Instress Celebrates 50 Years


An array of past editions of Instress. This year marks 50 years of the publication.

Matthew Gromala , Reporter

   2016 is a landmark year for the campus literary journal  Instress, which celebrates its 50th anniversary.

   First published in 1966, Instress has survived many changes at the university, including the acceptance of male students for the first time in the 1970’s, financial hardship in the 90’s, and the transition from a college to a university. Through it all, Instress has  grown.

   While Instress publishes the work of faculty and staff,  its focus is publishing original student-generated essays, poetry, art and photography.

   “I’ve had the opportunity to talk with Sister Anne Paye, who is the faculty member who started Instress in 1966, and her initial words to me were, ‘Instress is a vehicle for students,’” said Leah Santucci, a senior nursing major and English minor, who serves as typesetter and designer, as well as in intern, for Instress.

   Santucci said she became involved with the journal when she was sitting in Dr. Rebecca Steinberger’s office eating hummus, when Dr. Matt Nickel, faculty advisor to Instress, walked in. One thing led to another, and Santucci came on board.

   “In high school, I was editor-in-chief of my yearbook, something Misericordia no longer has, so I missed the ability to design and work on layouts. Dr. Nickel mentioned how he was looking for someone to do just that for the next academic year, so that’s how I became involved,” Santucci said.

   Santucci put in a lot of work looking into the history of Instress to honor the publication’s anniversary.

   “I have so much research from spending over ten hours – it’s been calculated – in the archives looking at the last 50 years of Instress. I’ve had Jess Garner and her staff take scans of things and have had all of the covers scanned and have them on a USB,” said Santucci.

   Santucci made some interesting discoveries, such as a key discrepancy: While  this is Instress’ fiftieth year, it is not the fiftieth issue. The journal once published two editions per year. “We now find it incorrect to say that this is the 50th edition because of that, so we go with it being 50 years of Instress being a part of Misericordia,” said Santucci.


Many students have contributed work to Instress over the years, including Alexandria Smith (2015), who remembers the experience fondly.  “Contributing to Instress was really beneficial to me in that it provided an avenue in which I could actually understand myself, as who I was. A lot of the poetry I contributed was stream of consciousness and represented the things that I felt, things that I don’t think I was able to really say, in social settings. I mean, not that they were particularly egregious, but I’m sure the things that I thought and felt – as a person – would be considered inappropriate, so to speak,” said Smith.

Work on this anniversary issue started almost a year ago. “I am really excited – I have been since 2015’s came out – about the 2016 edition of Instress. When I finished working on the 2015 edition, Dr. Nickel and I were already planning this 2016 edition. We want it to show how Instress has evolved in the past 50 years – something I think is really important to see,” Santucci said.

She added that this year’s edition will highlight pieces from the past. “In 2015’s, we highlighted the 90 Years of Mercy at Misericordia, so this 50 years section will be similar in that aspect.”

Literary journals at colleges and universities are facing new challenges in the twenty-first century. A 2010 article from Mother Jones reported that schools were slashing budgets for journals, moving them online, and even eliminating editorial positions, all in the name of budget cuts.

Students and faculty who work on Instress say the publication has significant value to the university community.

“Instress takes a lot of different literary and artistic aspects and combines them. It shows that all of the students at Misericordia, whether they’re PT or nursing or communications or education majors, are capable of having that artistic approach to things that aren’t necessarily part of their majors. Dr. Nickel says it to me constantly, that the whole point of college is to be a well-rounded individual, and I think that’s something that Instress gives students, as well as faculty and staff, the chance to do,” said Santucci.

The fiftieth anniversary issue will be released in April; a final date has not been announced.  “The interesting thing about submissions is that, as Dr. Nickel has told me, we get a lot of submissions from faculty, students, and staff right around the end of the submission date, which is currently January 29th. We have gotten a decent amount so far for the current date, but we should be expecting a lot more within the next two weeks – that’s when we’ll get the bulk of submissions,” said Santucci.

Instress is also returning to an old practice by publishing the work of a lucky high school student, which the Instress staff will choose after reviewing entries. As with last year’s edition, a visiting poet’s work will also be included.