Category Archives: Alumni News

Alumni Spotlight: Garrett Turner

by Carey Spence

You’ve heard it before from the professional writing faculty and even in this blog: the Professional Writing and Rhetoric program provides students with skills to help them succeed in any career path. To back up this claim, I recently had the opportunity to interview Garrett Turner. An Elon Top 10 Under 10 2016 alumni award recipient, Garrett has surely taken the skills he learned in the classroom and used them to succeed. After graduating from Elon in 2008, Garrett took on the role of marketing and sales associate at Liberty Port, LLC. Today he serves as the company’s vice president of global strategy.

Garrett TurnerWhen asked what skills he believes contributed to his success, Garrett’s immediate response was the ability to communicate. Every day he communicates in his position with people in a variety of contexts. Liberty Port is a global company, which lends to its multicultural environment. He communicates with people in a variety of positions—from CEOs to engineers—and from a multitude of cultural backgrounds. Garrett emphasized the importance in being able to persuade, to educate, and to think about the world in different ways.

Explaining his claim, Garrett offered insight into what he and Liberty Port actually do. The company’s service is building wireless networks in other countries. However, he says that the people making the decision to purchase his company’s services don’t always understand exactly what they are buying. One of the tasks Garrett has taken on is to frame the information in a way that educates the buyers—both visually and orally. He highlighted the importance in his field, especially for engineers, to not only be able to understand a complex concept, but to be able to turn around and explain it to someone else who doesn’t have the same technical background.

Another example that Garrett pointed out has to do with the company’s website. When he first started at Liberty Port, Garrett was in charge of corporate rebranding which included redesigning the website. He went into this task with enthusiasm and made many changes. However, he soon realized that the audience still didn’t fully comprehend what exactly Liberty Port actually provides. Using the feedback he received, he was then able to focus on clearly explaining the company’s services on the website—breaking it down so that the layman could comprehend difficult technical concepts.

To conclude the interview, I asked Garrett to share any advice he has for professional writing students and prospective students. What he left me with is this: it’s important to not paint yourself into a box after graduation. Originally Garrett wanted to go to law school and become a sports agent. But when he received the opportunity to work at Liberty Port and travel to new countries, his post-graduation plans changed. If you have the right foundational skills—skills that he believes the professional writing program helps develop—you can work in almost any environment.


Carey Spence is the 2018-2019 social media intern for Professional Writing & Rhetoric. Carey is double majoring in English Literature and Strategic Communications, with a minor in Professional Writing.

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Alumni Spotlight: Hannah Silvers

by Carey Spence

I’m back again with another alumni spotlight, this time featuring Hannah Silvers, an Elon 2017 graduate. As our Professional Writing and Rhetoric professors love to say, PWR prepares students for jobs in every field. And Hannah Silvers proves this is true. After graduation, during the job search, Hannah said that she was applying to entry level writing jobs. After being hired by a marketing agency for a software company for one of those jobs, Hannah didn’t anticipate the next step in her career.

After six months with the agency, she was approached by the software company for a different kind of position. Now, Hannah works in business-to-business sales for the software company as part of the lead marketing initiative. But make no mistake, her skills from the Professional Writing and Rhetoric program are still essential.

One of the main aspects of Hannah’s job is to communicate with other software companies. She works with them to figure out how much each company is going to sell its products for. She also says that she writes all day. From emails, to contracts, proposals, and other forms of writing no one anticipates, her writing skills are essential. Hannah says that rhetoric plays an important role in her writing. For example, she is currently working on a partnership with another company and is emailing both the CEO and an employee on the technical side of the company. When she emails both people, she talks to them in different ways, focusing on either the technical or marketing aspect to effectively reach her audience.

Hannah also offered some advice for current PWR students. She never would have thought she would end up in B2B sales, but she loves her job. For that reason, she recommends not limiting yourself to writing-centric jobs. Find something you are passionate about, and use your skills you learned in PWR to get it!


Carey Spence is the 2018-2019 social media intern for Professional Writing & Rhetoric. Carey is double majoring in English Literature and Strategic Communications, with a minor in Professional Writing.

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Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Paterson

by Carey Spence

Elon’s Professional Writing and Rhetoric program provides students with the skill set to succeed in the workplace. Whether communicating verbally, visually, or through writing, rhetorical decisions are essential. But if you don’t want to take our word for it, here is what Sarah Paterson, a 2015 graduate, has to say about her experience with PWR:

“PWR changed my personal and professional trajectory. I was a kid who loved to write but hated literature class; I took two years of journalism in high school to avoid having to do novel analysis. I wanted the things I did in school to have a PURPOSE, with some kind of real and consequential outcome. When a friend discussed her experience in Intro to PWR, I signed up and almost immediately declared my new major. Rhetoric seemed like a piece that had been missing from a puzzle for a long while.”

After declaring her major, Sarah has since worked in a multitude of jobs that require effective communication skills. She worked as a writing center consultant for Elon, and after graduation she says, “The practical skills I gained in Publishing, CUPID, Multimedia Rhetorics, and Writing as Inquiry translated directly to my work managing all things written and designed for a small training company, and I was able to make a pretty smooth and easy transition from college to the working world.” Her other jobs include working as a copy editor, a Communications Writer, a Multimedia Coordinator.

Sarah currently works as a high school English teacher: “PWR also inspired a passion for ethics and public service. Recently, I changed my career track to teach high school English. Document design and clear instructional writing, which I learned at Elon, are essential to any good teacher’s tool belt. This past semester, I even taught rhetoric myself to juniors at Northern High School in Durham.” Her goal for her students is to incorporate project-based and servicing learning experiences into her classroom that are inspired by her experiences in the PWR program at Elon. She “[wants] to create a high school English classroom that [her] own high school self would have enjoyed: a place where reading, writing, speaking, and listening matter and have an immediate real-world application.”


Carey Spence is the 2018-2019 social media intern for Professional Writing & Rhetoric. Carey is double majoring in English Literature and Strategic Communications, with a minor in Professional Writing.

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How To Market Yourself: Alumni Advice

Guest Blogger Rebecca Porter ’16

As a (graduated) senior (still in denial) I have found it helpful to look at those that were in my shoes before me and see what they have done to get to where they are now. Therefore, for my senior seminar capstone project I wanted to interact with PWR alumni to see where they are now, but more importantly understand how they got there. After weeks of communication with 15 different alumni I have collect tidbits of great advice about skill sets, marketability, and overall life in general about the professional world that I think is really important to share.

Let’s dive in.

Kevin Thompson ’12 shares, “Apply to everything-don’t limit yourself to writing or design. By the time you graduate you should be able to approach any situation and make it work.” Alexa Dysch ’15 agrees by stating, “Our degrees and skill sets enable us to work in any setting that we desire! I think at the core of ever job, you need to communicate with someone, whether a co-worker or a customer, and being able to study and understand that audience and then communicate effectively with them is a priceless tool.”

Their advice reassured me. But let’s keep going. What about when trying to market yourself to others?

Erin Nebel ‘03 said, “First, figure out what the company needs, then explain how your foundation of PWR can help the organization improve, grow and succeed.” Rachel Fishman ’15 builds off of this idea by stating, “emphasize your ability to communicate across diverse audiences and to be innovative with the mediums you use to capture your audiences!”

Alumni have emphasized that PWR majors have strong written and oral communication skills that are supported by knowledge and theories that have been proven effective. Sarah Paterson ’15 states, “PWR makes me an excellent writer and communicator in both verbal and visual contexts. PWR is flexible and can be applied anywhere, which means you are adaptable and ready to pick up new skills or learn about new industries.”

I also asked alumni about how they prepare for an interview. Molly Auger ‘11 tells me, “Rehearse your 30-second elevator speech and self-pitch and “consider your rhetorical appeals and your audience in your cover letters- don’t reiterate what can be discovered from your resume.”

Although squeezing all of your skill sets that you have learned over the past four years can be quite challenging, looking to our PWR alumni and learning how they have successfully done so is extremely helpful and reminds you to think rhetorically through each of your decisions. Why am I doing what I am doing and is this the most effective way?

There is a month left of school so sometimes the most important reminder you can give yourself: just breathe, it will all work out.

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How To Market Yourself: Portfolios

Guest Blogger Rebecca Porter ’16

Let’s review. Marketing yourself to a future employer is an important step when moving from academics and further into the professional world. As discussed in (link here) there are ways to create a resume that successfully shows off your skills ets and sets you a part from the pack. Yet, in a multimedia world there are different ways to market yourself than just a resume. In fact, after surveying PWR alumni, many stated that portfolios or personal blogs are just as valuable. How do you make an effective blog or website you ask?

Mia Brady ’13 states in order to “make it most effective you’d want to have a lot of clickable links to connect to websites or materials applicable to the student’s work.” Make sure that if you are making an interactive way to market your skills, the platform that you are doing is also interactive. The more information that you give an employer, the more likely you will stick out against other applicants. Check out alumni Caitlin Rantala‘s superwoman-themed portfolio. Cool, right? She further proves the point that you can have a fun portfolio, but you can also show off your skills at the same time. Pick a theme that means something to you. If you’re not attached to it, why should anyone else be?

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 12.14.21 PM

Also, choose colors and fonts that are further going to showcase who you are and the story you are trying to tell. Keep in mind who your audience is and your ultimate goal for making a website. Understand how to tailor what your interests are to the interests of your audience and work to seam those two ideas together in an innovative way. Look at this, this, this and this, for more inspiration to get you started on your portfolio.

Need more reasons why portfolios are vital? Read this. Some of the jobs you may apply require writing samples and because of this, Hillary Dooley ’14 says, “It’s easier (and helps establish ethos) to provide a link to your portfolio with not only your writing samples, but why these examples are effective forms of communication. Even if potential employers don’t review your portfolio, it lets them know that you have enough experience and have taken the time to create a portfolio.” Provide a diverse group of writing samples in your portfolio, but have a layout that is clearly organized and understandable for employers to navigate.

In a multimedia world, having different platforms to show off why your qualified is helpful when entering the professional world and creating a portfolio is a great place to start. By creating other materials besides a resume you are applying your skills in innovative ways that are appealing to employers.

And our alumni have other helpful advice they’ve shared with me. Read the next post to find out.

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How To Market Yourself: Resumes

Guest Blogger Rebecca Porter ’16

As previously discussed in the last CUPID blog post (link here) how you market yourself is important, especially when trying to tap into the professional world. Yet, there is more than one way to do this. After surveying PWR alumni, I have described the top answers I’ve received: well-written resumes, and portfolios such as personal blogs or websites. Other answers that were common were social media outlets, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, and spreadsheets.

Let’s begin with resumes. Resumes show future employers your skill sets and qualifications. Many reviewers do not spend a lot of time looking over resumes so it’s important to stand out but also customize your resume to the job you are applying for. Miranda Allan ’15 states, “I also start by highlighting my skills/projects in a separate column, which I plan to revise according to whatever job I’m applying for. I’m trying to abide by the ‘30 seconds or less’ rule of thumb.” Quickly glance over your resume; does your document match what the employer is looking for? The job application will specifically reference skills that they would like a future employee to have and it’s important that you add those into your resume. Ellen Fraser ’14 calls these “buzz words” and says, “I have a different resume for every single job I’ve ever applied to.” Hillary Dooley ’14 further adds onto this idea by stating, “The easier it is for the reader to make the connection between the experience on your resume and the job description, the better. An effective resume is well organized, tailored to the job, and includes a few visually appealing elements.” If you need help thinking of “buzz words” these are the common terms used to do so:

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For instance, here are two resumes from successful PWR alumni, Ellen Fraser ‘14 and Michael McFarland ‘12. At first it might be easy to notice the difference in colors and font, but also notice the difference in content.

Michael McFarland ResumeMichael explains his resume saying, “It is concise and highlights qualities that District Attorneys and criminal defense lawyers look for. My interest section is also very helpful in marketing myself. I used to be against having an interests section, is a good way of showing a more complete picture of myself. I have now had multiple interviews where people brought up my interests section and it seems like a good way to get a conversation started in an interview. The interests I selected help show my strengths as a lawyer as well.”

Ellen states, “it helps on your resume when you are listing your responsibilities to say what the purpose of your responsibility was…(i.e. held events in order to get attendees excited about your organization’s mission…)” to make sure you are setting yourself apart in the field that you are applying to.

Ellen Fraser Resume_Page_1

Ellen Fraser Resume_Page_2Therefore with resumes, context is everything.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is visual rhetoric. Generally alumni agreed to try to keep your resume at the length of one page but of course there are exceptions to the rule. But personal branding is important. The choices you make in font and color matter. Rhetorically ask yourself of the decisions you are making and the reasons why you are picking certain colors and laying out your information in a specific order. Remember peer feedback? Alumni continuously say that they still find value in peer editing because it is helpful to have another pair of eyes looking at a document.

Want to know how to create an effective website or blog? Read my next post to find out.

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How To Market Yourself: Alumni Perspective

Guest Blogger Rebecca Porter ’16
(Written May 2016)

It’s almost one month until graduation. One month. But who’s counting, right? Well, if you’re a senior you might be, or you might be swimming in cover letters, resumes, and prepping other materials to send out to future employers. But what does life look like after graduation? How do you market yourself to set yourself apart from the rest of the bunch? Sometimes it’s hard to see the overall picture so I’ve decided to do a little research for those that are concentrating in professional writing and rhetoric by reaching out to PWR alumni who have been bridging the gap between their concentrations and the professional world. Their answers have me hopeful and after reading the next few blog posts that CUPID has dedicated to this, you should be too.

I have surveyed 20 alumni who have generously allowed me to pick apart their brains to answer my questions about the best strategies they use to market themselves and the platforms in which they do so. To break down their responses I’ve incorporated a couple of charts to showcase different aspects of their answers, but I have also themed the blog posts. So, to start, I am just going to give an overview of the findings. The next posts will be more in depth about resumes, websites and portfolios, and advice from an Elon PWR alumni perspective.

So, why is this important? To understand how to be effective Regardless, as PWR concentrations we realize that context is everything, and from the chart below we also realize that there are a lot of different contexts that we could be engaging with after we graduate.

Industries in Which Professional Writing and Rhetoric Alumni Have Been Employed/Currently Employed

Type of Industry # Of Jobs (N=71)
Education 3
Technical and scientific communication 2
Publishing, broadcasting 4
Service (healthcare, retail, food) 4
Management, business, financial, legal services 14
Community and social services 9
Marketing, advertising 3
Social media, web design, other media 5


So, what does this mean? Your first job is not going to be your only job. If you don’t believe this study please refer to this, which discusses similar findings for technical communicators. The idea of switching jobs can be scary for some and reassuring to others. Yet, being able to understand that the materials you create and the ways in which you market yourself depend on the context in which you are attempting to engage with is vital.

So, if a job looks interesting to you, and you think that you are qualified, apply. Unsure about resumes and other materials used to market yourself? Don’t worry, I’ve got you cover in the next post to come.

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Alumni Spotlight: Chelsea Vollrath, On PWR Preparing Her for Law School

Guest Blogger Rachel Fishman, ENG-PWR ’15, interviewed Chelsea Vollrath, Class of 2013, about how her Chelsea’s PWR major prepared her for her time at Wake Forest University of Law.

Chelsea Vollrath

What types of courses are you taking & what type of law do you want to go into?

Chelsea is currently taking a variety of law courses, including a writing class on business drafting, a course which she attributes her appreciation for to her PWR major. Other courses include Legislation and Administrative Law, Evidence, Business Drafting, Trademarks, and Employment Law.

She is interested in working for a corporation and focusing on intellectual property, specifically on trademarks. The program in which she is enrolled is a dual-degree JD/MBA program which extends what is usually a 3-year law program to 4 years.

What influence has your PWR major had on your experience in law school?

Aware of the connection between rhetoric and law, Chelsea expected to see PWR concepts applied in law school and found that her prediction was right. She mentioned how the contextual perspective she gained from PWR equipped her for the analytical mindset that is required for practicing law. The circumstances of the cases lawyers deal with determine the application of the law, a practice which she notes is heavily rhetorical.

Because case law and legal writing are highly contextual, she finds herself referencing the rhetorical triangle often. Especially with her focus on trademarks, the rhetorical situation is a primary part of Chelsea’s work. She said that after she began learning about trademarks, she immediately realized that they are a clear example of visual rhetoric. She can understand how important it is for them to be protected because of their highly persuasive, highly intentional appeal.

In the legal writing that she does, Chelsea finds that having a rhetorical perspective gives her the necessary foundation from which to grow. Having an understanding of discourse communities is what really comes in handy, even more so than her specific pieces of knowledge. For instance, she described how she noticed a learning curve in her legal writing class after she realized that writing well isn’t necessarily enough to be good at legal writing. Instead, Chelsea attempted to focus more on the context and found this to be more effective.

Chelsea’s rhetorical knowledge comes into play even when she’s not being as intentional. She mentioned how it’s impossible to separate decisions based on rhetoric from those which are not, “but that’s just the nature of rhetoric. You can’t avoid it, and you shouldn’t want to!”

The type of writing she usually does is more technical, but she does find some room for creativity. The drafting of a provision “can be more of an art than a science” because slight alterations in the ways it is written can benefit one party more than another. Chelsea described how, in her Legal Writing and Research course, she wrote many types of documents (i.e. client e-mails, client memoranda, case briefs) which ranged in their level of formality and use of legal principles and case law. For instance, the client-facing documents required the use of simple legal principles and less of a formal tone, while court-facing documents needed more specific legal principles and a formal tone. Completely rhetorical!

Chelsea shared that writing for each of these audiences gave her, as a first-year law student, plenty of challenges, but she also included that her background in rhetoric helped her a great deal.

How has your PWR major influenced your experience in other areas?

In addition to the applications in school, Chelsea said that her PWR major helped prepare her to handle the variety of projects she’s been assigned in her internships. Even when she doesn’t know a lot about a particular subject area, she still has to be able to rhetorically analyze legal exigencies and address situations accordingly. Chelsea mentioned that her PWR background gave her the confidence she needed to successfully complete projects for her summer internship in areas with which she was not particularly familiar.

The ability to communicate professionally, which she attributed to her PWR major, has helped her in areas such as being interviewed, sending emails to internship supervisors, and conversing with the general counsel at a multi-billion dollar corporation. It also helped her make a better first impression and be more confident in the level of respect she gained.

Thanks to Chelsea for giving us some insight into the impact of a PWR major in the field of law!


Also– many law schools specifically offer courses in rhetoric and mention the need for students to have rhetorical knowledge. There’s many examples, but check some of them out below!


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Alumni Week: The Advice You’ve Wanted but Never Asked for

Beckah Porter: PWR,’16 We’ve all been there; we become a little hesitant when someone asks what our major is. What is professional writing and rhetoric? Or the question that makes me cringe, what kind of job can you even get with that degree? Yet, even after we describe all the possibilities that professional writing and rhetoric brings, the same people that were not sure what it was are now trying to give us advice on what we should be doing. How confusing. Well this week is alumni week, so why not ask our own alumnus on what their advice is, especially because these are the same Elon students that have now adventured out into the professional world with a PWR degree.

Emily Bishop, who was also featured in our last post, stated, “you need to apply to jobs early and often. I definitely waiting until the end of the summer and I only heard back from the internship I have now, but it’s been great.” By applying to jobs early and often, you have more opportunities to hear back from more companies, but also have more openings to find work that is closer to what you want to do.

Kimberly Lilienthal, who is currently in graduate school at North Carolina State University, who was also featured in our previous post, stated that one of the most important skills she took away from Elon was independent time management. Kimberly states, “graduate school is different – classes are shorter, much more reading takes place outside of class, there are much fewer activities that dictate how I manage my time. At Elon, it was obvious when I needed to do my homework because it was the only time I had when I wasn’t in class, a meeting, or at work. Now I need to make a lot more of those decisions on my own and actually think about a class-life-work balance.”

Everyone jokes that when you are an Elon student, you are also involved in many other clubs and activities outside of being a student. But after Elon, learning how to manage your time is important in order to get the necessary things completed to accomplish goals.

Kimberly who is studying to get her masters also brings up an interesting point when studying at a graduate school that many students do not think about. She says, “much more of my academic experiences are rooted in theory, which I absolutely love, but might not be suited for everyone who goes through the PWR program at Elon.” She further explains, “something that I definitely knew leaving Elon, but wish I had been more consciously aware of, is that Professional Writing and Rhetoric is different than Rhetoric and Composition! I knew this, obviously, but I was still sort of expecting to do client projects and use multimedia technologies a lot more than I do. There is no CUPID lab here, at least not that I know of.”

Unlike other majors, there are so many different undergraduate programs, that specialize in many different fields of PWR. PWR majors, must ultimately decide in which area of PWR that they want to specialize in, and what jobs will pertain to that necessary field. Kimberly brings up a valid point that not all programs are going to match the PWR programs that are offered at Elon, so it is important to understand what exactly you are signing up for.

10710889_10153235541413508_5489356113779177964_n-2Maggie Achey, was an alumni who took a different approach to the professional world and enrolled in a eight week program that bridged the gap between college and the professional sphere. After the program Maggie landed a job as an International Territorial Manager for Baker & Taylor who further emphasizes the importance of PWR classes and the professors: “go to office hours of the professors and get to know them outside of class because they are great! And absolutely come up with your own definition of rhetoric because not only will it be helpful for future classes, but it is great to say in interviews.”

Regardless of where your PWR path takes you, one of the best pieces of advice we have all heard before, “it will all work out.”

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Life After Elon: Alumni Week

Beckah Porter: ENG-PWR,’16

Homecoming week has officially arrived! Which means for some of us that our old friends we said goodbye to at graduation are now knocking on our doors, but for others, it makes us think: what are we going to do after we graduate? Are we even prepared? (Cue the freak out) This week I am going to take a further look into what alumnus are up to and how other PWR majors navigated their way through the professional world.

With registration right around the corner, it is important to consider the classes that you will be pick, because the alumnus stated, they do matter. bishopEmily Bishop, who graduated last spring, stated “because of my background in rhetoric I have been able to find each of the individuals/company’s voices and write specific, branded messages for each of them.” Emily currently manages a restaurant app, a lawyer, a company who sends athlete’s abroad, as well as blog for her company on anything that would be interesting to her readers so as Emily says, “there’s a lot of voices to keep straight and rhetoric has helped me tremendously.”

Kimberly Lilienthal, who is currently working on her master’s degree at North Carolina State University, commented that the “engaged learning model that is prominent at Elon made me much more confident to step into teaching than I might have been otherwise. Both in and out of the classroom at Elon, I had the opportunity to facilitate discussions among peers, collaborate and take initiative in projects, and be accountable for how my actions impacted others.” The PWR classes that are offered at Elon can allow for students to learn the necessary skills that are required of them when they leave Elon and enter into the professional world.

The classes that are offered at Elon have a positive impact on students to enter a life after undergraduate school to be more prepared and have more options. During the summer, Emily has worked at a bookstore and in September she landed an internship with the company that she wanted called Social Buzz Pros, which is a start up company. The company specializes in running social media sites for other start up companies, so Emily stays busy managing the various social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter for businesses and individuals in the area.

Kimberly on the other hand went right to graduate school (NCSU) after leaving Elon MA in English with a focus in Rhetoric and Composition. When discussing her plans after Elon, Kimberly said, “I knew that graduate school was the path I needed to take to do what I want to do in the future, and I wanted to continue studying rhetoric and composition because I am passionate about the research I wanted to do there. Recently a Ph.D student told me that I was the strangest most ideological graduate student he had ever met because I genuinely just wanted to keep learning and thinking and doing research.” Although Kimberly is a fulltime student, she is a teaching assistant who is looking forward to teaching two of her own sections of first-year composition (English 101)

The possibilities for Elon students entering the professional world are endless, as long as students take the initiative to do so. Students should be careful, and extra mindful about picking out their classes because the experiences that are gained in the classroom are practical skills that can be applied to other situations outside of Elon. Having PWR as a major, influences student to develop the abilities to communicate efficiently and effectively in the career world.

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