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What PW Majors Ought to Know: Jennifer Wilkinson on Her Cool Job

by | Posted April 5th, 2011

Jennifer Wilkinson, a 2010 Professional Writing alum, took a minute (or twenty) to tell WRAC about her job, what’s great about it, and how the Professional Writing program helped her get it. Jennifer has lots of advice for PW students, including things that current PW students should know about portfolios, workshops, and more.

Currently, Jennifer works as the web coordinator at Leader Dogs for the Blind in the marketing department; she’s part of a 7-person team of marketing/communications specialists. Though her day-to-day activities vary, she has a few common tasks: formatting different kinds of communication, fielding web requests from colleagues, and organizing, revising, and creating web content. She also manages their Flickr account and Facebook.

One of Jennifer’s first tasks was copy-editing the website. This wasn’t easy: “It had never been done before, and a lot of the info on the site came from different people over a long period of time, so there were a lot of potential changes to be made. I think I ended up with 20 pages of notes.”

Jennifer has proven herself a capable copy-editor, so her supervisor has opted to make that a regular part of her duties. Still, she has a lot of freedom in her job: “My supervisor has numerous ideas for where she’d like to take Leader Dog’s web presence now that she has help, and I am free to propose and work on my own initiatives as well as collaborating with her on her own short- and long-term plans. There’s a lot to do and a lot to learn, but I’ve been lucky enough to get some of the most relaxed, friendly, and helpful coworkers I could imagine.”

Jennifer has some advice for current Professional Writing students:

1. Having an online portfolio was an important factor in me getting my job. My supervisor told me that even before I had my interview, I already had an edge on the competition by having a good body of work for her and her manager to review.

2. Doing my research beforehand paid off. I read up on Leader Dog extensively before the interview and spent a lot of time surveying the website, which I was able to convey during the interview. My supervisor also found a hit on her own online portfolio with an IP address in East Lansing on the day of my interview (I had indeed Googled her that morning), and she said that for her, that clinched the decision to choose me for the position.

3. Attending all those workshops was worth my time and attention. I did three interviews for this job. The first was a phone interview with the HR manager, then another phone interview with my supervisor, and finally an in-person interview with both my supervisor and our team manager. Because of all that literature I got from the interview workshops in PW, I was able to review what I’d been advised to do and felt confident about how I was going to answer tricky questions. In the end, being prepared for the tough questions made all 3 of the interviews almost easy.

4. Being well-rounded makes me flexible and expands my job possibilities. I did the editing & publishing track in PW, but I also took both web authoring classes and whatever else sounded interesting at the time, and my participation in other opportunities I was offered or heard about at MSU gave me a wide variety of experiences. Because my supervisor knows the spread of what I’m capable of, my job can include a lot more than web work. In addition to copy-editing and social media, I may do both web and document design and various kinds of writing (proving that I can be all 3 things listed on my portfolio–writer, editor, and designer).

5. One of the many cover letters I wrote for a class actually helped me get a job. During senior year, I was pretty sick of writing cover letters. Between Portfolio Seminar and all my other classes that wanted proof I could properly apply for a job, any mention of resumes or cover letters gave me an instant headache. However, I wrote one for a job similar to the position I have now during my WRA 410 Advanced Web Authoring class and ended up only having to adapt it slightly to fit the new situation. Sure enough, the cover letter I wrote as part of a final exam opened the door for my job.

6. Doing lots of group work really helped me out. Having done lots of group work in college, it was easy for me to describe how I prefer to work in groups, how I interact with group members, what roles I’m good at playing, and what particular strengths and weaknesses I bring (as well as how I overcome my weaknesses). Being able to tell lots of stories about both group work that went well and group work that pretty much failed proved that I had the requisite experiences to be able to handle the ups and downs of being an integral part of a team.

Jessica Care Moore Visits MSU

by | Posted April 4th, 2011

World-renowned poet and activist, Jessica Care Moore,  spent a day with MSU’s WRAC department. She spoke to three first-year writing courses and attended the Writing Center’s open mic night. Jessica’s poetry has captivated audiences across the globe, and her performance at MSU awed those who were able to see it; this video is a brief recapture of the day.

Stay tuned for a more extensive follow-up video coming soon.

MSU Students & Faculty Presenting at the CCCC Conference

by | Posted March 29th, 2011

A list of current MSU grad students, faculty, and Rhetoric & Writing Program alumni presenting at this year’s CCCC.

W.3  F*ck Tradition!: Mapping/Making/Performing/Contesting Queer Relations

  • Trixie Smith, Matthew B. Cox, Travis Webster, Katie Livingston, Dianna Baldwin, Casey Miles

W.9  Situated Invention: Mapping, Documenting, Theorizing, and Contesting Generativity

  • Leonora Smith, Julie Lindquist, Nancy DeJoy, Steven Lessner, Jason Wirtz (Hunter College)

AW.2  Contesting Institutional Barriers and Boundaries: Engaging the Politics and Pedagogy of Ebonix (and Other Linguistic Varieties of Americans) in Classroom Practice

  • Geneva Smitherman, Austin Jackson, Denise Troutman, Bonnie Williams

AW.3 Standing Peachtree: Trading Ideas About American Indian Rhetorical Texts with “All Our Relations”

  • Angela Haas (Illinois State University), Qwo-Li Driskill (Texas A&M University)

AW.7  Writing as Radical Hybridity: An Interdisciplinary Writing Workshop

  • Daisy Levy, Suzanne Webb, Matt Novak

MW.7  A Common Ground in a Sea of Change: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Writers in the Writing Classroom

  • Marohang Limbu

MW.8 Making a Case for Tenure & Promotion within/outside Rhetoric and Composition

  • Douglas Eyman (George Mason University)


R&W @ CCCC: Alumni Celebration!

by | Posted March 29th, 2011

This year’s Conference on College Composition and Communication (a.k.a. CCCC), is set to take place April 6-9 in Atlanta, Georgia. CCCC is an annual conference that hosts hundreds of faculty, staff, and graduate students in writing-related programs and fields.

“The CCCC Reception has a few different purposes,” said Writing & Rhetoric Program director Bill Hart-Davidson. “Traditionally, it’s a grad program-sponsored event in conjunction with CCCC. This year is particularly special because one of our faculty members–Malea Powell–is the chair of the conference.”

You can read more about Malea Powell’s appointment as chair in former WRAC intern Ali White’s posts: The CCCC: Malea Powell Brings Big Changes as Program Chair and CCCC: Creating the Schedule.

Hart-Davidson said the reception acts as a reunion event. “It’s a convenient opportunity. All of our people are there, all of our prospective grad students and alums are there.”

This year, the Rhetoric & Writing Program is working with members of the CAL Dean’s Alumni Relations team, which is helping to sponsor the event. This means that the reception will also include any alumni from the College of Arts and Letters who are also attending the conference or happen to reside in the Atlanta area.

“While they might not have been part of the WRAC Department, the other CAL alumni still have a lot in common, and this reception gives them a chance to mingle and talk about the different things they’re working on. It’s also an excellent opportunity to network and recruit grad students,” Hart-Davidson said. “Other universities have similar events during CCCC. This allows us to get the WRAC name out there and to let other grad programs know what our students are doing.”

The Michigan State Rhetoric & Writing Reception will be held on Wednesday April 6th, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Max Lager’s Wood-fired Grill and Brewery.

Writers’ Bloc Interviewing Workshop

by | Posted March 25th, 2011

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.

Press Releases by PW Student Go National

by | Posted March 24th, 2011

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.

R&W Graduate Program Recruits New PHD Students

by | Posted March 9th, 2011

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.”