Alicia Sellheim

Alicia Sellheim

Major at CSB/SJU: Psychology
Year of Graduation: 2002
Graduate School/Additional Education: Denver Publishing Institute
Current Job Title: Production Assistant

Please give a brief description of your current position:
I assist the production department with tasks related to the copyediting, typesetting, design, and printing of books and journals published by the University of Minnesota Press.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
After graduation, I was unsure of my career plans and so went back to a job (medical receptionist) I had held during the summers/breaks at Park Nicollet Health Services.  I worked at this job for five years as I explored various career and graduate school options.  I loved studying psychology but could not envision myself working in the stereotypical careers usually associated with psychology such as counseling. While enrolled in a master's of liberal arts program at Hamline, I took a class on the ethics of book publishing.  This class sparked my interest in the field and I began to think of a possible career in the publishing field.

I attended the Denver Publishing Institute--this is an intensive, 4-week summer program that provides a broad overview of all aspects of the publishing industry through lectures and hands-on workshops in editing and marketing. This program gave me a handle on the type of book publishing work I wanted to do. Once I knew the direction I was heading, I was able to network my way into the position I now have with the University of Minnesota Press.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Prior experience is key when attempting to land a job in the field of book publishing. Educational programs that are geared specifically towards publishing are few, but they are out there, and they are a great way to figure out where your interests might fall within the field. If a publishing program is not possible, try to intern with a local book publisher while you're still working on your undergraduate degree. And do all you can to strengthen your writing skills--understanding the mechanics of the English language is a must for all publishing professionals.

What skills are important in your field?
A keen eye for detail; copy editing and proofreading ability (high reading comprehension and well developed writing skills); strong interpersonal skills; an extraordinary amount of patience; troubleshooting ability; and above all, you must have a great love for books.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job? Most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my job is being able to hold a finished book in my hands knowing that I played a fundamental role in its creation.

The most challenging part of my job is fielding the delicate sensibilities of our authors. An author's book is their baby, and they can be rather sensitive to the decisions we make regarding it--this is where strong communication and interpersonal skills come into play.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
We publish books in a variety of different fields of study and on a variety of different topics. The liberal arts education I received at CSB/SJU helped to prepare me for the varying nature of the material I now work with each day. I consider it an asset to have studied not just psychology (my major), but philosophy, mathematics, theology, science, and the arts. I walked away from CSB/SJU with a love and interest in many different areas of study; I've been able to carry on and continuously develop these interests through my work, which is extremely rewarding.