Around the turn of the century, in Rhode Island, a group of Bryant College professors from different departments would frequently meet for lunch, sharing ideas over a Sodexo meal. The members of this group included Pat Keeley, Pedro Beade and Glen Camp. Pat, known for his Irish wit and resonant voice, would frequently remark sarcastically that a new international journal, a multidisciplinary one, was needed to record the group’s thoughts. Nobody would think anything of Pat’s tongue in cheek comment but the eccentric and affable Glen Camp, a multilinguist who had spent the early years of his career as a policy director for the U.S. State Department in Europe, would each time raise his glass and reply “Superbe! Magnifique!” At first it was thought that Camp was acting theatrically in jest but it soon became apparent that he was obsessed by the remark that Keeley would generously repeat over time, if for nothing else, to elicit the predictable reply. A Harvard alumnus and Fulbright scholar, Camp was the founder of the Rhode Island branch of Amnesty International, and he saw in open and multidisciplinary communications a catalyst for international education and harmony across geographical boundaries. He envisioned how a journal of this nature could promote study abroad programs. Sitting at the same table would be Dean Earl Briden whose pet project at Bryant was to get the faculty to think outside the box. Bryant students had for decades participated in study abroad programs and Dean Briden was actively involved in the extensive documentation of the programs. One may imagine the Dean’s generous words of encouragement to Camp. This led Camp to prod Pedro Beade for advice about securing funding for the journal and academic conferences. As a board member of the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities, Beade was an expert in grant writing and had the right connections. Camp was the favorite professor of the international students at Bryant, and Beade who had been raised in Cuba believed in Camp’s vision.
This was an exciting time at Bryant. The college was on the verge of becoming a university and a major campus expansion would soon be undertaken. As so often happens in such situations involving change, other concepts took a backseat and the idea of a multidisciplinary journal that couldn't fit readily in any one department could at first elicit only a very narrow support. Yet from a small seed a tree would grow.
The International Journal of Arts & Sciences (IJAS) was officially registered as a double-blind refereed journal in 2005. The first issue was published one year later in hard-copy format thanks to the creative writings of Rocio Dresser (San Diego State University), Jerry Galloway (Georgia Southern), Kristin Reddington-Bennett (Wake Forest University), and Sylvia Nassar-McMillan (North Carolina State University), among others. Each issue was driven by a call for papers.
By 2008, some of the initial Bryant faculty had assumed new responsibilities or joined other universities. A few others had passed away or retired. Among those who were now teaching elsewhere was Joseph Bonnici, a professor active in study abroad programs.
In 2008, Bonnici was asked to facilitate major changes at IJAS and to extend the organization's outreach beyond American academia. Sticking closely to Camp's philosophical blueprint, IJAS formally became an organizer of conferences promoting study abroad programs. The multidisciplinary content of the research remained the same but the format changed from a “traditional American" to an "international study abroad” format. IJAS also started disseminating its articles in electronic format, thereby increasing its articles’ access across the world. Over fifteen professors in the Connecticut State University (CSU) system including Henry Greene, Khoon Koh, Carlos F. Liard-Muriente, and Bonnici himself have been instrumental in coordinating IJAS' conferences. If Bryant College was the cradle of the IJAS multidisciplinary movement, the Connecticut State University system has been its spiritual home. The CSU Board of Regents' emphasis on "affordable education" in its mission statement has had an influence on the value for money that delegates experience through the conferences.
On the other side of the Atlantic, two persons have stood out in IJAS’ success in Europe. One was Volker Kieber who jettisoned IJAS beyond its American base to link up with Eucor, the Upper Rhine University with campuses in three European countries. As a result of this university partnership, IJAS went on a tear solidifying its European program. The other highly productive relationship happened shortly thereafter with the University of Malta. With a campus in the center of the Mediterranean and historical ties to the Knights of Malta at the Anglo-American University in the Czech Republic, this resulted in a continuation of conferences in various European countries. The University of Malta’s Joseph Azzopardi, an academic fluent in German, further nurtured IJAS’ close relationship with German and Austrian universities which sponsor a number of IJAS’ conferences.
In line with the above developments, IJAS' editorial board actively solicits international research. IJAS' articles are indexed or accessed in (i) WorldCat, (ii) Ulrich's serials directory, (iii) Index Copernicus, (iv) ProQuest, (v) Genamics, (vi) EBSCO, and (vii) Google Scholar - click here. The high quality of the research is due to dedicated reviewers (see list for this conference).
Over the last few years, widespread cuts in university budgets have led to the demise of many excellent research programs and projects on American campuses. When the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) started closing down entire departments and projects due to lack of funding, IJAS ended up acquiring a number of refereed publications on condition that it would offer them for free to the general public for a set number of years.
Trying to explain the IJAS experience over all these years to those who have spent a lifetime attending traditional, single-discipline conferences confined within four walls is like trying to explain the laptop to a 1960's typist chugging at her typewriter in her cubicle. IJAS owes its success instead to a burgeoning generation of professors who are internationally mobile and eager to explore beyond the confines of their discipline and geographical base. The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size. Taken to its fullest, the IJAS experience is fatal to silo mentalities. At IJAS', there is always something new to do and learn. To those who prefer a traditional, single-discipline conference, they could still experience this at IJAS by narrowing the type of papers they attend to and skipping the cultural programs. Like a study abroad program, an IJAS conference is what one makes it. There are students who take their study abroad program seriously, actively trying to comprehend and close the cultural divide. And there are those who can't wait for the opportunity to get drunk. As one University of Cincinnati professor put it upon attending the IJAS conference in Prague, if a delegate presents a paper and leaves, the experience is no different than if one did the same thing at a bigger conference such as the American Psychological Association's. She then described what it was like to listen to a wide variety of presentations at the IJAS conference:
The American presenters [were] highly energetic and data driven about helping low income NYC students... The Polish presenter had highly multicolored slides about how the sounds of poetry make us happy. The German presenter and the Romanian presenter [spoke] about theology. The grad student in English studies read a paper full of whimsical self disclosure about reading Mrs. Dalloway in the tub. An Israeli Buddhist gave a moving account of his moment of enlightenment in the Judean desert. Having such variety in culture, kinds of questions being asked, and styles of presentations is an experience of widening the world that would not occur in discipline specific situations. This pulls you out of your silo if you let it.