PWR Internship Perspective: Liz Crouse

Elizabeth Crouse ’22 (PWR)

This semester, I served as one of two Publishing Interns at Elon University’s Center for Engaged Learning (CEL), an on-campus office that centers around the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, a field that aims to improve student learning experience by investigating teaching practices. Throughout the semester, I applied the skills I learned in my Professional Writing and Rhetoric classes to copyedit blog posts, create graphics, manage social media, create informative video scripts, and other tasks to further the Center’s mission. As a part of the internship experience, I was mentored by Dr. Travis Maynard, who, during my first week as a nervous intern, introduced me to a 1990 study of interns in similar positions to my own at the University of Minnesota. In “Moving Beyond the Academic Community: Transitional Stages in Professional Writing” by Anson and Forsberg, the authors described the transition from classroom to internship in three phases: expectation, or the phase when the intern assumes what the experience will be like, disorientation, or the process of learning that their expectation may have been inaccurate, and transition/resolution, or when the intern learns to adapt the skills they have to the internship setting. 

These steps relate to the horizontal and vertical transfer systems required to make the transition into a professional setting. “Transfer” is defined as taking what you learn in one context and applying it to another, and within academia, it generally refers to the transition from classroom to the workplace. Horizontal transfer is essentially a 1:1 translation of skills from the classroom to an internship, meaning that the skills I develop in the classroom are the exact skills required in the workplace. While convenient, these transitions are rare. Vertical transfer, on the other hand, happens when a gap exists between the skills and concepts learned in the classroom and those required in an internship setting, prompting a significant learning curve — or “disorientation” — during the transition from classroom to professional setting. This type of transfer was more prevalent in my experience with my CEL internship. Vertical transfer, however, is one goal of the Professional Writing and Rhetoric department’s internship requirement; it is a chance to learn how skills from the classroom fit into a professional environment.

Going into the internship during my own “expectation” phase, I was nervous but still confident because of my background in classes like PWR 215: Professional Writing and Rhetoric and PWR 211: Publishing and Editing 1. I knew the basics of editing, content creation, and graphic design; however, I knew little about CEL itself and less about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. On the first day of my internship, I was given time to peruse the CEL website and learn more about the mission and function of the office.

The first way I experienced a “disorientation” phase was during my time as a copy editor. Although I took Publishing and Editing 1 over Winter Term, I had difficulty applying the copyediting skills I learned in class to dense academic writing. To improve my skills, I talked with Dr. Maynard, and we were able to create a more thorough editing process through workbook exercises. Each week, I saw my skills grow as we reviewed by editing Chicago-style references, using commas correctly, and identifying tricky proper noun rules. Ultimately, my editing skills are much stronger now, and I feel more prepared each time I start to copyedit a new post.

Initially, the professional environment was disorienting as, in some ways, it directly contrasts the traditional classroom environment I am accustomed to. Some tasks, assigned with intentional vagueness, left me feeling confused and underqualified. However, throughout the semester, I spent time watching YouTube tutorials to improve my abilities in the Adobe Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro), which in turn allowed me to be more creative and better understand what professional graphic design norms and standards are. By the end of the semester, assignments no longer seemed vague, but instead seemed to allow room for creativity and interpretation within the boundaries that I now understand as industry standards.

As the semester drew to a close, I entered the transition/resolution phase of my internship. In the office, I felt more comfortable interacting with my coworkers, and my work outside of the office to improve my skills is starting to pay off. This internship was a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of what a publishing career looks like in higher education, and I look forward to utilizing the skills I’ve learned in my internship in a publishing and editing career moving forward. I felt exponentially more prepared to begin my summer internship as a Copywriter Intern at Red Ventures, an international public relations and brand management firm, with a Charlotte, NC, branch, and I could not be more excited and grateful for my supervisors at the Center for Engaged Learning, Dr. Jessie L. Moore and Jennie Goforth, and my internship mentor Dr. Travis Maynard, all of whom have helped me transition into my professional role as a writer through my internship experience. I look forward to returning to the Center for Engaged Learning in the Fall as the Senior Publishing Intern. To see a full portfolio of my work from my internship, click here.

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