The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

32° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


FOCUS Magazine, Back at Stony Brook

At first glance, the flyer might be slightly intimidating to passers-by: a bold-colored pink fist surrounded by a pink female gender symbol. There is something about those colors, that boldness, that stands out and makes a statement. Students and faculty walking past the bulletin board in Melville Library’s first-floor lobby are drawn in by the flyer’s intensity and clear message that alerts everyone to get ready for the new, up-coming edition.

FOCUS: On Women & On Diversity, Stony Brook University’s student-run literary magazine, has re-emerged from a rough journey with an ambitious new business plan and a bossy new attitude. First directive: Men, it’s time to ante up.

The magazine’s upcoming issue is due to print around the end of April, and will be the third issue since its come-back last spring. While the magazine goes as far back as 1994, it is no longer just about feminism and women’s issues, but is reaching out to men to contribute writing, art, poetry and photography, said FOCUS magazine’s President Alexandria Lanza

FOCUS originated with the Women’s Studies department, unsurprisingly as a feminist literary magazine. It published between once and twice a year (depending on funds) until about 2001, when it disappeared. “We did pretty well for a number of years and then everybody graduated,” said Constance Koppleman, a history professor in the women’s studies program, and the mentor for the magazine’s staff.

It was not until 2005 that Christa Liotta, then a sophomore, pulled the magazine out of the cobwebs and, with the help of some of the women’s studies faculty members, started it back up again. Liotta was told that starting the magazine back up qualified as an internship, so she contacted Koppelman, who helped her get the magazine back on its feet.

Once started up again, however, it still faced many challenges. “Part of the problem when we got it started was that we couldn’t get enough people to join,” Liotta said. That was mainly due to a competitor: The Stony Brook Press. “Whenever we would ask people to join, they would always say ‘oh, sorry, we do the Press.”

Liotta said publishing infrequently created obstacles too. “People might have a journal full of poems that they write that they never send out,” she said. “And when it comes to that one time during the year, they miss the deadline,” said Liotta. “People will forget about you when you only print once or twice a year.”

FOCUS pushed ahead, losing some members but gaining others. In 2005, when Liotta restarted the magazine, the staff was small, and the advertising budget was even smaller. All that the staff could do to gain publicity with its tight budget was to hand out flyers at club fairs, Liotta said.

Liotta recalled that the discussions with her fellow staff-members and their faculty adviser, Koppleman, were often more important than laying out the magazine. “I remember the conversations that we used to get and sometimes, and that was enough for us,” said Liotta. “Even though we weren’t getting millions of submissions, sometimes one poem could strike up a huge conversation.”

Liotta, graduated in 2008 with a double major in women’s studies, and English, and is now an elementary school reading teacher. But she said she’s nostalgic for her time managing FOCUS magazine. “Sometimes there were rough moments where it was really hard, and I’m glad to see that all that hard work, and sometimes stress and tears, made it OK for them to continue.”

Today, FOCUS magazine is run by women’s studies major, Alexandria Lanza, who brought it back last year after a second disappearance in 2006. Lanza said that she had a passion for writing poetry throughout high school and saw FOCUS magazine as a place where she could finally get it published.

Lanza took FOCUS a few steps beyond where her predecessors had left it. She got the magazine recognized as a university club in the spring of 2009, and despite the short notice, it was able to print an issue that same spring.

Despite the hard work required to keep the magazine running smoothly, Lanza said that it’s worth it. “I really enjoy it,” Lanza said, “it’s become a passion and a motivation for me to get at least one issue out every semester.”

The FOCUS magazine of today is directed toward attracting a broader and more diverse audience. In other words, not just feminists anymore. “It’s not just a women’s magazine,” Lanza said. “A lot of people see the pink fist, our logo and they’re like ‘oh, gosh. Feminists.’” Lanza said that the magazine is looking for a variety of submissions from all students, even men.

Smita Majumdar Das, who has a doctorate degree in psychology, and is an Assistant Director at the university’s Center for Prevention and Outreach, said that the inclusion of men in both the magazine’s audience and in its submissions are important. “I really believe in moving forward,” said Majumdar. “Women really need to view men as allies, but there will never be a dialogue if it is always ‘us’ versus ‘them,’” Majumdar said.

Students on campus have responded to the inclusion of men in FOCUS. “This is not a man’s world anymore. Women are as much a part of it as men are,” said Carlos Carcamo, a 22-year-old Biochemistry major “that’s why it’s really important to integrate and work together on issues.”

Though FOCUS is now aiming for a broad audience, its readers were traditionally always women interested in exposing inequality and providing an outlet for their own voices.

“Some women have so much to say, but have no means of expression,”  Lanza said. That is where FOCUS comes in.

With FOCUS’s past reputation for random disappearance, the likelihood of it happening again does not seem far-fetched. “I worry about that everyday,” Lanza said. “I really want this to succeed and that’s why I’ve been planning things so far in advance.”

Lanza attended pre-scheduling workshops designed to help clubs thrive and secured rooms for the upcoming fall and spring semesters in order to hold book-signings, poetry readings and other functions.

“We’re trying to have more events with other clubs so that we bring in two different crowds and more people see our faces that way,” Lanza said.

While FOCUS’s audience might begin to broaden as it attracts a more diverse crowd, it was still founded by women, for women. Lanza said that women are still repressed in government positions, positions of employment, and in a number of other ways, which is why they still need a forum in which to make their voices heard.

“Women are still suppressed today.” Lanza said, “Maybe not with corsets that constrict us, but by implicit inequalities.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (0)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *