Anti-Social Networks

In WRA 415, Digital Rhetoric, we discussed what it meant to be social. Is socializing the direct verbal communication between individuals? Is it the action of participating in tasks to facilitate socialization, such as reading a certain book or watching a popular TV show? Or is it something else entirely? On that note, what are we to make of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest that were created to enable communications between people all over the world? Are they really helping us socialize or are they killing it? Check out this video and decide for yourself.

Covering an Event via Social Media

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Today there are myriad social media platforms to tend to. We have our Instagrams to post our lunches on, our Twitters to inform everyone in 140 characters or less what we’re doing at 2:30PM on a Sunday (drinking coffee, #typical), our Facebook to post our latest selfie or video; it can be exhausting.

While keeping up with our personal online presence is already pretty involved, for some people it’s their job to maintain their company’s, too. Sometimes this means covering an event, which can be pretty daunting. So, how does one do it? Ed2010 writer Elizabeth Lilly gives us the lowdown in this article.

Brene Brown and the Importance of Authenticity

A few months back, I stumbled across a TED talk with sociologist Brene Brown titled, “The Power of Vulnerability.” In this talk, Dr. Brown stresses the importance of cultivating and embracing vulnerability in our daily lives. The talk has gone viral, and Dr. Brown even released a book called Daring Greatly, based on the principles of this talk.

Recently, as I was perusing the web, I found this Huffington Post article written by Dr. Brown, writing about the struggle many face with just being themselves.

As writers, we tend to seep through within our work; it’s inevitable. So, when it’s time for peer reviews, edits, advice, etc., it can be downright daunting to get feedback and induce feelings of vulnerability because when a part of our work is rejected, sometimes it feels as though part of us are being rejected, too. But we need the edits and second sets of eyes. So, how can we deal with the rejection in a healthy way?

While the article linked above stresses the importance of every day authenticity and being ourselves, I thought it would be especially interesting for writers to apply to our crafts and learn to move through constructive (and sometimes destructive) criticism with more grace and realize that not all of our work is going to be perfect, and that is perfectly okay.

Looking Back on Summer 2014 Study Abroad

Photo credit: Jeff Grabill, Liz Bell, Liza Potts, Jordan Poll

MSU is renowned for its study abroad programs. However, options for PWers were so limited that they didn’t exist. That is until now.

Thanks to Department Chair: Jeff Grabill, Associate Professor: Liza Potts, and The College of Arts and Letters, as of 2014, there are three fantastic study abroad programs for Professional Writing Majors including; Professional Writing London: Designing Communication Experiences, Creativity and Innovation for Participatory Memory Across London and Paris, and Internships in Dublin Ireland.

“I have been interested since we started the PW major over ten years ago in stable, long term study abroad experiences for our students. The trick was finding the right place and the right experiences that were appropriate for our students. I believe in the power of challenging experiences to facilitate learning, and some of the most powerful can be via study abroad. I see excellent experiential learning as one of the key ways to strengthen and grow our undergraduate programs.” – Jeff Grabill

Photo by Liz Bell
Photo by Liz Bell

Professional Writing London: Designing Communication Experiences is a 5 week program, hosted by Jeff Grabill. It combines experiential learning, research projects, and professional practices. This program focuses on understanding and designing communication and strives to emphasize the role of research, communication, and experience in learning how humans engage publically across the world through what they make, write, and design. Students will take two 3-credit courses during 5 weeks in London. After their coursework in London, students may join the Participatory Memory research abroad experience, which will begin in London but focus on Paris.

Katie Susko and Zoe Zappitell are both Professional Writing students at MSU who took part in Jeff’s study abroad program this past summer. While both students were happy to gush about their life changing experience in London, they offered different insights for future students.

“My job in London taught me more in 5 weeks than I ever could have learned at MSU. Our class work took us all over London, so we were able to sightsee while we worked. This trip opened my eyes to how much there is to do in this world. But, it also made me really appreciate where I come from. I would take this trip one hundred more times if I could.” – Katie Susko, Junior

“When I wasn’t in class learning, going to an interesting lecture, at a museum, writing my research report or doing something related to study abroad, I was traveling. During the five weeks I was there, I traveled to Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Paris. Each location had a different feel and vibe. My study abroad friends and I sucked in information. From in class to punting (like a canoe) in river around Cambridge listening to our guide explain the social life and history of the gorgeous college.

It would take days to tell you everything I have learned, but overall I have become a more confident, philosophical, and a deeper human being. I truly believe this. My connection with the students from MSU and other individuals I met were fascinating. Successfully researching museums and talking to people of all different backgrounds was not only interesting, but this gave me a huge boost in confidence.” – Zoe Zappitell, Sophomore

For more information on this program please contact:
Jeff Grabill at

Photo by Liz Bell
Photo by Liz Bell

Creativity and Innovation for Participatory Memory Across London and Paris is a program led by Liza Potts for one month. It is a two-part program, beginning in London and ending in Paris. Both cities will be explored, but London will be the primary focus. Students will learn about creativity and memory making and will be visiting spaces where people celebrate and memorialize various significant events and fan cultures. Cultures to be examined include Princess Diana’s memorials in London and Paris, the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, the Baker Street Irregulars’ campaign for Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who fans’ pilgrimages to various sites across London, the making of Harry Potter in Warner Bros Studio, and much more.

When asked what inspired her and what she enjoyed most about this program, Liza responded, “We started off in London learning about the Sherlock fandom. I grew up reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, and I love everything from the original stories to the older TV series to the RDJ films to the BBC series. Starting with me as a fan researcher investigating the spaces and places we visited, students were able to see how to experience and balance both. It’s an excellent learning environment when you come at it with loads of enthusiasm for what you are studying.”

Kelly Turner, senior in Professional Writing with a concentration in Digital & Technical Writing, spent 9 busy weeks abroad between both Jeff and Liza’s study abroad programs.“During Jeff Grabill’s five-week program in London, we focused on communicating and designing experiences. We practiced observing and analyzing different spaces within the context of London spaces by conducting research and interviews in places such as museums and design firms. My group was placed at a user experience design firm, Tobias & Tobias. This was an amazing opportunity to experience not only office life, but the ins and outs of the design process from start to finish.

During Liza Pott’s four-week program split between London and Paris, we researched and studied fan culture and how fans participate in spaces and make memories or ideas last digitally and physically. My fangirl heart soared when we found the TARDIS, tracked down the passageway that inspired Diagon Alley, and explored the Sherlock Holmes museum. I conducted research with Emily Dallaire on how Harry Potter book and movie fans participate differently at sites strictly related to the book (Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland where JK Rowling wrote part of Harry Potter) in comparison to movie sites (King’s Cross, Millennium Bridge). I completely geeked out visiting and taking notes at these places, trying to objectively observe as a researcher while trying not to get too excited was definitely a challenge the entire trip.”

For more information on this program please contact:
Liza Potts at


Photo by Jordan Poll
Photo by Jordan Poll

Internships in Dublin, Ireland is a 3-month program that isn’t specifically designed for Professional Writers, but it can definitely be customized for one. It engages students in a variety of experiential opportunities that reflect their career interests and provide an academic component to enhance their professional development as well as broaden student understanding of contemporary Irish culture. MSU works with an established, well-regarded placement organization to work with students and place them in internships within their fields of interest. Agency professionals will secure full-time internships, set up on-site interviews, make the necessary evaluation visits and will work with the on-site supervisor to oversee the internship for the duration of the placement. Interns may be placed with internationally recognized companies, domestic government agencies, as well as national and European organizations. Taken with WRA 493 (Professional Writing Internship) the program can fulfill degree credits as well as being a great addition to any resume.

I was the only Professional Writer to go to Ireland as part of this program over the summer. It is such a shame too because just like Katie, Zoe, and Kelly, my time abroad was life changing experience. I worked as an editorial assistant for a well known print magazine in Dublin four days a week and spent the other three exploring all of the Ireland to my heart’s content. I saw almost every mind-blowing site there is to see, with the addition of Stonehenge, and I grew in ways that only studying and interning abroad could give me. My time in Ireland is one I will never forget. It has made me the professional writer I am today.

For more information on this program please contact:
Bethany Judge at