The New York University Summer Publishing Institute concluded its 40th year on July 13 and marked the anniversary year with a number of special events. The highlight took place June 14, when NYU brought back scores of alumni to Greenwich Village to fete the program. Among those who returned were HarperCollins sales president Josh Marwell, Grove Atlantic associate publisher Judy Hottensen, and former Essence magazine editor-in-chief Vanessa DeLuca, all of whom were part of the day’s panel discussions.

The program’s 40th year also brought a significant change in that this year was the first in which rising college seniors were eligible to participate in the program; previously, the program had been exclusive to college graduates only. But in a competitive publishing market, “there is significant demand from undergraduates to jump-start their publishing education,” said Andrea Chambers, director of the Center for Publishing, Digital and Print Media at the NYU School of Professional Studies. “So we listened. I believe we are the only program to take this major step.”

This summer’s roster brought a number of major players in publishing to the program. Among them were Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch, who gave a keynote address, and The Woman in the Window author A.J. Finn. Other top names in the field, including Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s adult publishing group; Reagan Arthur, senior v-p and publisher at Little, Brown; Hachette Books v-p and publisher Mauro DiPreta; and Celadon Books cofounders Jamie Raab and Deb Futter—who discussed their new imprint—also spoke to students over the summer.

More new twists during this year’s SPI included the addition of a number of “special skills” workshops in such subjects as video editing, SEO and keywords, and profit and loss statements. (“Yes,” Chambers said, “students requested that!”) In addition, the program hosted a mock agent-publisher auction, visited major publishing companies as well as independent bookstores, and had a private session with two buyers at Barnes & Noble’s Union Square location.

“To me, the longevity and success of SPI says everything about publishing past, present, and future,” Chambers said. “Our students want to live in the world of ideas, to influence minds and opinions, and to have a say in what is published. SPI has given them that opportunity over the years, now more than ever. It was so exciting to bring back many of our alumni, some from the early days of SPI, and to see how they have impacted publishing and been an integral part of its transformation.”

Chambers was equally proud of this year’s class as its members head off to publishing houses, literary agencies, and digital media companies. The new graduates, she said, “bring a new mind-set and skill set to publishing, and I believe the industry will be better and stronger thanks to their influence.”