“More Inclusive Events for Technical Writers"
by Angelina Sakkestad
Every Writing Arts student is required to pass through the Introduction to Writing Arts course. Accordingly, I found myself sitting in one of these classes this fall. It’s a module-style class with sixty students and three professors essentially exploring the past, present, and future of writing. In an effort to have students dip their toe in Writing Arts events, the Rowan Writer’s Project is also assigned. These sixty students must attend a writerly-event and write about their experience before the end of the semester. As our professors introduced this project, a hand goes up in these of stoic faces. “Are there any events that aren’t creative writing?“ a student simply asked. The professors thought but couldn’t produce an option.
The Writing Arts major allows a student to concentrate in three areas: creative writing, technical and professional writing, and new media. It seems that most of the events put on by the department are creative writing centered. This isn’t a disastrous problem because creative writing is incredibly popular and has numerous ways to be expressed. The problem wasn’t the surplus of creative events, but the lack of events focused on technical and professional writing and writing with new media.
This issue stewed in my mind as I attended classes and weekly internship meetings with the Writing Arts department. It was in one of our internship meetings that I spoke up and shared this event-issue with the other interns. The rest of that meeting was the six of us brainstorming ideas of new events for the Writing Arts department. Our list was small, but we started off with the Collingswood Book Festival, joining the Writing Arts Learning Community to listen to faculty and clubs, and attending Publishing Industry field trips. It was a start and I was ready to keep pushing forward. I reread that list a little while later and it didn’t feel so great anymore. I realized that most of these events were new media focused. I was still missing technical and professional writing. Feeling defeated, I wanted to just put this all to bed and forget about it.
Maybe I could pretend that I wasn’t bothered by it in the first place? It wouldn’t affect me, I had an abundance of creative writing events that I wanted to attend. The rest of my classmates and the other Writing Arts students could figure it out. Right?
I couldn’t forget, and I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t care. I wanted the students of each concentration to feel represented within the department. I spent a few more weeks fruitlessly trying to brainstorm. Then I remembered the Writing Arts Learning Community. There was a class that faculty came to talk at, to explain each concentration and show tangible examples of them. I remembered Dr. Fillenwarth who had come to discuss technical and professional writing. The inevitable was to set up a meeting with her and to hopefully leave with a plethora of events. We chatted about the events that were already on my list of possibilities, and events that she would like to see. I left with another two pages of my notebook filled with event ideas.
We wanted to set up a panel of faculty, so they could share their knowledge and experience. They could share what they were able to accomplish with a background in writing. We even discussed resume and LinkedIn workshops to prepare writers, and other students, for the professional world outside of university life along with faculty-run Photoshop and InDesign workshop that would benefit any student interested in publishing and design.
All these events meant I couldn’t put this to bed. The next step was one I was reluctant to take: send my story and compiled list the chair of the department, Dr. Jenn Courtney. Despite how many times I was told how nice she was, I had never met her or spoken with her before. She had no idea who I was. Would she even care about my email? Turns out, she did.
I don’t know what sort of response I was expecting, but Dr. Courtney surpassed all of them. A lot of these ideas were already in the making. WA faculty had been formulating ideas for resume workshops, and they’ve been wanting to provide something like a panel for students.
I spent most of this semester stressed about the lack of events when they were already being discussed. I’m excited to try and get these workshops and panels into creation. The Writing Arts Department is expanding and has no intention of slowing down any time soon. Next semester will be spent getting some of these events into action and I can’t wait to be a part of it.