Message to Alums Who Have Abandoned Scholarly Works
Melissa Murray ('08) works to reunite alumni with their published theses.
Melissa Murray (’08) is the lead thesis formatter and processor for SDSU’s Montezuma Publishing. These days, though, her job is more like a detective’s.
By her desk in room 104 of the Industrial Technology building sits a case stacked with rows of scholarly volumes: theses submitted, accepted, and abandoned by former students who earned advanced degrees and then moved on.
“I have some here from 2004,” Murray exclaims, gesturing toward a tidy stack of colorful texts. “In the past few weeks I’ve begun a massive manhunt to find the owners.”
The works are nicely bound and neatly labeled with academic-sounding titles representing years of research, reasoning, and analysis.
“They’re from all different departments reflecting a wide range of disciplines,” says Murray. “There’s ‘Teenage Drug Use as a Risk Factor for Pregnancy and Abortion’ or ‘European Union Security Initiative on International Terrorism.’
“We’ve got ‘A Statistical Comparison of the Impact of the California High School Exit Exam’ and even ‘Dispersion Patterns and Associations of Invasive Exotic Plants Within the Tijuana River Watershed’ - good luck with that one!”
PAID FOR, BUT UNCLAIMED
Murray says each thesis costs between $40 and $50 to publish. One hard-bound and two microfiche copies go to the library. It’s the authors’ personal copies that are paid for but often go unclaimed.
Rows of unclaimed theses sit on shelves in Melissa Murray's Montezuma Publishing office.
“These are their actual copies and they’re not cheap,” she says, “so you’d think since it’s already paid for they’d be itching to pick it up when it’s done.”
The publishing process takes between six and eight weeks to complete. Combine that time gap with the details of commencement, a job search, and wrapping up a degree program and it’s easy to see how thesis retrieval could be overlooked by a graduating student.
“I understand when you graduate you often move to different locations and it’s not like we don’t try to contact you with a reminder,” Murray explains, “but I shouldn’t have to try to contact you after five years.”
Yet that’s exactly what she tries to do with varying degrees of success. Barely two months into her current position, Murray, a woman of action, has resolved to clear her shelves of the unremembered research.
But too often her email messages bounce back undelivered. She dials telephone numbers that have been discontinued. She pores through university records and even contacts campus departments and professors sleuthing information that might lead her to a far-flung alumnus with a forgotten publication.
Occasionally, she connects with one who’ll come by campus to claim a thesis or pay to have one shipped to a new address. Her success, however, is rarer than Murray would like, so she has one request for forgetful alumni:
“If you’ve moved, please just let us know,” she pleads. “We’ll charge you for shipping and then ship your thesis out to you, but you have to tell us.”
Otherwise, the uncollected theses will just sit, gathering dust on Murray’s shelves.
“Because they’ve been paid for and they belong to somebody there’s really nothing else we can do with them,” Murray explains, laughing as she flows from frustration to fantasy, “although a big bonfire sounds kind of nice.”If you have an unclaimed thesis at SDSU, please contact Montezuma Publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org