Lees-McRae literary journal Ragweed returns with new issue, “The Student Mind”

Creative outlets are an incredibly important tool for developing and growing as a person. Thinking and expressing oneself creatively allows an individual to work through emotions, develop opinions, and discover their identity. English majors and Creative Writing Club officers Mikayla Hamilton and Makayla Gregory have done their part to develop a creative outlet for the students of Lees-McRae by reviving the college’s literary journal Ragweed.

Although a literary journal began at the college in the 1980s under a different name, it eventually petered out and was revived under the name of Ragweed in the late 2010s. This version of the journal deviated from the previous journal’s structure, featuring more community voices. After running for a couple of years, the journal ceased publication after the Spring 2020 issueuntil Hamilton and Gregory decided to revive the cultural collection this past September.

“I was really, really impressed by the writing in the 2019 issue. It was beautiful, but the collection itself wasn’t very large, and there wasn't a lot of student work. I thought it was really cool, and I was super interested, but it didn’t have all the features I thought showcased the students,” said Gregory, who has a long-standing affinity for literary journals thanks to a shared hobby of reading them with her sister.

Hamilton happened to stumble upon the journal’s last issue when researching Lees-McRae as a potential college of interest while still in high school. She became excited at the prospect of contributing to a publication that had a long history of elevating students’ creative voices but was disappointed when she enrolled at the college and found that the team behind the journal had disbanded.

Now, working with Gregory to bring the journal back to life, Hamilton said reflecting on her initial introduction to Ragweed seems like fate.

“Since we were finally in a place to revamp it and take control of it ourselves, we definitely wanted to. I like the fact that we’re able to take that initiative because of the position we find ourselves in,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s really cool that I went from wanting to submit to something like that to actually working to bring it back.”

Reissuing a defunct literary journal took a lot of forethought and collaboration, but Gregory and Hamilton were determined and full of ideas for restructuring the journal. After landing on the theme for the first revamped issue, “The Student Mind,” Gregory and Hamilton began accepting submissions. Unlike the previous issue, which featured primarily community work, they said they chose this theme because they wanted to focus this iteration of Ragweed on student voices.

“Making it student-focused is our first and main priority, but also having a theme that’s reflective of the entire school,” Gregory said. “‘The Student Mind’ is a whole collective of the student body. Because Lees-McRae is a small and unified college, we wanted to make sure that we represent the athlete mind, the creative mind, the written mind, the philosophic mind. We have so many diverse students here and being able to represent them in a collective piece will help us kickstart the project for the future.”

Within their goal of elevating student voices and work, Gregory and Hamilton also hope to provide a way for their peers to give time and space to their passions and create work that they are proud of outside of a classroom setting.

College is a busy time for all students, and the co-editors agreed that often in between classes, homework, exams, and athletics, creativity and hobbies go untended. With Ragweed, they want to prioritize students’ passions and give them a chance to step away from their schoolwork and apply their brain power in a different context.

“We’re at college, so obviously our primary focus right now is our classes, and a lot of the time passions and creativity have to be put on the backburner as much as we don't want them to,” Hamilton said. “You’re not going to get academic credit for submitting to this, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. It’s a way to show that you shouldn’t ignore things you’re passionate about.”

After months of hard work and dedication from Gregory and Hamilton, the Fall 2022 issue of Ragweed, “The Student Mind,” is complete. Their updated layout includes a illustrated cover by Communication Arts and Design Major Tessa Wells and three sections of student-written work: poetry, sudden fiction, and ghost stories.

Throughout the multi-month period where Gregory and Hamilton committed a significant portion of their free time to the development of the journal, they learned a lot about to the process of taking inspiration from a previous project and creating something all your own. Now, with a strong foundation for the journal and a more developed tool kit for making their dreams into reality, the co-editors are looking forward to an even stronger Spring 2023 issue.

“The most challenging part of the process was probably starting from scratch and creating our own vision for what we wanted to do, Gregory said. “Now that we actually have that foundation, we’re hoping that people will be inspired to carry this on into the future.”


A literary journal of Lees-McRae College

Volume III: Fall 2022

By Maya JarrellDecember 07, 2022
AcademicsCampus Life