‘Those which must be written,’ a definition University of New Mexico Associate Professor, Amaris Ketcham doesn’t take lightly as it represents UNM’s very own student produced and nationally distributed Arts & Literary magazine, Scribendi.
Ketcham, also the magazine’s faculty advisor, said she’s dedicated to ensuring that student success through the process of investigation is always highlighted in each publication.
“Writing is an investigation,” Ketcham said. “It’s a way to question, ‘What do I know and how do I know it?’”
Scribendi’s history dates back to the 1980s. It now publishes creative work from undergraduate Honors students from more than 200 institutions in the Western Region.
Ketcham said while a lot of her time is spent working with students to create and publish the annual magazine, her passion and appreciation of the written word didn’t begin with Scribendi. In fact, she said she realized it while studying Anthropology as a UNM undergraduate student.
“I noticed that not all ethnographies were created equal,” she said. “I slowly learned that some of these were coming out of a feminist movement in Anthropology and then I thought, ‘Maybe I should study writing in order to be a better ethnographer.’”
That decision would then lead Ketcham to cease her Anthropology courses moving forward, in order to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing, Ketcham indulges in many types of work from poetry to journalistic essays.
Ketcham recalls leading community-writing workshops, that allowed her to teach in various atmospheres including homeless shelters for teenagers and retirement centers. She said it didn’t matter which workshop she hosted or where it took place, student production was always diverse and interesting.
“I could have the same prompt in each of those settings and the writing that came out would be completely different.”
Within UNM’s Honors College, Ketcham teaches a two-part interdisciplinary class that ultimately results in the publication of Scribendi. In the fall, the class focuses on learning different skills including graphic design, copyediting and various aspects of small business management. Students then apply those skills into practice each spring semester.
During her time as the magazine’s faculty advisor, Ketcham said her focus is on growing and improving the program as much as possible. As part of the National Student Exchange program, the department has welcomed several out-of-state undergraduates to attend UNM, specifically to be part of the Scribendi staff.
“That’s more of a grad school experience, so I’m particularly proud of that,” she said.
Scribendi has also expanded its reach, distributing nationwide. In recent years, the publication has accepted entries from more than 900 honors programs and colleges across the country.
Ketcham, who grew up in the rural part of Kentucky, said she was always curious about Latinx cultures. She said that’s part of what drew her to New Mexico; its richness of Latin cultures and its closeness to Mexico.
“The diversity of experiences that people have at UNM is greater than the experiences that people have in Kentucky,” Ketcham said.
Ketcham said she’ll always carry a bit of her home state with her, as many of her colleagues and students might not know she still holds the unique, honorary title of a Kentucky Colonel, which makes her a cultural ambassador to that state. Other notable names who hold this title: Mohammed Ali, Hunter S. Thompson, and Colonel Sanders.
But for now, Ketcham has made New Mexico her home. She said everyday she gets to work with her students, she feels as though she’s working alongside dozens of ambassadors who carry out true creativity, curiosity and grit, all in the name of the written word.