, Okla., both had byline, full-page book reviews in the national magazine’s annual higher education edition. Based in Virginia, The Outlook is the primary national publication of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The books reviews were the first published articles for the students, both of whom are expected to graduate in May of 2022.
“It really didn’t register until I saw it in print,” said Wilken. “I’ve always wanted to get an article published, but I really didn’t think it would happen as an undergraduate. This fit right into what I want to do with my career, which is in publishing or editing, so that made it even more special. I feel like I’ve got a foot in the door now.”
The students heard about the opportunity to submit the reviews from University Chaplain Rev. Jeremy Wilhelmi, who had received an email from the magazine’s new editor, Teri McDowell Ott, the former University chaplain at Monmouth College in Illinois. Wilhelmi reached out to students and professors in the English department to gauge interest and that’s when Asencio and Wilken learned of the opportunity.
“It was something that definitely interested me and just seemed like a neat opportunity,” Asencio said.
Amy Pagliarella, the book editor for The Outlook, gave both students several faith-based books to choose from. Asencio chose “You Are Not Your Own,” by Alan Noble, and Wilken picked “God Gets Everything God Wants,” by Katie Hays.
“We had a little over two weeks to read the book and submit the review,” Asencio said. “Fortunately, our literature classes were not in full swing at the time and we had some free time to get it done.”
Both students said the editors made very few changes to their original submissions.
“It was enjoyable to see how the whole process worked,” said Wilken. “Amy was great to work with and really helped provide some great insight to the publishing process.”
Wilken said it was especially fun to have the opportunity to write a more “informal” book review.
“Most of the book reviews we do in class are more structured where this was more relaxed,” he said. “This was more about how much we enjoyed the book and how we felt about what it was saying. I enjoyed that change of pace.”
Asencio said the experience reaffirms her desire to pursue a career in journalism or writing.
“I really see this as an out-of-this-world God moment and it makes me even more excited to pursue this type of profession,” she said. “The editor even said for us to keep in contact and that if we had other ideas for articles, she would propose them to her editors. That’s pretty amazing.”