Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
The Versatility of PW Skills: When Design and Museum Studies Collide
Home > About > Stories > WRAC Specials > The Versatility of PW Skills: When Design and Museum Studies Collide

The Versatility of PW Skills: When Design and Museum Studies Collide

MSU’s Professional Writing program is exceptional in many ways. It not only provides a college degree, but it also helps students develop a unique set of skills that they can bring to a variety of classes and professional settings. This is especially true for Lauren Utykanski, a senior studying professional writing and museum studies. As she navigated through her museum studies courses, she quickly discovered that most of the assignments, projects, and discussions required a large number of PW skills, particularly those related to visual analysis and design.

Lauren specifically remembers taking the PW course WRA 360: Visual Rhetoric and immediately wanting to learn more about the elements of design. Little did she know that the skills she gained in this class would turn out to be incredibly helpful for one of her museum studies courses: Curatorial Practices. “We definitely play around with design and PW concepts in this class. It definitely helps to be a PW major,” she said. One of the tasks was for each student to choose an artifact from the collections in the MSU Museum and the MSU Broad. Once the student chose the artifact, they then had to create a clear and concise label. Lauren was hoping they would be able to choose the fonts for the labels. Not many students would care much about something like this, but learning about typography and graphic design compels PW students to think outside the box and notice details that others might not.

 Next, the class had to come up with four questions on a simple sheet of paper that would help lead others through the exhibit. One of the challenges they had to deal with was that it could only be a black and white composition. This was when Lauren introduced her group to Canva, a free graphic-design tool often used by PW majors. Her classmates were very receptive to the tool and learned quickly how to use its features; as a result, rather than just using bullet points or numbered lists, they were able to put a creative spin on the assignment by adding various icons and graphics.

Another museum studies class in which Lauren used PW design skills is HST 495: History Harvest, in which undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to connect with community members to“share their histories, family heirlooms, and objects they have that are representative of their histories and cultures.” The History Harvest event invites those who want to share their objects and stories, which will then become part of a digitized collection.

Lauren noted that the course did have quite a few challenges, such as meeting particular demands and working with a diverse group of people. Students in the PW program, however, are equipped to deal with such challenges because PW students learn early in the program’s courses how to appeal to diverse audiences through writing and design.

 With her PW problem-solving skills, Lauren was more than ready to take on whatever challenges she and her fellow classmates faced. “When we were designing the poster [for the event], we had to make sure the language was open and inoffensive, and we wanted to explain that we are helping people create this archive,” she said. “We have the equipment, skills, and time to make the website, but the artifacts and the stories come from the community.”


The History Harvest is Saturday, November 4 from noon to 3 at the Cristo Rey Community Center. All are welcome to attend.


Written by Reyna Hurand