Co-Creation With Our Reviewers

Depiction of big bang as explosion in orange and yellow

For all sorts of reasons, our article “A Design Thinking Approach to Teaching Sustainability” should not have been written. This blog entry is my ode to the power of reviewers who challenge and engage in the best way possible. They elevated the work and we are immensely thankful for it.

The authors of “A Design Thinking Approach to Teaching Sustainability”: Clockwise from top left, Valerie Manna, Meike Rombach, Hamish G. Rennie, and David Dean. All are based at Lincoln University in New Zealand.

Last December after 18 years at my current university, I took up the offer of early retirement. Like everyone else, I hadn’t anticipated the type of cataclysmic event that precipitated these offers being made. Before leaving, I wanted to complete work in progress, with part of that being the paper that the Journal of Marketing Education recently published. How might we get marketing students to think about the “big picture” of the decisions they will make later in life? If we boiled the whole paper down to one sentence, that would be it. All of the authors agreed that sharing this work was important, especially given the times we live in.

And then…

  • Access to university-hosted online storage was disallowed one day after my retirement owing to a miscommunication about my continuing status as an ‘honourary.’ With no access to our work, I turned to our IT services. As with most of New Zealand, including the other authors, they take annual leave from mid-December to early January. Access to the draft was reinstated four days prior to the first submission due date.
  • A MAJOR (all caps totally appropriate here) revision was needed and, as we all know, there are no promises that the effort will yield a usable outcome. The first submission missed a major source of relevant work that had been published during that missed month. There were gaping holes in addressing implementation challenges. More evidence was needed. The list went on.
  • The lost month was followed by one author suffering a major health event and another called to focus on his family farm. While our little research team was dwindling, up steps Reviewer #1, Reviewer #2, and Reviewer #3. It would have been easy for the original authors to throw in the towel and relegate the first draft to the “Papers that Could Have Been” folder. Those reviews were gold, absolute, and total gold. This was a roadmap by people representing both the audience and the experts, people with fresh eyes and a willingness to help build a new way to approach an important teaching challenge. They were offering help and we were (and are) grateful for that.

By the end, we were left with the feeling of this is how the development process should be. A focus on improvement. A willingness to build. No nonsense, clearly written, and understandable recommendations. Support. Out of a chaotic year, we thank Reviewers 1, 2, and 3 for helping us construct a path forward.

I don’t know if I’ll ever write another academic paper. If I do, I’d consider myself blessed to have such a positive experience again (hopefully without all the personal challenges). If I don’t, I hope that Reviewers 1, 2, and 3 know how much their effort mattered.

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Valerie Manna

Valerie Manna holds a Bachelor of Science, MBA, and PhD from Rensselaer Polytechnic University. After five years as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Graduate Management Institute of Union University, she now works in the Faculty of Agribusiness and Commerce at Lincoln University, New Zealand. Her industry background in health care and marketing includes being the Director of Research at Next Wave, Inc., a health care consulting and software company based in NY.

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