Off the Beaten Path: PWs as Explorers, Entrepreneurs, and More


Professional Writing is an undeniably unique program. This uniqueness is manifested in many wonderful ways, but it can be hard to explain, even for a practiced rhetorician. Thanksgivings and family Christmases come around and the less up-to-date family members invariably ask “How is school?” and “What are you studying?”. Then, if you’re particularly unlucky, you get the follow up:

“And what are you going to do with that?”

Professional Writing doesn’t come with a convenient answer, unlike job-title ready degrees such as Nursing or Accounting. The same quality that makes PW amazingly flexible is what makes this question difficult to answer concisely.

But while you can’t predict your own personal future, you can learn from the past and present. Alumni with a PW degree are living proof that the answers to “So what are you going to do with that?” are varied and personal and sometimes even completely unexpected. So while there may never be a perfect one phrase answer, there’s hundreds of examples to show off and learn from.

One such example comes from Angela Shetler, 2005 graduate. When she graduated she tried a few jobs where she got the chance to get some editing and publishing experience. Unfortunately, it still seemed like something was missing. And that’s when Shetler took a risk and moved out to Japan, where she taught English for three years. “If you had told me back in 2005 that this would be the path my career would take, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s definitely been an adventure.” Now Shetler is teaching rhetoric and writing at the University of Sydney, as part of a program that she calls “the first of its kind in Australia.”

Other Professional Writing alumni have taken their skills abroad as well. Ryan Wyeth, class of 2010, relocated to China for a contract where he worked as an English teacher. He now works as a freelance translator, an undertaking that he describes as demanding, but also rewarding. “I enjoy the satisfaction of being able to look over a completed translation project and see the quality in my own work. I know that I produce translations that convey the intended message but do so in a fluid, stylish manner.” Continue reading

The Financial Outlook in Higher Education

On the heels of Michigan’s two largest universities announcing tuition hikes I felt it pertinent to remind us “7 in 10 Undergraduates Get Financial Aid” (Chronicle of Higher Education). Put into another statistic, that’s 71% (according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics). At Michigan State we have roughly 38,000 undergraduates (MSU Facts), meaning that nearly 26,500 of those students are using some sort of financial aid.

The picture is a bit different for graduate students, quoting from Beckie Supiano’s CoHE piece,

“The share of graduate students receiving any aid dropped from 73 percent in 2007-8 to 70 percent in 2011-12. And the makeup of the aid those students received also changed. The share of graduate students receiving grants dropped from 41 percent in 2007-8 to 36 precent in 2011-12, while the share receiving loans grew from 42 percent in 2007-8 to 45 percent in 2011-12. The average amount that graduate students borrowed from all sources also increased, from $18,400 in 2007-8 to $21,400 in 2011-12.”

In short, funding is down, while borrowing is up. Thus more and more working-age adults are entering the job market only to start working off mountains of student loan debt, not to mention the credit card debt that often comes for undergrads and grad students alike. Of more concern, perhaps, is how these numbers cut across hugely important factors like race, socioeconomic and immigration statuses, age, abilities, sex and gender, and place (like specific states, or urban, suburban, and rural locales). These considerations are key to figuring out where we go from here.

Apple’s Failure at Diversity

Selena Larsen, writing for ReadWrite, takes Apple to task for the lack of diversity in choosing speakers for their annual Worldwide Developers Conference, often the site of many hardware and software launches. Larsen identifies this failure as a larger issue, “It’s indicative of a much broader diversity problem within the technology industry—especially in roles that are highly technical, where—to put it plainly—women and minorities are vastly outnumbered by white males.”

It’s not a surprise that so many young girls express interest and talent in math and the sciences, but so few are pushed into these fields. Larsen takes issue with Apple specifically because “Apple clearly has both the resources and the cachet to attract them (women, and racial and ethnic minorities) as employees and speakers.” Read more here.