Social Writing and a Space Shuttle – MSUPW at NASA

Mike and Alexandra with Atlantis

Yes, that’s two #msupw folks – Mike McLeod, faculty, and Alexandra White, alum – with a space shuttle. This happened because we were both selected to attend the NASA Social Atlantis – Celebrate the Journey event to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis be permanently retired from service and share that experience on social media. We attended this event first as unabashed space nerds, but we managed our nerdery well enough to strategize our writing to document the experience for ourselves and for our audiences. Here we’ll reflect on the rhetoric of the event, our social writing strategies, and shamelessly geek out over space.

About NASA Social

NASA Social is a semi-regular event NASA has been hosting since 2009 in which members of its social media following are invited to high-profile events and given media credentials, affording them some behind-the-scenes access that the general public never gets – NASA calls this “pulling back the curtain.” These events vary from the launches of satellites and space shuttles to speaking events with NASA celebrities and, in our case, the retirement of famous spacecraft. (more…)

PW Field Trip to Founders

Thomas Gregovich also contributed to this story.

One of the strengths of the Professional Writing Program is its alumni. So many have gone on to do such interesting work. “While at Beer Rhetorics one night, Laura Julier was discussing the fact that PW students never get to see the alumni. I decided to take initiative and organize a field trip to go see alumna Sarah Aldrich,” said PW senior and Beer Rhetorics evangelist Ali White. Sarah Aldrich, currently the marketing coordinator at Founder’s Brewing Company, graduated from PW in May 2010.

It took Ali forever to find a date agreeable to all, but they finally settled on September 23rd, sign-up began, and as the date drew nearer, White approached Professor Danielle DeVoss about joining the field trip. She hopped right on board and offered to sponsor vans to take the students and faculty to Grand Rapids.

Founder’s Brewing Company is an award-winning craft brewery that began in the dreams of Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers. To accompish this dream, they quit their jobs and took out huge loans; a huge risk. After getting off to a shaky start, Engbers and Stevens decided to change up their strategy. Instead of brewing unremarkable beers that catered to all crowds, said Engbers, they decided to craft “complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics, bigger body, and tons of flavor,” says the Founders website. “[We] are brewing beer for a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits.”

After arriving at downtown Grand Rapids, students and faculty met their tour leader and Founders creator, Dave Engvers. Along the tour, the group learned of the founding of the company, the brewing process, and the expansion of the brewery.

After the tour, they admired Sarah’s office, the really cool meeting room, and headed off to dinner in the taproom, courtesy of DeVoss, while enjoying delicious samples of beer. After dinner, some of the PWers headed into downtown Grand Rapids to check out ArtPrize, an annual art festival that hosts local artists.

“It was wonderful to tour the brewery and to see all of the art spread around the city. I can see why they call Grand Rapids the ‘shining star of Michigan’,” said resident mentor and TechSmith social media intern Ali White.

“As a senior, I was looking for a way to give back to the major beyond the supporting the established student groups,” said White. While at Beer Rhetorics one night, White decided to take on (another) title as PW Field Trip Coordinator and began organizing the first trip. This was about more than a field trip, though. “PW is a great program, but it only gives you the skills. We cannot expand our roles and knowledge without the help of others. We must rely on one another for networking and connections. We have the opportunity to be a powerful force in the information industry,” said White.

Although she has started work on the second PW field trip, Ali is looking for somebody to take over the position of PW Field Trip Coordinator after she graduates in December. If interested, contact Ali or Laura Julier for more details.

Lansing GiveCamp: Designing for Charity

Every year, web designers, database administrators, and software developers meet for a single weekend to build custom software and applications for non-profits. This weekend event is called GiveCamp, a national project founded in 2007 by Chris Koenig, developer evangelist for Microsoft. GiveCamp came to Lansing in 2009 with the help of Jeff McWherter, partner and director of development at Gravity Works, and his wife, Carla McWherter. For Lansing GiveCamp 2011, thirteen non-profits received help developing websites, web applications, and more, with the help of over 100 volunteers and support from the local community.

Lansing GiveCamp 2011 began on March 25th at 5 p.m., when volunteers arrived at Impression 5 Science Center in downtown Lansing. Volunteers were assigned to teams of at least four, then given just 45 hours to work with their assigned non-profit before a presentation in front of all of the GiveCamp staff and volunteers. Once the weekend is over, developers are not required to continue working with the non-profit. However, when the project was not finished, most of the developers volunteered to stay on board until their projects were launched.

I volunteered for the Mid-Michigan Environment Action Council (Mid-MEAC), as did Amelia Marschall from Gravity Works, Daniel Hogan (or check out his website), and Kathleen Kiester. Together, we redesigned the Mid-MEAC website, created a Facebook landing page, redesigned their Twitter page, and edited the website content. Mid-MEAC director Julie Powers was in constant contact with the team, providing tons of documentation, photos, and support to make the process as easy as possible.

Other non-profits that received creative work were 401 Change, Partnership Park Downtown Neighborhood Association, and the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

Lansing GiveCamp directors estimate that over $100,000 was donated in just one weekend based on labor costs, electricity, food provided for volunteers, and door prizes. There are GiveCamps coming up in Grand Rapids and in Ann Arbor, and of course Lansing GiveCamp 2012. They will be looking for help from anyone interested in web work (coding, designing, or otherwise).

  • See more photos of Lansing GiveCamp 2011, courtesy of Betsy Weber here
  • Follow Lansing GiveCamp on Twitter
  • Follow me on Twitter


Fiction 440: Flash Fiction in Greater Lansing

Fiction 440: It’s flash fiction–complete works of fiction in 440 words or less–and it’s here in Lansing. No excerpts, no poetry, no exceptions. You get a prompt, you write the story, and you present it to an audience at a local watering hole.

Fiction 440 is relatively new. It is the brainchild of Aaron Matthews, an attorney heavily involved in the Lansing community and a friend of Jeff Grabill. Jeff says Aaron “was on a plane reading the in-flight magazine, and it had an article about flash fiction. He thought that this was a great idea and perfect for Lansing as part of the larger project to make the area more culturally innovative and engaging. He brought the idea to me, Ivy Hughes, and Suban Nur Cooley (both local writers), and we decided to make it happen.”

Why is Fiction 440 so amazing? Grabill explains that it’s low-impact, meaning it doesn’t take much to plan and execute the events. Additionally, it’s easy to access. As Jeff says, all it takes is “the desire to write, and a little courage.” And finally, there is a wide range of people who can enjoy andattend. Gathering “creative, engaging people together leads to positive outcomes for the community that exceed the sheer entertainment value of a flash fiction event.”

The atmosphere at Fiction 440 is amiable, comfortable, and full of people laughing, talking, loudly applauding, and cheering. It’s a no-judgment zone, and those who read their stories seemed at ease. There was a story about how life is like a John Hughes movie, a story about meeting Sting and following him back to his hotel, a story about a couple whose marriage is saved by dancing the Waltz, and a story about a groupie and her love for music(ians).

Fiction 440 is a great place to wind down, to meet up with friends, and to listen to touching, funny, and just plain good stories. Submit or don’t submit; you should come regardless.

Check out the website and come to the next Fiction 440. The prompt: include the words Ireland, flip-flop, and virgin in your story. Submit on the website. We hope to see you there!

Jamming for Japan: PWers Plan a Festival to Aid Earthquake Relief

With support from local businesses such as Espresso Royale, Biggby Coffee, Outer Graphics Design, Splash of Color, Re-Threads, and The City of East Lansing as well as numerous musicians and media outlets, Jamming for Japan is working to bring the East Lansing community together to aid Japanese disaster victims.

Designed to raise funds for victims of the Japanese earthquake, Jamming for Japan will take place on April 16, 2011, from noon to 6 PM. There will be music, fun, and plenty of opportunities to contribute to worldwide efforts to relieve the suffering.

Each year in April, the internationally celebrated Record Store Day brings droves of music lovers of all sorts to Grand River Avenue in East Lansing, MI. This year, by drawing upon the audience already committed to Record Store Day, East Lansing’s The Record Lounge hopes to raise a sizable fund to contribute to the Japan relief effort. It has booked over twenty bands to perform at three outdoor locations across downtown East Lansing:

Throughout each of the 30-minute sets, bands will announce the location of several donation boxes throughout downtown. All funds earned from these donations will be sent to the Red Cross to aid in relief efforts.

The three Professional Writing students responsible for this event–Ali White, Joel Heckaman, and Dan Nufer (pictured right)–have taken community engagement to a new level by voluntarily producing a massive community event that applies knowledge learned in PW courses to a pressing community need. The PW students worked fast and hard to produce graphic and textual materials, contact multiple media outlets, and plan each detail of the event.

East Lansing has its share of festivals, but the city has not yet seen an event quite like Jamming for Japan. Heckaman and Nufer planned a similar event in January titled Middle of the Mitten; the Jamming for Japan group is excited that this event is able to bring together the creative class for more than just celebration, but also to accomplish some good in the world.

So, if you’re interested in music and fun, and want to give something back to those in need, come on out to downtown East Lansing on April 16 from noon to 6 PM for Jamming for Japan.

For more information, catch us on The Impact student radio station this Thursday, April 14 at 8 PM or be sure to follow @Jam4Japan on Twitter!

Can’t Find an Internship? Try Networking with PW Student Interns

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, 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 JonesMichigan 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 ( or contact Sasha at

with Govenor GranholmAshley 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

Community Builders: WRAC’s First Interns

WRAC’s redesigned website launched this past September, built around features that demand a great deal of attention and maintenance. Without someone watching over them, social media venues stagnate and a blog quickly grows stale. To avoid this common mistake and ensure that fresh and interesting content be produced on a regular basis, WRAC developed a communications strategy that outlines what types of content needs to be produced, sets production timetables to be followed, and establishes responsibility for creating the content: the Communications Management Intern.

As described in the communications strategy, the intern is to be recruited from the vast talent pool that is the Professional Writing program, and has the primary responsibility of listening: talking regularly to department administrators and staff, maintaining office hours during which anyone may drop in and talk, and paying attention to listservs and social networks where faculty and students regularly discuss their work. What the intern learns through listening becomes fodder for blog posts, social networking messages, and an official department calendar and newsletter.

As the fall 2010 semester ends, so does the tenure of WRAC’s first Communications Management Interns, Ali White and Laurel Sutherland. If you have enjoyed a story on WRAC’s new blog, a post or event on WRAC’s new Facebook page, or a tweet or conversation on WRAC’s Twitter feed, you have these two outstanding Professional Writing students to thank. They have helped grow and maintain these new communities and have established a number of precedents for all interns going forward, including an editorial workflow and a style guide.

As the end of the semester neared and their replacements needed to be recruited, Ali and Laurel put together this short video describing their work as interns:

We asked Ali and Laurel each to identify a piece of writing they prepared this semester and reflect on what they learned and why it was significant to them.

Laurel Sutherland – This semester, I learned a lot about communicating, writing, and editing. I enjoyed connecting with the WRAC department through each piece I had the opportunity to write, but there is one piece that I am especially proud of. In October, I wrote “Student Interns Involved in the Community.” This piece stands out to me because it aligns wonderfully with WRAC’s communication strategy: it showcases the skills of WRAC students, illustrates their involvement in the community, and the dynamic, professional experiences they are gaining during their time in the Professional Writing program.

While writing the piece, I had the opportunity to work with several primary sources. I learned a lot from listening to what the students had to say about their internships and synthesizing their diverse set of experiences into an informative, engaging, and effective piece of writing. I liked the piece because it showcased accomplishments of students doing really important work in the community. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to write about the way PW students are learning through real world experiences (while gaining valuable writing experience of my own!).

Ali White – I wrote many different pieces this semester, from short summaries of conference attendances to long analyses of projects in WRAC courses. It’s difficult to say which piece I’m the most proud of. The two pieces I wrote about the 4Cs conference–”Malea Powell Brings Big Changes as Program Chair” and “Creating the Schedule”–were the ones I spent the most time on, from the initial interview to the review process. I feel that the first piece in particular communicates what we do in WRAC: as students and faculty we are creating big changes and trying to cross boundaries.

The most exciting aspect of these pieces was having the chance to meet with Malea and Daisy Levy, and to see their enthusiasm for the conference. Although it keeps them extremely busy, they are genuinely excited about it. I got to see the behind-the-scenes processes of the conference, and I enjoyed taking photos of their organizational methods. The most difficult component was understanding the diverse audiences of the pieces, inside and outside of WRAC; Malea and Daisy are the primary stakeholders, but the changes made in the 4Cs will affect many of the faculty and graduates who plan on attending or presenting at the conference.

Finally, these two pieces went through our workflow and the editorial process more thoroughly than any other pieces I wrote. I feel my writing was developed and improved, along with my content and organization. It was helpful that there was a lot of time available before actually posting the material, allowing several edits and changes to be made.

Ali and Laurel both did outstanding work producing content, building community, and establishing editorial procedure during their tenure as Communications Management Interns. They leave big shoes to fill, and the next interns – Dan Nufer, Vanessa Levin-Pompetzki, and Noelle Sciarini – will benefit greatly from the precedents and examples established by Ali and Laurel.

Seeking Communications Management Interns

WRAC has been very fortunate to have two outstanding interns for the past several months who have been steadily growing and cultivating our online community.  Alexandra (Ali) White and Laurel Sutherland are the department’s first Communications Management Interns and they have done outstanding work getting WRAC’s presence on the web and in social networks established and engaged.  Unfortunately for us, both Ali and Laurel will be moving on after this semester, so the search is on for two people to fill their very big shoes.

They still have some time left this semester, so Ali and Laurel took a moment to talk about the internship, what it entails and what they’re taking away from it:

Complete details about the position are available below.  If you’re interested in being one of the WRAC Communications Management Interns for spring or summer 2011, or just want more information, contact Mike McLeod or Laura Julier.

Communications Management Intern

Hours: Approximately 10 hrs/week
Start Date: January 3, 2011
End Date: May 13, 2011 with a possibility of extending to other semesters
Supervisor: Michael McLeod


The Communications Management Intern of the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures department is responsible for implementing and maintaining both inter- and extra-departmental communication. This includes, but isn’t limited to, developing promotional materials (web content, press releases, etc) and sustaining an active departmental presence inside social networks. This position requires a person who is outgoing and sociable and actively engaged with faculty, staff, students, and the public. Hours dependent on academic program’s internship requirements, if any, but are ideally 10 hours per week.
**Please note this is an unpaid internship.


  1. Working with a content management system;
  2. Actively listening to “channels” of conversation (face-to-face, email, Facebook, Twitter, listserv, etc.) for significant and interesting conversations or observations amongst program members
  3. Attendance at and documentation of program events
  4. Researching stories by communicating with primary sources
  5. Writing in multiple genres (listserv messages, blog posts, press releases, social media updates, etc.) and cross-promoting that writing in other mediums
  6. Maintaining regular office hours

Required Qualifications

  • Outgoing and social personality
  • Attendance of and participation in Writers’ Bloc events
  • Presence in and working knowledge of social networks (esp. Facebook and Twitter)
  • Ability to edit and manipulate images (Photoshop, Gimp, Picnik, etc.)
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office
  • Reference from at least one Professional Writing instructor

Desired Qualifications

  • Experience writing in xHTML and CSS
  • PW junior or senior, or graduate student
  • Ability to write in and maintain WordPress
  • Advanced Acrobat PDF creation skills

Application Process

Submit resume (with references), cover letter, and sample press release (or similar professional writing sample) to Michael McLeod by December 15, 2010 (only if applying for Spring 2011; an announcement of summer deadlines will be announced as that semester gets closer).