(from left) The Contemporary's Danielle Treviño, Karina Mendez-Perez, Benjamin Collinger, Zabdi Salazar, and Kassie Kelly. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Collinger.
(from left) The Contemporary's Danielle Treviño, Karina Mendez-Perez, Benjamin Collinger, Zabdi Salazar, and Kassie Kelly. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Collinger.

In the winter of 2015, I noticed a void in campus publications at Trinity University and across the United States. While many universities publish newspapers and journals, very few have unified the undergraduate voices in public affairs dialogues. While political discussions certainly occur within university communities, no large-scale efforts exist to amplify the work of young thought leaders.

For this reason, I founded The Contemporary as a platform to fill this void. Upon rallying my fellow founding members Shree Deshpande, Sean Watson, Jessica Cruz and Chloe Phea, I registered the publication as a student organization, and was fortunate to gain the enthusiastic support of Simran Singh. Ph.D., and Rosa Aloisi, Ph.D. as faculty advisors.

“I would like students to understand that the learning experience does not end in the class room,” Aloisi said. “The work students do is meant to have an impact and I want to make sure they are writing about something they care about.”

The Contemporary began receiving submissions from Trinity students for the inaugural edition, which was published in March 2016, both in print and online. After publishing the first edition, we entered Trinity’s Stumberg Competition, which awards $5,000 to promising startups that are selected by a panel of San Antonio business leaders. The Contemporary won the prize and along with it the opportunity to develop our business over the course of the summer with the help of mentors from all over the city as well as the Trinity entrepreneurship department, where our office is now located.

In November, we will compete in the finals of the Stumberg Competition for $25,000 with four other fantastic startups that were also launched at Trinity. Regardless of the results, we look forward to developing our organization and expanding our reach further during our time in college.

(from left) Zabdi Salazar, Shree Deshpande, Sean Watson, and Benjamin Collinger receive the Slumberg Award. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Collinger.
(from left) Zabdi Salazar, Shree Deshpande, Sean Watson, and Benjamin Collinger receive the Stumberg Award. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Collinger.

The Contemporary’s team is comprised of myself, Zabdi Salazar, Kassie Kelly, Karina Mendez-Perez, Andrea Acevedo, and Danielle Trevino. We come from a variety of personal experiences, academic interests, and skill sets. Our majors range from political science, anthropology, and international studies to neuroscience, business administration, and communication.

During the summer, we developed our business concept and expanded our reach. Among the pivots was moving away from the print model of publishing. Despite originally believing that print is an effective compliment to online editions on college campuses, we found it to be too large of an opportunity cost to continue.

Additionally, rather than focusing exclusively on Trinity, we added columnists from other universities’ publications to provide the undergraduate perspective and report on the ways in which politics intersect with college campuses. The Contemporary currently works with columnists from Pomona College, The University of Missouri, Claremont McKenna College, Bates College, The College of William & Mary, and Earlham College, and is in the process of expanding to add more. If you are college student, we invite you to apply to become a columnist for us.

“The opportunity for a cross-university and cross-publication partnership is one of the most exciting prospects for me. It means building a network of thoughtful, engaged, and passionate students from around the world, and getting us out of a parochial campus mindset,” said Bryan Burgess, junior at the College of William & Mary, managing editor of the Monitor: Journal of International Studiesand columnist for The Contemporary.

By combining the styles of current affairs magazines, academic journals, and blogs, our team aims to provide content for every interest and knowledge level in the effort to catalyze conversation and important debates. While the content will change, the goal is to combine the best lessons from academic journals, long-form journalism, and opinion pieces. Through our research over the summer, we concluded that the vastly fragmented media landscape often dissuades undergraduates from engaging consistently with local, national, and global public affairs. We seek to fill this need.

The Contemporary's Andrea Acevedo (right) and Trinity startup founder Bria Woods work in the office at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Collinger.
The Contemporary’s Andrea Acevedo (right) and Trinity startup founder Bria Woods work in the office at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Collinger.

Among many other topics, our writers at Trinity and around the country have analyzed the Baltimore Police Department’s discriminatory practices, critiqued the prospect of voting for a third-party candidate this presidential election cycle, commented on the rhetorical strategies utilized by both sides of the abortion debate, and reflected on personal experiences with anti-Muslim sentiment.

We also have interviewed prominent public officials, including the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, along with Lt. Cmdr. Alyson Rose-Wood, the U.S. Public Health Service officer serving as the senior policy advisor in the Office of the Director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis, and Raymond Robertson, the Helen and Roy Ryu Chair in Economics and Government in the department of international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, among many others.

We invite you to share your input with us at contactus@thecontemporarygroup.com.

We welcome suggestions to improve our platform, business model, and to reach a greater number of people in San Antonio and beyond. This dialogue can become an integral part of our effort to unite undergraduates in order to catalyze the public affairs engagement that our world so urgently needs.

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

Top image: (from left) The Contemporary’s Danielle Treviño, Karina Mendez-Perez, Benjamin Collinger, Zabdi Salazar, and Kassie Kelly. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Collinger.

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Benjamin Collinger

Benjamin Collinger is a Venture for America fellow. He founded The Contemporary and is a recent graduate of Trinity University.