The Call – A 10-year retrospective

By Prabhav Kamojjhala

I remember it like yesterday. Reading each piece, something stood out to me. There was a certain care given to each article. A pragmatism and diligence that made each idea feel less like a hastily presented class project and more like an intricate proposal – the likes of which one can encounter on a casual stroll through a magazine like the HBR. I saw in those articles a challenge to put my thinking cap on and really push through a piece of well thought out scholarly work. As my class read through articles published in the Call, my B&S professor had set the gold standard before us. If we wrote a paper that stood out from the crowd, we too could get published in The Call.

The Call showcases the best B&S essays of each first-year class here at Stern. Every year as part of the B&S course, students are tasked with identifying an issue focused on the UNSDGs and developing a business solution to the same. While today it serves as a forum for some of the sharpest ideas of the undergraduate first-year class, the publication itself has gone through a long journey to get to where it is today. Curious to know more about this journey, I sat down with Professor Jeff Younger (The Call’s faculty editor and founder) and Hanray Liu (The current chief editor) to learn more about the publication’s journey and what it means to the student community. 

The story behind The Call is one that captures the essence of the paper perfectly. Working with his students as an instructor for Business & Society, Professor Younger noticed that a lot of the article’s students were writing were “truly of publication quality.” Eager to amplify the high-quality work he saw, Professor Younger edited and put together a collection of some of the best essays he read – a collection that would form the inaugural edition of The Call.

It did not take long for students to catch on. “I started having students reach out and ask if they could help edit the articles…that’s really how the students got involved in the publication” recalls Professor Younger. “I even had students that would work in editing as their day jobs, and those were the kind of students that ended up being a great fit.” Needless to say the quality of ideas contained in the publication also helped it gain some traction. “I remember reading about the call and thinking it was quite prestigious,” said Hanray. “I was really excited to see all of these innovative ideas that talk about the issues we face.”

The process behind the publication has since grown to be quite sophisticated. With a class of over 600 students, each year the team behind the call reads through about 60-75 articles – with 2-3 coming from each B&S section. The editing and selection process is managed through a google site, with members of the team reading articles and selecting articles that they deem to be the crème de la crème. Following this extensive process, the editors then go through the articles to determine if any edits need to be made before the article eventually finds its way into the final publication. 

One of the main benefits of going through the troves of articles students put together is the exposure to issues the editors didn’t know about. “One of the articles I enjoyed reading was about tackling wastewater treatment in the production of batik, a traditional Indonesian garment.” says Hanray. “The author proposed a partnership between the local Indonesian municipal government and SeaChange Technologies, a startup focused on using an innovative proprietary process to treat wastewater.” This novelty is arguably by design. “One of the things that really makes an article stand out is the ‘wow’ factor” says Professor Younger. “We really try to avoid having duplicative content”

What defines The Call (and arguably the B&S course) is an emphasis on keeping with present news. Both faculty and students bring current events into the classroom to discuss their relevance to what the course seeks to teach. This conversation between the course and the world around it arguably reflects in the types of articles that are put out. “We’ve noticed a lot of students focusing more on tech-based solutions, talking about things like blockchain” notes Professor Younger. “We have also seen a greater focus on civil rights and injustice – we recently had an article in The Call focused on black hair in the workplace.”

At its heart, the Call allows authors to think critically about the issues that today’s businesses face. It allows students to grapple with the issues around them. The Call is more than a publication – it is also a call for students to zoom out and look at how businesses interact with the systems they occupy. In doing so, one can hope that we become more powerful agents for change in the positions we take up. 

You can find the most recently published version of the call (as well as past issues) here.

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