WRAC-TV coverage of the PW Interviewing workshop at which Lindsey LaTour Bliss, Lorelei Blackburn, Matt Cox, and Beth Judge stopped by to talk to us about the interviewing do’s and do not’s. Each had some incredible information to share so feel free to contact any of them for more information.
Stephanie Johnson, a professional writing senior, had two press releases go national during her internship at Hart-Davidson Designs (HDD), Leslie Hart-Davidson’s interior design company that works with clients to create great living spaces. Stephanie’s internship with HDD was her first; she was introduced to owner Hart-Davidson when she was about to switch majors from Interior Design to Professional Writing.
Because Stephanie was the only writing intern at HDD, she wrote blog posts, edited some articles for magazine publication, and helped to develop ideas for seminars. Stephanie was the social media intern as well. She created a presence for “Lil’ C,” (check out his twitter here), the studio mascot at HDD. Lil’ C is “modeled from the likeness of a previous business / graphic design intern named Clark. Clark is awesome, and Leslie came across a Ken doll that resembled him, so she bought it, and the rest is history.”
Her internship experience is particularly noteworthy because the two press releases Stephanie wrote received national attention. Though two press releases may not seem like much, they were a lot of work. Both of them required research and collaboration between Stephanie, Leslie Hart-Davidson, and others.
As Stephanie said, she wrote the second press release because “Leslie wanted to spread the word about her newest seminar, Women in Power[tools]), which focuses on empowering women. Since we had so much success with the first one (released May 25, 2010, and focused on her mentoring of young women), she decided to stick with the same team.”
Because the first press release received attention almost immediately, Stephanie set out to make the second even better: “I put a lot of effort into the final product, as did Leslie.”
The press release “Leslie Hart-Davidson Empowers Women in New Seminar: Women in Power(tools) ‘You don’t always need a dude for home repairs and improvements’” (check it out here) was picked up by many small, local news sources, but the most notable venues were CNBC (which picked up the first release as well) and Yahoo.
For other students writing press releases, Stephanie has a bit of advice: “Keep in contact with someone who has a lot of experience writing, editing, and releasing them.
Through her internship, Stephanie learned just how important having an internship is and how it can open your eyes to the reality of the professional world. Now, she feels prepared for graduation and for what lies ahead–which, for her, hopefully is focusing on writing, editing, and the web design skills she’s learning in PW.
Another new video from WRAC-TV. Hugh McDiarmid, Jr., communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council, came into Professor Wendi Tilden’s WRA 331 class to discuss nonprofit communication; this is what he said…
During the last week of February, the R&W Graduate program invites potential PHD students to visit MSU. The recruitment mixer is held every year, part of a two-day event at which students admitted to the Rhetoric and Writing graduate program are invited to visit Michigan State University to meet faculty and students. On February 25, this year’s recruits attended a mixer held at Beggar’s Banquet, in downtown East Lansing.
There were seven (of eight total) recruits at Beggar’s, some flown in from as far as the Virgin Islands, others from Lansing, and some already in the MA program here at MSU.
The recruitment process is a very important one. While trying to attract the best students in the country, the graduate program is also competing with other universities across the country. Explaining the importance of the annual recruitment event, Professor and R&W program director Bill Hart-Davidson says:
“Building knowledge is only part of the reason you come to graduate school. Building professional relationships that will launch and sustain an academic career is another important reason. And peer relationships are extremely important. At the PHD level, your classmates are your future colleagues. If your goal is to be prepared to be a leader in the discipline, you want to learn in an environment where every other student is as engaged as you are, even if your research interests differ from those of others. We offer students a chance to see what they will be doing, where they will be doing it, and most importantly who they will be doing it with when they choose to study at Michigan State.”
At the recruitment mixer, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. “Everyone is smiling,” said recruit Jeffrey Guiste, flown in from the Virgin Islands, “which is a good sign.”
Both Jeffrey and Doug Schraufnagle, another recruit, said that they received more information than they ever thought they would. “It’s a full two days of appointments, meetings with faculty and students, and of course lots of good snacks!” said Hart-Davidson.
This year’s event is already paying off. Two of the PHD students have confirmed that they will attend in the fall. Hart-Davidson expects that three or four more will make up the full cohort, but this will be still less than ten percent of the total number who apply each year. “It’s definitely competitive,” says Hart-Davidson, “but that also means that we have the most talented students in the country coming to study in WRAC and at MSU.”
You’ve all probably seen “The Breakfast Club,” that John Hughes classic filled with ‘80s music and spastic, spontaneous dancing. Ridiculous? Maybe. Outdated? Not necessarily, thanks to a new genre of video mashup in which people from various cities in the United States and abroad perform the old dance moves to the contemporary rock song “Lisztomania” by Phoenix. A recent addition to this series features MSU and East Lansing and was created last fall by two PW seniors, Nina Elias and Bethany Tomaszewski, as their final project for WRA 417: Multimedia Writing. The video currently has over 2,500 hits on YouTube and was featured on MSU’s homepage, Facebook page, and Twitter stream.
Tomaszewski said, “It was Nina’s idea to do the video; she had seen the genre remixed before. The project sounded like it would be time consuming and difficult, but also really fun and rewarding—and it was.” The two worked together to shoot footage at their favorite spots on campus and around East Lansing and enlisted their fellow students, including PWers Laura Portko and Brendan LaCroix to provide the dance moves.
“We wanted to help show that Michigan State and East Lansing are worthy of international attention and that we have a really interesting area around us. We also wanted to dance and show the world that Michigan State knows how to have fun.”
Both Elias and Tomaszewski enjoyed filming together and learned a great deal about video production. Elias said, “I learned that lighting is something you have to think about all the time while you’re filming, because it’s a bit harder to fix in Final Cut Pro. Also, recruitment was harder than we had anticipated!” Tomaszewski added, “I learned that you should be proud of everything you post online with your name on it, because you never know who’s going to see it.” They are planning to submit the video at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum later this spring.
Dr. Bump Halbritter, the professor of WRA 417, had nothing but good things to say about the effort invested by Nina and Bethany.
“Nina and Bethany took on an ambitious project for first-time audio-visual writers (movie-makers), one requiring not only learning how to operate a video camera, but how to one: operate several cameras; two: choose locations; three: study, replicate and adapt shots from the other mash ups; four: secure equipment; five: solicit dancing talent; six: storyboard scenes; and seven: coordinate moving their talent and equipment from location to location. Then Nina and Bethany spent dozens of hours editing hundreds of clips into their final four-minute video. Not bad for first-time movie makers!”
Dr. Halbritter continued, “I cannot stress enough how impressed I am with the tenacity, resourcefulness, and industry displayed by Nina and Bethany. They saw and seized an opportunity to share their view of MSU with the world. They learned so very much by meeting the challenges of the “Lisztomania” project and are now in possession of the skills and acumen to meet and exceed the emerging needs of professional writers in the 21st century. The challenges of directing this project will not be unlike those Nina and Bethany may face when charged with creating innovative promotional videos for a non-profit agency, for example.”
This is the first of many new videos from WRAC-TV. Dan Nufer, WRAC Communications Intern, sat down with WRAC Professor Jeff Charnley. Dan asked him to talk about his study abroad program; this is what he said…
For more information about the study abroad, visit the MSU Study Abroad website.
In WRA 417 Multimedia Writing, students learn about the process of filming and editing a video, and ultimately discover another medium in which to write. Dr. Bump Halbritter explains it like this: “The class is all about taking something that can be considered singular, such as a video, and then breaking it apart and looking at the functional and rhetorical aspects of the component layers of media. We focus on the layers in the our assignments early in the semester. Then it’s all put back together again in the final project.”
The students in his Fall 2010 class got an opportunity to shine in presenting their final projects. Each group of students had to come up with an idea for a video, storyboard it, and pitch it to the rest of the class. Once they received approval, it became a matter of shooting footage, editing it together with Final Cut Pro (a few groups chose to use iMovie, iMovie HD, and some PC-based programs as well), adding a soundtrack, and finally showing it to the rest of the class. A few groups chose to post their videos publicly on YouTube as well.
Dr. Halbritter said the final projects ranged from a documentary about The Blue Project (a local band), to a how-to video that explained the video game World of Warcraft, to a music video mash-up of Lisztomania by Phoenix with eclectic ’80s dancing from the popular John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. A few of the students chose to share some information about their videos with me via email: this is what they had to say.
Dave Johnson, a PW senior, produced a video about environmental issues in the East Lansing area entitled “Re:Think!,” which was a continuation of a project he had created for WRA 308 Invention in Writing. He said, “I chose this subject because I feel that it’s time we begin taking a serious look at what we are doing to the environment, and ways through which we can potentially turn that around.”
The video includes interviews with Lansing-area individuals involved in recycling/conservation and gives viewers different ideas for how they can help the environment too. Dave said he enjoyed the experience and that he “learned a lot about networking, how to interface with different communities and organizations, and how to construct complex multimedia driven arguments.”
Crystal VanKooten is a second year PHD student in English and Education at the University of Michigan. She had worked with Dr. Halbritter over the summer and was able to enroll in WRA 417 through the Big Ten Collaborative Traveling Scholar program, which allows PHD students from any Big Ten University to take courses at other institutions. “I took the course because my research is in new media composition, and I wanted to continue composing in diverse media environments.”
Her video was called “Writing with Sound: The Rhetoric of Music.” In it, Crystal interviewed a former student from her first-year composition course who talked about the composition of her own video, specifically her use of music. Crystal then laid clips of her interview footage next to clips from her student’s video composition, arguing that music is a powerful way to write with sound. Crystal composed this video because it continued a line of research and thinking she had done in her other work: “The medium of video also allowed me to show, in pictures and through sound, the ways that my students were using music. Video worked so much more effectively than, say, writing an essay about my student’s work” (Unfortunately, Crystal was unable to share her video online because of copyright issues related to the music her students had chosen to use in their videos).
Another project was the “Busby Legacy” documentary, which looked at the life/legacy of Robert Busby, a Lansing-area artist who was instrumental in the revitalization of Lansing’s Old Town. PW junior Brianne Ross said, “He [Busby] was an artist who dedicated his life to turning Old Town into a thriving art community. He was kind of the unofficial leader who helped clean up the area, helped gallery owners set up their businesses, encouraged people to come and help build up the area. And he was, unfortunately, killed as things in Old Town were just beginning to thrive.”
Brianne said her group was originally inspired to make their film after seeing another documentary on the same topic created by Noah Blon, a former PW student who had taken WRA 417 two years earlier. Blon’s video served as an introduction to Busby’s life, which Brianne’s group decided to continue. “We feel it’s kind of a second chapter to the story and we’re hoping that future students will continue to write the next chapters.”
The Lansing area served as a backdrop for other videos as well. Heather Hill and Rachael Hodder, both graduate students in the Rhetoric & Writing program, created videos that showcased Lansing’s REO Art Alley and REO Eats, respectively.
Rachael explained that “Heather and I worked individually on editing our videos, but worked together for the logistical aspect of the projects–setting up interviews, filming, determining the overall tone of our projects. Our work was geographically located in the same group of people and place, plus the actual work of filming is hard hard hard work!” Heather added that there was more to it than just location; they both shared an interest in what was happening in Lansing’s REO Town. “My friends are very involved in this revitalization effort, and I wanted to do something to help them and recognize their great work by using my rhetorical talents.”
Both students found the work to be rewarding, even life changing.
“417 has changed the way that I write by making me more attuned to issues of pacing, tone, and juxtaposition. Because I was so limited in space for my video, I had to make very shrewd rhetorical decisions. There were some cases where I could not use my favorite footage because it was not the most rhetorically effective–it did not deliver as impactful a message as it needed to. 417 brought me back to Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals–ethos, pathos, and logos–and showed me how our rhetoric’s favorite old Greek guy is still relevant for 21st century composition,” Rachael said.
As most PWers know, each Professional Writing student is encouraged to complete an internship prior to graduation. One of the biggest challenges is finding an interesting and suitable position. But as many of your PW colleagues have been saying all along, networking can make finding an internship much easier. For that reason, Writers’ Bloc recently hosted a panel of PWers who have had interesting internship experiences. They would be happy to share their experiences, so if you’re interested, don’t hesitate to contact them.
Nina Elias: Entertainment Publications and TechSmith
Nina has been very active as an intern throughout her undergraduate experience. With Entertainment Publications–the company that puts out coupon books each year–she worked with indexing, learned about print and web requirements, and became very familiar with Adobe InDesign. In her current internship with TechSmith, she’s working to create an info-graphic that will improve inter-departmental communication to assure that each department knows what the others are doing. She is also helping to create a newsletter for her department and does usability testing on some of TechSmith programs such as Camtasia Studio. Nina was given these responsibilities because she put herself out there by saying to her supervisors, “Oh, I can do that.” For more information about her internship experiences, contact Nina at
Natalie Kozlowski: MAFP and College of Arts & Letters
Natalie found her internship with the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) on myspartancareer.com, which she says is a very valuable resource. She is considered MAFP’s webmaster: she manages the website, uploads content, increases usability and readability, and works hard to make sure the site is cohesive. Because Natalie was tenacious in her efforts to improve the website, she was granted permission to re-design the MAFP homepage. She also created and maintains its Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. In her second internship, Natalie is the web development intern for the College of Arts and Letters, where she manages Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and builds applications for the College of Arts and Letters website. For more about her internship experiences, contact Natalie at
Sasha Masters Jones: Michigan Audubon
Like several other PWers, Sasha worked for Michigan Audubon, and there, was given the opportunity to do some design work for them. While updating all of the social media networks and soliciting stories for the Jack Pine Warbler, she also worked on re-designing the CraneFest website, devoted to an annual Michigan Audubon event. If you’re interested in working with Michigan Audubon, talk to Laura Julier (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact Sasha at
Ashley Haglund: Governor Granholm’s Office and College of Social Science
Ashley Haglund, with her impressive resume, was able to get a job “acting like a governor [of Michigan] for 40 hours a week.” Of course that was not her official title nor was it her actual job, but the work she did was similar to the work one would do in a position at a governmental office. She lent her knowledge and skills to multiple writing projects and spoke to interested citizens on the governor’s behalf. Rhetorical strategies learned in her PW classes were very useful to the work she did in this internship. Ashley also works for the College of Social Science development office, where she edits the alumni newsletter, works on inter-departmental communication, and plans events. She says that both internships have given her a basis for what she might like to do in her professional career. For more information about her internship experiences, contact Ashley at
Ali White: Swagger New York
You may remember Ali as one of last semester’s WRAC interns, but that wasn’t her only internship. Ali spent all of last summer in New York working with Swagger New York, an up-and-coming fashion website. Initially, she was under the impression that she’d be working with social media, and while she did do some social networking, her main responsibility was to create videos for the site. Ali taught herself Final Cut Pro in about one week and immediately began producing content to be published on the website. Partly thanks to Ali’s work, Swagger New York is still running strong and looking for help. If you’re interested in a position, contact Ali at