Papermache enables undergrads to share research


Author: Cordelia Kenney

Papermache, a startup company that made its private beta launch this summer, is including Occidental as one of the schools participating in its test run. Papermache aims to connect college students online, where they can upload, edit and share their academic work. Papermache’s Chief Marketing Officer and Occidental graduate Alex Miller ‘13 weighed in on what the company has to offer for undergraduates who are hoping to enrich their academic experience in innovative ways.

“Papermache is looking to encourage an inter-campus dialogue between undergraduates, who are in a prime position to unite and contribute to their fields in significant ways, and we’ve established a platform that encourages this network,” Miller said in an email interview. “Seeing the benefit from sites like LinkedIn, [Papermache’s founder Benjamin Fenigsohn] saw the need for students to connect intellectually with one another and build their academic network at the peer level.”

As chief marketing officer, Miller said that he has been working on the “brand identity” and growth of Papermache. Currently, only students of California State University Los Angeles, California Institute of Technology and Occidental have access to Papermache. In upcoming weeks, students enrolled part-time or full-time across the country will have free access to the site, according to Miller.

“Once registered, students can upload their work to a personal portfolio and discover the work that has been uploaded by their peers, connecting with both the research and its authors,” Miller said. “We want the site to be openly accessible to, again, bring in as much diverse content as possible.”

No discipline is privileged above any other on Papermache, according to Miller, so hard science students can have just as much success finding relevant research papers written by peers as humanities majors.

“Our aim is to make all submitted content accessible and easy to browse through so our users will discover different kinds of work and use it to form more inter-disciplinary arguments,” Miller said.

While all disciplines are welcomed, a high level of academic and intellectual integrity are necessary to make Papermache a valuable part of academia. Consequently, some requirements are in place to maintain organization of the site and originality of the content, like the requirement of a works cited page. However, students hoping to incorporate Papermache into their academic lives are not obligated to have published works elsewhere.

“The one prerequisite we request is that the papers have at least been graded by a professor or completed under the advice of a professor,” Miller said. “Once online, a paper is available for the peer community to contribute their feedback. We have purposefully omitted a formalized approval process to establish a more dynamic academic publishing process through peer community review.”

Since the company only recently opened its virtual doors, Miller and Fenigsohn have been exploring approaches to integrate the online platform into the undergraduate experience. In particular, Fenigsohn is attempting to knit Papermache directly into the curriculum at CSULA and USC by collaborating with each school’s respective faculty, according to Miller.

“So far response has been strong, with professors seeing the advantages of encouraging more creative research to help their students fulfill the highest level of learning outcomes,” Miller said. “That being said, for the time being we want to keep Papermache a resource primarily student and peer-oriented.”

Since the platform is largely student-driven, Miller wants to directly reach out to campuses wherever possible. He is in the process of developing a campus ambassador program – Derrick Green (senior) and Lauren Rhodes (junior) currently act as Papermache’s ambassadors on Occidental’s campus.

“Because I only graduated from Oxy in May, I knew that tapping current students would be the most effective way to connect with the campus,” he said. “I designed that Campus Ambassador Program to find enthusiastic students at colleges across the country and give them the opportunity to market Papermache to their peers and gain valuable experience that both looks great on a resume and contributes to a better learning community.”

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