In 1997, Outlet Literary Journal appeared on the campus of Ricks College. In a black-and-white, 5” X 8” format, with 86 pages, the first issue was a student-led publication funded by the English Department and the Ricks College Honors Program. In that first issue, the student editors wrote, “Our aim is to encourage creative and independent thought among the students of Ricks College through providing a forum for student expression—an Outlet.”
This wasn’t the first such journal that Ricks College had seen. In the early 1990s, at least two others had appeared, showcasing the work of Ricks College creative writing courses. One was called The Ballad of the Orange Cat. Each of these publications came and went in one issue. No doubt other publications had appeared earlier, lost now to history.
When the students who created Outlet graduated from Ricks College, the idea of their journal easily could have left Rexburg with them. But a year later, Ricks hired a new English professor, Stephen George, who was anxious to help publish a student literary journal.
Upon learning that Outlet had produced just one issue, Stephen was ready to make sure the publication stayed alive. Enlisting the help of Matt Babcock, Mark Bennion, Joelle Moen, and Jack Harrell in the English Department, as well as members of the Art and Communications Departments—Scott Franson, Kelly Burgener, and Lane Williams—Stephen selected a handful of student assistants and sent out a call for submissions. The second issue of Outlet: The Ricks College Literary Journal appeared in 2000. That issue won a First Place award from the American Scholastic Press Association and the “Best New Magazine Honorable Mention” from the Community College Humanities Association.
The third issue of Outlet appeared in 2001, with Mark Bennion joining the ranks of faculty advisors. In that issue’s “Director’s Introduction,” Stephen George reported that the journal had received some 200 submissions and had garnered “permanent funding and enthusiastic support from the college.” Months later, that issue would win the CCHA national “Most Improved Literary Magazine” award, as well as taking Third Place in the Pacific Northwest Division, making Outlet, in Stephen’s words, “a publication the entire campus can be proud of.”
When Ricks College became Brigham Young University-Idaho, Outlet also got a new name. In 2002, the fourth issue was titled Outlet: The BYU-Idaho Literary Journal. As with the previous issues Stephen had directed, Outlet contained poetry, essays, fiction, art, graphics design, and scholarly writing. Stephen wrote in that issue’s introduction that his goal was to “showcase . . . the very best research and creative work produced at the university.”
Having worked on the journal for five years, Stephen George directed the fifth issue of Outlet in 2003. Since then, submissions for Outlet have been gathered, judged, and edited by students in English 418: Creative Writing and Publishing. In 2006, Stephen George passed away from cancer. Outlet was just one of many good things he did during his tenure at BYU-Idaho. Surely, if Stephen had not taken up the cause of the fledgling journal, it would not exist today.
Now in its seventeenth year, Outlet has produced sixteen volumes. Since 2004, in conjunction with English 418, Outlet has been directed by Jack Harrell, Jim Richards, Mark Bennion, and Matt Babcock. In 2008, under Mark Bennion, the journal changed to its current format, an 11” X 8 ½”, four-color format. With the help of Shawn Randall’s Graphics Design class in the BYU-Idaho Art Department, Outlet now features student poetry, fiction, essays, and scholarly writing, as well as colorful art, illustrations, and stunning graphic design. Today Outlet: The BYU-Idaho Art and Literary Journal remains “a publication the entire campus can be proud of.”