When Rick Kamber, professor of philosophy, approached James Van Strander ’08 he had an assignment for his former student involving the works of revered American philosopher William James. Kamber ’s proposal was not a typical reading or writing assignment, but rather a request that Van Strander assist in the editing process for the forthcoming book William James: Essays and Lectures.
“To say I was happy about the proposed work would understate how excited I was,” recalled Van Strander. “I was thrilled to be working with Professor Kamber and contributing to a published work. It was a bit intimidating at first, but it was a great opportunity and a definite challenge. ”
The book, published by Pearson-Longman in the fall of 2006, is a collection of writings composed by James. James was a pioneering philosopher of pragmatism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Kamber was hired by Pearson-Longman to select and edit James ’ works and create an anthology of his essays and lectures. The book is designed to entice those unfamiliar with James and is edited and annotated for a general audience. Kamber was also responsible for writing the introductions to each chapter.
The depth of treatment and volume of work demanded a second pair of eyes and ideas. Kamber initially contacted a colleague in search of a graduate student to serve as an assistant editor. When that attempt fell short, Kamber thought of his former student to assist in the process. He remembered Van Strander being an excellent student, but could never have anticipated the level of reliability, work ethic, and insight Van Strander brought to the editing table.
“This book is a product of a partnership between teacher and student,” noted Kamber. “The finished work was a collaboration in every sense of the word between myself and James. I think this is something that TCNJ has been pursuing for years, and that is teaching and scholarship were complementary and worked hand-in-hand to achieve great work. ”
The selection and editing process spanned several months. Early in the project, the publisher requested that Kamber and Van Strander submit samples of their work to be vetted by seven different philosophy experts. The feedback was extremely positive.
For Van Strander, it was an incredible opportunity to engross himself in the field of philosophy and also learn about the publishing industry. To contribute to a book before graduating from college is extremely rare, and, while the challenge of graduate school looms ahead, Van Strander discovered that his true abilities surfaced when put to the test. As James once said, “Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.”
“I would encourage other students to seek out opportunities with professors in their field of study, ” Van Strander said. “Professors undertake research projects all the time, and students should seek out opportunities for experience if nothing else.”