After serving as interim director since March 2020, JoAnne Banducci was named director of the University of Nevada Press on October 1. Banducci began her tenure at the Press in October 2009 as the business manager, and through her financial acumen, the Press is in a position to continue to build its ability to tell the stories that shape the American West.
“The variety of what we get to work on is exciting. We bring all kinds of books out into the world to help educate people,” Banducci said. “With my background, I look forward to running the Press more like a business. My predecessors in this role have come from acquisitions or marketing, but with my background in business management, I will approach operations from a different perspective.”
The Press has already benefited from Banducci’s skill at fiscal management. Since arriving in 2009, Banducci has helped the Press weather the fallout of two major financial challenges: The Great Recession and the budgetary uncertainties that resulted from the pandemic.
“We build our budget from the bottom up,” Banducci explained. “We revisit it as necessary and adjust accordingly.”
Through this fiscal discipline, the Press has thrived, publishing 21 books in 2020 and another 21 books in 2021, continuing a tradition founded 60 years ago.
About the Press
Enriching the lives of Nevadans
Established in 1961 by Robert Laxalt, the University of Nevada Press publishes scholarly works, creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry that focus on the geographic area of the West and the subjects that define its unique character. Laxalt’s biographer (Robert Laxalt: The Story of a Storyteller) and longstanding supporter of the Press Warren Lerude described Laxalt’s vision for the Press as amplifying the literary voice in Nevada. Thus, much as the University of Nevada, Reno has embraced its role as a land grant institution—meeting the needs of the community it serves through research, education and outreach—the University of Nevada Press identifies the highest quality works designed to enhance the lives of Nevadans. Recent publications include The Sagebrush State 6e, To Know a Starry Night and The Ghost Dancers.
While providing a breadth of coverage in topics of interest to Nevadans, the Press series offer depth of scholarship in ten strategically selected areas of emphasis:
- America's National Parks
- Basque Studies
- Mining and Society
- Urban West
- Wilbur S. Shepperson Series in Nevada History
- Test Site Poetry Series
- Cultural Ecologies of Food
- Migration, Demography, & Environmental Change: Global Challenges
- Waterscapes: History, Cultures, and Controversies
The longest-running of these is the Basque Studies series. Launched in the 1970s by Robert Laxalt and William Douglass, books from this series cover all topics related to Basque culture. From language instruction books to Basque music, memoirs, literary criticism, history and novels, the series seeks to “bring the Basques to the attention of readers in the English-speaking world.” This tradition will continue in 2022 with the publication of an upcoming title, Jaialdi: A Celebration of Basque Culture, which provides a vivid photographic tour of the largest Basque festival in the United States. Held in Boise, Idaho, every five years, Jaialdi attracts 50,000 people and serves as an introduction to Basque culture.
In addition to bringing readers books of the highest caliber, the Press also plays a key role in the academic traditions of the eight member institutions of the Nevada System of Higher Education. For example, its Test Site Poetry Series complements the work of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s Black Mountain Institute by publishing the winners of its annual poetry competition, and the Press has amplified the work of UNLV Gaming Press by distributing its publications. Like many textbooks the Press publishes, Michael S. Green’s Nevada: A History of the Silver State has been a mainstay in classrooms across Nevada since its initial publication in 2015, and The Sagebrush State by Michael W. Bowers, now in its 6th edition, is the standard textbook for the History 217: Nevada History class at Truckee Meadows Community College.
Banducci is also looking forward to identifying opportunities to help professors bring to press books and innovative projects that both fit the mission of the Press and serve the pedagogical needs of their disciplines. The recently published Latinos in Nevada: A Political, Economic, and Social Profile was not only edited by four faculty member of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (John P. Tuman, Tiffany O. Howard, Nerses Kopalyan, and David F. Damore), but it is also designed to facilitate instruction in the classroom about the growing and diverse Latino/a population. Meanwhile, the Press will publish its first dual language poetry book, To the North / Al Norte, in 2022; in 2020, it published a Spanish-language version of its title The Decline of Carlism; and plans to translate some of its most popular textbooks into Spanish are in the works. All of these efforts are intended to enrich the classroom and provide new learning opportunities for NSHE students.
About the publication-worthy scholarship conducted on NSHE campuses, Banducci said, “We’re here, and we’re here to help.”
The Press and the University of Nevada, Reno
From its inception, the University of Nevada Press has been housed on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. For the past 60 years, it has shared a productive partnership with the University—from distributing the work published in the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies to documenting the historic campus of the original institution of higher education in the state, to providing an outlet for the scholarship of its professors and alumni.
Nevada Writers Hall of Fame member and University History Professor Emeritus James Hulse has published six books with the Press as the sole author. In 2018, he collaborated with Rod Haulenbeek and Department of English Professor Emerita Cheryll Glotfelty on a seventh book, Visitor's Guide to the University of Nevada, Reno Arboretum. The Guide is an interactive tour of the University’s 200 species of trees and its 3,000 total specimens, which together have garnered the campus designation as a Nevada State Arboretum. One of the pioneers in Literature and the Environment studies, Glotfelty also edited a compilation of more than 200 writings in Literary Nevada, which one reviewer described as a “surprise in its revelation of the sheer volume of Nevada literature, its variety, and, best of all, its quality” (Lawrence I. Berkove, writing in Vol. 44 No. 1 of Western American Literature).
In 2019, the Press published Access for All: Expanding Opportunity and Programs to Support Successful Student Outcomes at University of Nevada, Reno, which shares the efforts of the University to support first-generation college students on campus. Later that same year, the Press published Collaborative Archaeology at Stewart Indian School. Edited by University Associate Professor of Anthropology Sarah Cowie, Director of the Burns Paiute Tribe’s Culture & Heritage Department Diane L. Teeman, and the University’s Heritage Consultant Christopher C. LeBlanc, the book explores the reform school’s attempt to forcibly assimilate Native populations at the turn of the twentieth century.
The upcoming publication of College of Science Research Associate Professor Zeb Hogan’s Chasing Giants: In Search of the World’s Largest Freshwater Fish further illustrates the Press’s efforts to record the history being made by the scholars on NSHE campuses. Hogan has spent his career studying the large and exotic fishes that populate rivers and streams the world over. His work has been the subject of television shows, and his project (Wonders of the Mekong) with the Nevada Global Water Center—in coordination with USAID and Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute of Cambodia—is designed to protect the ecosystems and biodiversity of the Lower Mekong, which supports more than 70 million people. Chasing Giants is dedicated to Hogan’s globetrotting and his efforts to explore and protect life-giving rivers and the species they support.
“Hogan’s travels and research need to be documented, and that’s what we’re doing with Chasing Giants,” Banducci said. “It’s an important work.”
The synergistic nature of the relationship between the Press and the missions of the NSHE system members is not lost on University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval. Housed as the Press is on the University campus, Sandoval has been able to witness the way its publications have enhanced the scholarly activity of the Wolf Pack Family.
“JoAnne’s leadership is already having a profound impact on how this mission is being accomplished by championing titles and storytelling that speak to the diverse communities of our state, as well as the work of our own faculty in key areas such as sustainability and the environment. The University couldn’t be more excited about the Press’ direction, and how it is meeting the literary and scholarly needs of Nevada.” University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval
“The University of Nevada Press, ever since its founding by Robert Laxalt, has greatly enriched the collective history and storytelling associated with Nevada as well as of the West. It possesses a significant role in the offerings of what a Carnegie R1 institution like ours has in ensuring the enduring value of works that are of intellectual and cultural significance,” University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval said. “JoAnne’s leadership is already having a profound impact on how this mission is being accomplished by championing titles and storytelling that speak to the diverse communities of our state, as well as the work of our own faculty in key areas such as sustainability and the environment. The University couldn’t be more excited about the Press’ direction, and how it is meeting the literary and scholarly needs of Nevada.”
In addition to providing a vital outlet for the scholarly and creative endeavors of NSHE’s community, under Banducci, the Press is ramping up its longstanding internship program. Interns work on live projects and gain exposure to each aspect of the publication process—from manuscript evaluation and the editorial phase through design and production. Interns receive credit and direct mentorship with the explicit goal of helping them develop the skills necessary to be competitive in the publishing job market. This semester, the Press will have three University of Nevada, Reno interns in place, learning about all facets of the publishing world.
Friends of the Press
Longtime followers of the Press remember fondly the Friends of the Press program, which provided members opportunities to meet fellow readers of the American West and the Press’s authors. Lerude recounts the founding of the Friends of the Press program in 1981:
“Bob Laxalt called together a number of prominent Nevada leaders from around the state who had an interest in the books, history and the stories of the state,” Lerude said. “The Friends worked in different ways to help the Press grow and prosper.”
After a hiatus that began before Banducci’s arrival in 2009, one of the new director’s first goals is to re-establish this beloved program.
“Historically, the Friends of the Press was a group that really cared about the Press,” Banducci said. “The Friends brought everyone together to celebrate and be involved in what we’re doing, and through gifts, members played an important role in subsidizing projects.” After a pause, Banducci added with a smile: “And I hear the parties were great.”
For more information about becoming a member of the Friends of the Press, contact Marketing and Sales Manager Caddie Dufurrena.
About the director
With Banducci, the giving spirit runs deep—quite literally. Athletics have always been important to Banducci. When she was in college at Chico State, she was on the swim team, and when she became a mother, she started running, which allowed her to take her daughter with her while she trained. She fell in love with the sport, and decided to share her passion with young runners. For the past twelve years, she has coached cross country and track to kids free of charge through the Silver State Junior Striders program.
“Almost everything is free, because I want training to be available to everybody and anybody. It’s just so healthy and such a good thing for the kids,” Banducci explained. “We pay for entry fees through an annual fundraising event—the Crazy Run—and I have a box of shoes for kids to use.”
Her efforts have paid off. This year, four of the five Reno High School Boys runners were pupils of Banducci’s. Two of them began training with her when they were seven and nine. At the October 29 Regionals, these runners swept the medals. (Overall, Banducci’s Junior Striders wound up taking first, second, third, fourth, eighth, and eleventh.) In recognition of her contributions to local athletics, Reno High surprised Banducci with the Huskie Legacy Award, which honors the dedication, compassion, loyalty and authenticity of its recipients.
“I didn’t expect that,” Banducci said. “I was very touched.”
At the subsequent State competition, Junior Striders running for Reno High and other local schools like Damonte took second, fourth, fifth, thirteenth, and sixteenth places.
“I have been fortunate enough to train many High School State champions,” Banducci said. “But the goal is to help kids have fun and to promote a healthy lifestyle. The success is a bonus.”
Two of Banducci’s Junior Striders have been named Gatorade Players of the Year, an honor that comes with an honorarium. In appreciation for the impact the Junior Striders program had on their lives, they both donated their winnings to the program to help the next crop of athletes reach their full potential.
As much as the accolades her Striders have received, for Banducci, pupils realizing their full potential is as satisfying.
“Even though I have trained a lot of State champs, I am just as happy to see someone set their personal record,” Banducci said. “It is not just about getting someone to championship level. It’s about helping them achieve their own best.”
John Trent, senior editor for news and features in the University of Nevada, Reno’s Office of Marketing & Communications and another Silver Striders program leader (Ultra), said of Banducci, “I can’t say enough good things about JoAnne. Her involvement with the Junior Striders over the past several years has been an amazing thing not only for the young athletes she’s coached and mentored, but for the entire Reno running community. So many of the Junior Striders over the years have become sort of the bedrock of our running community.”
Trent sees Banducci’s leadership skills extending beyond the races.
“From JoAnne, these athletes learned not only how to run, they’ve learned how to be good people. These are kids who as they grow up are givers – they stay engaged and give back to the community in a variety of careers and contexts,” Trent said. “And I firmly believe a lot of this has to do with the low-key, empathetic and nurturing guidance they receive from JoAnne. She teaches them that running can be a fun activity, and that it’s something they can do their entire lives.”
Despite these exceptional qualities, Trent identifies another trait of Banducci’s that makes her an effective leader.
“The other thing that has always impressed me about JoAnne is how self-effacing she is. She was and is a tremendous athlete herself, having been a national-level competitor. Her daughters have followed in JoAnne’s footsteps as highly successful high school and collegiate competitors themselves,” Trent said. “Yet you’ll never hear JoAnne talk about any of that stuff. She’s so extremely humble about everything she does. Again, you see these same qualities in the young athletes she mentors. They’re too busy doing great things that there’s no need to brag about it. The work is always enough.”
When asked about what about running the Press that she is most looking forward to, Banducci’s experience as a coach becomes apparent.
“I have been privileged to see the Press through some challenges,” Banducci said, referring not only to the pandemic and the Great Recession but also to a five-year period during which the Press saw three changes at its helm. During this period, Banducci explained, the Press received staunch support from community leaders Warren Lerude and Monique Laxalt—Robert’s daughter and a novelist herself. “We have had great support from Nikki and Warren. They have been amazing throughout. We have gotten over the hump, and now, I’m looking forward to building a team.”
Since she has taken the reins of the Press, Banducci has already built an accomplished team: Freelance Acquisitions Editor Margaret Dalrymple; Editorial, Design and Production Manager Jinni Fontana; Marketing and Sales Manager Caddie Dufurrena; and Editorial, Marketing, and Acquisitions Assistant Curtis Vickers have a combined 80-plus years of experience in the publishing industry.
“I am so excited to be at the Press,” Dufurrena said. “Having grown up in Yerington and lived most of my adult life in Reno, I have a deep appreciation for the state, its history, its literature and its people. To have the opportunity to help more readers experience what I love about the West in the pages of our books is really a dream come true.”
Lerude commented on Banducci and the team she is establishing: “JoAnne is a veteran of the Press who knows the intricacies inside and out. This is a terrific appointment to continue the Press she knows so well. From my vantage point, she is building a cohesive team that will continue to publish books with distinction.”
Disclosure: The University of Nevada Press published the author’s novel This Here is Devil’s Work in 2021, and he recently joined the Press’s staff.