Category Archives: Student Perspective

PWR Internship Perspective: Sophie Gerth 

For the summer of 2021, I was a joint policy and communications intern for the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group based in Washington D.C. that focuses on immigration reform, integration, border enforcement, and local immigration development through policy and field advocacy. As a member of the policy team, I attended Hill meetings alongside members of the Forum with congressional staffers to discuss important legislation and happenings to lobby for positive reform. I also wrote fact sheets and blog posts breaking down crucial topics in immigration, like the treatment of unaccompanied alien children at the border to veteran deportation protection. As a member of the communications team, I reviewed their website pages for usability and created a stylesheet of best practices to maximize readability. The internship was not only highly informative on the topic of immigration, but allowed me to better understand how rhetoric and discursive formations shape both the workforce as well as legislation. 

Putting all of the formal stuff aside, I had so many interesting experiences. Have you ever had two different “bosses,” tell you conflicting things? Have you ever had to navigate meeting after meeting until you realize that the rest of your life might just be one giant meeting? Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong in a community until one day it all changed and you didn’t even realize it? I had all of these things happen during my internship. I suppose this is why internships are essentially a microdose of the “real world.” Because these things happen every day and learning to navigate them is essential. I’m going to discuss one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in a professional writing and rhetoric (PWR) context, but outside of PWR, I also learned that the real world is messy, complex, and oh-so-interesting. There was never a dull day and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

 

Writing for Discourse Communities

One of the most important things that a professional writer encounters in the so-called “real world” is having to be especially cognizant of discourse communities. What is a discourse community, you may ask? According to Purdue Libraries, a discourse community refers to a group of people who use language that is “embedded in social relations and is regulated by conventions specific to particular groups or communities.” Therefore in any field where writing is a dominant technique of communication, discourse communities exist. This also means that while there are universal modes of communication (i.e. overlapping lingo and slang that are known by almost everyone), each field, area of study, or profession has its own distinct discourse community that an outsider may not be able to automatically understand. The discourse community might reflect the common lingo, slang, or acronyms used. It also might reflect a way of delivery: i.e. professional and formal (our findings reflect positive growth in our revenue sector) versus laid-back and chill (we are super excited to see a rise in revenue). While both have a similar underlying meaning, the delivery and rhetorical claims of the two methods are fundamentally different. 

But why does it matter? In university studies, the odds of you learning about the most relevant discourses in your major are highly likely. For example, if you were an Economics major, you might recognize and write using abbreviations for companies while monitoring their stocks because, after a certain point, you are so immersed in the discourse community that everybody knows what those acronyms mean. You use the abbreviations because everybody does; it’s the common practice. When you are able to read, write, and discuss within an area of study or profession and not have to ask yourself “what does that mean?” you are probably well immersed in that field. That can be a wonderful thing, because, congratulations; you’re an insider! However, one’s university major is only a fraction of the work one might complete once one has a diploma in hand. Perhaps you choose to pursue a field that is very different from what you studied. Perhaps you take a job that has intersecting fields. Once again you’re back at square one, relearning what it is like to enter a new discourse community, like your first day of high-school Spanish. You know that if you pay attention and put in the work, you’ll be fine, but at the end of the day, it’s your first day in a foreign language and it’s unfamiliar. In the workforce, it’s slightly more intimidating because instead of a teacher you have a boss and instead of a grade you have a paycheck. 

In my internship, I had this “first-day-of-Spanish” experience. As a Political Science major and PWS minor, I know that there is no way that I can know every acronym, every term, or everything there is to know about political science. There is simply too much in the field, and I am sure this is true in all areas of study. Nevertheless, when I took my internship at the Forum, I realized one crucial thing: I was going to have to put in extra time to travel into the immigration discourse community. This is because not once in my life have I taken a class that has talked about immigration or immigration policy. The extent of my knowledge came from articles that I have read about the topic, conversations I have overheard, and debates I have listened to in electoral times. Quickly after beginning my internship, I realized two more things: 1.) Discourse communities are real (and in the case of my internship, they usually take place in the form of acronyms), and 2.) Breaking down discourse communities and finding a universal, expansive language was not nearly as difficult as I thought with the use of simple strategies. 

One of my main jobs for the Forum was helping write fact sheets and blog posts on important legislation and things happening in the news that relates to immigration. In doing so much writing about a topic I was still becoming familiar with, I didn’t have to worry too much about writing too deeply into the discourse community of immigration, simply because I wasn’t a part of the community. As time went on, I developed several strategies to maintain neutral language and ensure that an outsider could read my writing and feel as confident and knowledgeable as I did. Those strategies included the following: 

  • Use acronyms as scarcely as possible to enhance readability: This one is really hard because especially in government writing, there are a lot of acronyms (example: in the first paragraph of an article I did on the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) I also had to define Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs), who through the TVPRA are turned over to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That is four acronyms!). My strategy to minimize this is to always use the full name in any graphic/image captions that are scattered throughout the article. This allowed me to remind readers of the meaning of the acronyms they’re reading about without breaking up the flow of the article.
  • Present information in digestible formats like bullet points, because the visual design of information increases reader comprehension (or something like that!): See how I am doing this right now? It is so much easier to make note of my suggestions while reading this blog post because the takeaways are given to you in a list. If you come back to this, you’d know to look for the bullet points. If you are a visual learner, you might picture the bullet points. Suddenly the confusing jargon and stories that I might have referenced earlier are distinguished from the most important points 
  • Highlighting or bolding key points in simple language, because, as already noted, visual design……etc: See how I am modeling my strategies again? Bolding breaks through the noise and it gives the reader a one-sentence takeaway. It is efficient because it answers the question being asked concisely. If the readers want to delve into the discourse community, they can continue to read the elaboration and use context to clue them in. 
  • Use elements of multimedia to present important information redundantly (words, in a flowchart or image, etc.):  Demonstrating concepts in the form of multiple mediums can help make information more digestible to a person who might not belong in a specific discourse community. Charts, graphs, and images can be vehicles to deliver information and complement statistics named in a document. 

 

The ability to transcend and participate in discourse communities is difficult, mostly due to the fact that it is often difficult for us to conceptualize that we belong to discourse communities. But the truth is, we are not only active participants in discourse communities, but we help create them too. Those same constructions can be dismantled, or at least neutralized. In doing so, we become active participants in the community we write for. I found Jamie MacKinnon extremely compelling in the article “Becoming a Rhetor: Developing Writing Ability in a Mature, Writing-Intensive Organization.” In MacKinnon’s case study of individuals who work for a bank, they note that “the participants developed an effective, though largely tacit, understanding of the organization as a rhetorical domain. In acting rhetorically–in speaking, writing, talking, and listening–they were discovering what knowledge was socially significant and which forms of reasoned argument readers found persuasive. In doing so, the participants found a voice and conceptualized and assumed roles for themselves in a rhetorically found, rhetorically functioning community…In becoming rhetors, they became active participants in the community’s business” (420-21). Essentially, transcending discourse communities allows for active participation, which includes but is not limited to creation, disruption, fabrication, collaboration, and so many other active processes. 

This was perhaps the most important thing that I learned from my internship. I hope that my future classes at Elon and experiences will build upon this knowledge to help make politics more accessible to the public. While discourse communities build community, they also draw boundaries between who is “in” and “out.” It is time to let more people “in.”

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Lessons and Lingo from my Nonprofit Internship: Morgan Bassett

Morgan Bassett ’23 (PWR)

I felt very fortunate to accept an internship offer from the Human Services Council, a nationally recognized nonprofit. They tackle a myriad of issues pertaining to individuals’ safety, physical, and emotional health. My internship dealt directly with the Norwalk Mentor Program, based out of Norwalk, CT. Although it was a solely remote experience, I still worked alongside a team of interns and supervisors to register new mentors. There are currently over 300 Norwalk students who could greatly benefit from a caring adult in their lives, providing additional guidance and support during a time of difficulty. So, it was essential to develop persuasive deliverables that would encourage adults to mentor this fall.

During a period of eight weeks, I was able to produce and publish 5 deliverables for mentor recruitment. They’re now included in my digital portfolio, alongside reflections about the development process and execution of rhetorical choices. Each deliverable presented a new set of challenges and opportunities to improve my current writing abilities. More importantly, I now recognize several overarching themes that represent this collection of work and even define my entire internship experience. 

  1. Repurposing existing texts/materials saves invaluable time.

I discovered this strategy during my first week while composing an email pitch for potential new mentors. The pitch needed to provide an overview of the Norwalk Mentor Program for unfamiliar audiences, but I too was unfamiliar with these specifics. I ended up utilizing previously written articles about the program and surfing the Human Service Council’s website for other necessary facts. This initial process of repurposing allowed me to write a 5-line email pitch, and I eventually included these lines in other deliverables (i.e., the press release and social media posts). Outside of the internship, I’ve implemented efforts of repurposing to write digital articles and tackle course-related projects.  

  1. Sales-based strategies seep into communication in unexpected ways.

One of my supervisors explained that life is filled with sales lingo and behaviors. I can’t say I agree with their viewpoint wholeheartedly, but I did eventually see how my communicative efforts were riddled with specific sales-based strategies. One of these strategies was persuasion, which seeped into each deliverable. I needed to truly convince my audience to become a mentor before the summer ended. The urgency was heightened, so my final product passionately conveyed how mentoring was fun and easy, free of charge for only an hour (per week) of someone’s time. I was also very direct in my initial pitches and correspondences. My closing line would ask for a phone call with the recipient, then I would provide my own availability for that particular week. I quickly learned this maneuver was producing more sincere and timely responses, even if someone was telling me they were unavailable to mentor. I believe the goals of this internship require a strong devotion to sales techniques, especially since we are promoting the benefits of this program to a busy professional or unfamiliar individual. 

  1. Keep it colloquial!

I’ve always recognized and accepted my technical, formal writing style. It has defined my college research papers, argumentative pieces, and additional academic projects. However, I realized this style wasn’t consistently reaching my target audience for the internship, which included any adult from age 18 to 60 years old. This extremely large range forced me to shift into a more conversational tone, omitting excessive vocabulary and other unnecessary elements. I tackled this approach in all my deliverables, but I paid special attention to it while composing my press release. It was my longest deliverable that included a program overview and multiple quotes from the director. This higher word count held me accountable for a colloquial feel and read of the press release, which could become a document that recruited the most mentors during the internship. I composed each sentence to include the most important details, making sure not to repeat or embellish this information. Additionally, I read the document aloud several times, imagining that I was hearing it over the radio or reading it in a newspaper. Did any words or phrasing trip me up or sound unnatural to the ear? Could I simplify anything I had written even further? These questions allowed me to thoroughly evaluate this deliverable and deeply consider the importance of a clear, succinct write-up. 

I’m very thankful for the opportunity to dive into non-academic spaces and projects while discovering new communicative tools for my own storytelling.

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Getting Into the Headspace of a Social Media Marketing Specialist: Alejandra Gonzalez

Alejandra Gonzalez ’23 (PWR)

Becoming the Marketing and Communication intern for the Center for Access and Success’s First-Generation Student Services has been an eye-opening experience about the digital media world. I heard about the internship from Oscar Miranda, the center’s Assistant Director, when I would enter the office for small check-up chats or for resources that I needed as a first-generation student. I remember wanting to sign up after hearing him speak about the plans and ideas for the internship, but I did not think I was ready yet since I was a first-year at the time. After taking a few PWR classes where I learned the principles of design and marketing strategies, I felt more confident to sign up and step into the role. 

I expected the internship to involve the promotion of events and resources by reposting school events or creating posts for upcoming events. I knew I needed to use my creativity to engage our students and to promote resources provided by offices around campus, but I expected it to be simple solo work. Thankfully, that was not the case. During my first meeting with Oscar, I realized there were fine details about the job that most do not consider at first. I learned that my role would include more than simply creating promotional content. I would be responsible for finding first-generation student accomplishments to highlight, reaching out to students for engagement, creating informational posts, and researching my audience’s expectations. Seeing the list of responsibilities for this semester made me think about the even bigger responsibilities that people who hold social media positions have. I thought about the content they created, the strategies they carried out, and the intricate schedules they stuck to. 

Before I began creating or trying to post anything on the social media pages, I decided to do research on the audience we were trying to reach. This audience analysis ensured that I knew the values and expectations that our audience would be inclined to respond to online. Oscar properly introduced me to the small, yet strongly diverse, first-generation community at Elon. We knew of about 500 young students on-campus and current followers on social media. In order to devise a social media plan, I investigated what social media platform they interacted with the most, which was Instagram. The posts that they interacted with the most were ones that included familiar faces and questions they could answer. However, during the internship, I saw that the page also engaged with other first-generation dedicated pages. This caused me to change a few of the features in the content I was creating. I wasn’t just making posts for our students on-campus but other first-generation organizations too. I added college resources that were universally obtainable along with resources available at Elon, including the library, academic advising, and more. Once I had a better understanding of who to connect with, my journey to step into the shoes of the people who work within the field of marketing and communications began.

Once again, my main role was to boost student engagement, create informational posts, and research my audience’s expectations. To reach out to students, I decided to create a weekly Instagram Live that allowed me to interview several students and highlight their successes. I created a light and inviting promotional post that detailed the person and when the interview was going to take place. My informational posts were based on what I saw the audience wanted to see such as upcoming events. I thank my previous PWR courses that allowed me to have practice and develop the skills necessary to create content. I revisited the principles of design and other pre-existing material to create new content for the feed. For example, to create the “S’mores Social” flyer I went through the CRAP principles as a type of checklist. I chose colors that contrasted with each in order to make the information stand out. Since the sky was navy blue, I decided yellow would be more visible and can connect with the color of the stars. I added the star icons because the main background did not emphasize them a lot and added an outline of a s’more to highlight what the event was dedicated to. For captions, I maintained a tone that was encouraging and tried to ask questions for engagement. I created a schedule that allowed me to post my campaigns on specific days. For example, True/False posts on Tuesdays or the First-Gen Lives on Friday.

This internship also developed my interpersonal skills as I interviewed students and created connections with faculty and staff. It expanded my knowledge about marketing and social engagement. It allowed me to expand my understanding of the importance of both textual and visual rhetoric in connecting with an audience. After finishing this internship, I feel prepared to become a social media specialist if I choose to pursue a career in that field. It exposed me to the possibility of creating promotional posters for other people online. I also feel encouraged to begin exploring opportunities for graphic work in other departments on campus.

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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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How to Price Design Work

Charles Arrington ’21 (PWR)

Freelance writing and design is a great source of income for those in the field of PWR. It allows for working on your own schedule, setting your own rates, and most importantly, doing what you love. However, getting started as a freelance writer is no small task. You must consider where to advertise your services and what exactly it is that you want to sell. I chose to look into Fiverr when it came time to start marketing my services and skills in a freelance setting.

Fiverr is a great site devoted to helping professionals find work through an easy to use platform. Getting started with an account was straightforward and presented no problems, but when I was prompted to list my first ‘gig,’ I ran into the issue of pricing my services. That’s where digital design and marketing professional Will Paterson comes in.

Through YouTube, Will offers a series of videos devoted to helping you build your digital design empire. The one I was most interested in was a video on how to price your work. It evoked the same spirit that one of my peers captured in a line, “What is this work really worth to you and your business?” Below I will break down key pieces of advice given by Will Paterson; here’s a link to the video for future reference. It is an excellent video for students and young professionals looking to get into freelance work – especially if you are not sure where to start.

Paterson’s tips include:

  • Position yourself – If you want to succeed in getting work at all, you have to position yourself (On Fiverr in my case) as an expert in the field you choose to work in. For example, my graphic design skills I’d say are intermediate, but my technical writing skills I would rank as expert level. That being said, clearly this is the area that I’d want to market services for primarily. In order to effectively position yourself as an expert, you must show examples of your work and your best products to convince your future clients that you are the real deal.
  • Increase your skill set – While you may be an expert in one category of design and writing, there are plenty of other people that you will have to compete with to get the paycheck and opportunities you want. By increasing your skill set and continuing to learn more skills and techniques in your field, you end up with quite a bit more to offer the client. If you can specialize in one area and bolster it with other relevant skills and technical knowledge, a client is much more likely to want to prioritize working with you over others.
  • Gain trust – Clients are much more likely to work with you and pay higher amounts for your work if you are transparent about your past projects and provide plenty of examples to show your prowess. Additionally, offering to meet with the client to establish more of a relationship goes a long way in gaining trust. Offer to meet them and discuss the project while also letting them learn more about you as a writer or designer.
  • Rehearse negotiations – Being in the freelance world will put you in situations requiring negotiation a considerable amount of the time. This is where you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more money, especially when you are confident in the value of your work. It is okay to say no to clients who refuse to pay your target amount; in fact Will Paterson and his group say no to 80% of clients that are stuck on the idea of getting the work done for less than asking price.
  • Add value – The most important foundation to setting your prices is an accurate assessment of value. Asking yourself questions about the potential your work has in the long run for any client is essential. You are not just a producer of things; you are a writer. For this reason, it isn’t just an article or blog post that you’re selling; it is your intellectual property plus time and effort.

These tips are all extremely helpful when figuring out how to price your work, and even more so in reaffirming that you should probably be charging more for your work. When you know how to assess the value of your work, you will be paid well for it.

 

Charles (Ross) Arrington is a 2021 graduate of Elon University with a degree in Professional Writing & Rhetoric.

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How the Time-Value Prioritization Funnel can help you during your college career

Myrta Santana ’21 (PWR & ARH)

I have always struggled with prioritizing my tasks, be it in school, work, or just personal pleasures. I manage to get everything done in the end, but sometimes the work that I do is not the best I could offer. When looking for skill advancement trainings, I considered looking at more design-oriented tutorials, but quickly realized that if I could not manage my time appropriately, then having the skills would not matter because I would not have the time. “Prioritizing your Tasks” by Dave Crenshaw helped me understand what I do wrong with my time and pointed out some good habits that I have and should focus more on.

Time-Value Prioritization Funnel with six decision stages

Screenshot of Dave Crenshaw’s Time-Value Prioritization Funnel

The biggest takeaway from this training was the concept of the Time-Value Prioritization Funnel (TVP). This is a metaphorical funnel with 6 levels or steps that categorize your tasks.

  • Step one: Not me, never again – tasks that are a waste of time
  • Step Two: Perhaps, but not now – tasks that you might be interested in working on later
  • Step Three: Yes, but not now – tasks that have value but have aren’t due soon
  • Step Four: Yes, but not anyone – tasks that can be permanently handled with technology
  • Step Five: Yes, but not me – tasks that you can delegate
  • Step Six: Yes, me – tasks that you need to do and have deadlines that are coming up

These levels are meant to represent a sort of inverted pyramid, starting with a wide scope that will catch the clunky projects that should not be on the list at all, and then proceeds to keep catching the tasks that are being processed until you are left with the tasks that are meant for you and need to be done now.

The training went as far as to offer examples of how to apply this system to actual situations. You would start by determining what project you want to evaluate. Take this blog post for example. This post is something that has value, and so it goes past that first step. I know all the information I need for the project so we can go past step two. The deadline is very close, and this is something that a device cannot do for me, so that covers steps three and four. The blog is based on my experience and what I have learned, meaning I cannot delegate, moving past step five. Having determined that this project must be done by me soon, I must go ahead and schedule to do it within the coming days. This is the funnel in action!

Early in the training, Crenshaw discusses a way in which we can try ranking the value of tasks in accordance with our time by saying:

“List all the different kinds of work-related activities that you perform. Then, after you’ve listed out all the activities, write the estimated value per hour for each of those activities… Then, after you’ve made this list, with all the values per hour, rank each activity according to how much it’s worth.”

In doing this, you are preparing to see what you will run through the funnel, and it will also help if you have more than one task that fall within step six.

I went into this training thinking that there wasn’t much I could learn when it came to prioritizing, but I was proved wrong. Crenshaw reassures us that procrastinating is useful when done correctly, something that helped me be more confident in my study habits and not feel like my process was entirely bad. I think this training would be an amazing resource for any major, but especially PWR majors. We have so many focuses and projects that we often get lost in them, and having a training like this early on in your college career could make a big difference in your experience as a student. I think what I liked the most is that Crenshaw doesn’t shame you or make you feel bad if you don’t prioritize properly.

From a procrastinator who gets caught up in small meaningless tasks, give this training a try; you won’t regret it.

Young woman in a maroon graduation gown with a yellow stole and red cord

 

Myrta Santana graduated in 2021 with majors in Professional Writing & Rhetoric and Art History.

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PWR Perspective on Study Abroad: Myrta Santana-Santini

Besides fulfilling the internship and research requirements of their major, some PWR students decide to take advantage of one or more of the other experiential learning opportunities that Elon offers. Studying abroad (either for the summer, winter term, or a whole semester) is one of the most popular options. One PWR major who chose to include this experience in her college journey is senior Myrta Santana-Santini; she studied in Alicante, Spain for the 2020 spring semester. While Myrta unfortunately had to return to the United States early because of the COVID-19 pandemic, her experience abroad informed her understanding of languages, world cultures, her professional goals, and herself, as she shared in her responses to the following questions:

Why did you decide to study abroad in Spain and more specifically in Alicante?

Having been born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with an education that was primarily in Spanish, the best answer I can give is that I missed the language. I love the English language, but something about learning in your native language is different. I also have to confess that I chose Spain because I knew it would not be a major challenge, meaning that I could learn while also taking a break of sorts. Now as to why Alicante? The beach. I wanted to be close to the beach again, because after living my whole life close to the beach, these last three to four years in NC where the beach is three hours away has been weird.

What classes did you take while abroad?

While I was abroad, I took five classes total, one of them being a two-week intensive course on the Spanish language and grammar. This was actually funny and frustrating because while I am fluent in Spanish and it’s my first language, Puerto Rican Spanish is very different from Spain Spanish. After that course was done, I began my full semester classes which included History of Spain, Art History of Spain, Colloquial Spanish, and Pop Culture in Spain. These classes were all very interesting, and they helped me adapt to the day to day life in Spain while also learning Spanish history. My favorite was the Colloquial Spanish class because so many words that I use have multiple meanings, and being able to pick those out and see why they mean what they do to each place was an amazing experience.

Did you visit any interesting places while in Spain, and if so, where did you go?

I was only able to visit some places in Spain–not as many as I would have wanted, but enough for the time I had. I went to Barcelona, Valencia, and Granada for a weekend each, and the experiences I had in each city were unforgettable. Granada was my favorite because of the mix of cultures present there and the historical landmark La Alhambra. As an art history double major, being able to visit this fortress is something I am still not over.

I was only able to visit one place outside Spain, but it was Paris, so that made up for it. Paris is an amazing city that captivated me; one of my favorite moments from my time there was in a bookstore (because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t visit a bookstore abroad). The Shakespeare and Company Bookstore is a hole-in-the-wall store that everyone seems to know about and want to visit, and I understand why. The space inside is cramped, covered in books of all genres, and has a calm and serene feeling even when there are many people inside. As I was walking around, I saw that they would stamp whatever book you bought with a store stamp as proof that you visited, so of course I had to buy a book. The employees also wrote surprise poems on a typewriter for customers to read. It was the perfect experience for my English-major-nerd heart.

What did you find most interesting about Spanish culture?

The most interesting things about Spanish culture, in my opinion, are how laid back they are and how little they care about the small things. We learned the saying “no pasa nada,” which translates to “everything is okay” or “there is no problem.”

How did the semester go for you after COVID-19 became a global pandemic?

Unfortunately, I only had two and half months in Spain, instead of the four and a half I was supposed to have. While I am grateful for the time I did have, it was frustrating because many of the trips I had planned were scheduled for the second half of the semester. The program also did not want to give us a refund for a portion of the semester we didn’t have there because we still finished the classes online, but it wasn’t the same. The whole purpose of those classes was the immersion–to practice what we learned in a real environment. So in a way the experience was not complete, but in the end, “no pasa nada.”

How did this experience apply to your majors and/or future career goals?

I want to hopefully work within the editing and publishing field, and I want to be able to use my bilingual abilities within my career. I have considered working with translation, and this experience taught me that even when you know something there is always more to learn, because I learned much more about the Spanish language during my time abroad within the context of Spain.

Would you recommend the Alicante program to other students? Why or why not?

I don’t know if it was because of the pandemic, but I will admit that the Alicante CIEE office was a bit disorganized. However, the professors themselves were amazing. Again, I can’t give an accurate recommendation because of the situation, but I will say that location-wise, the experience is worth it.

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PWR Internship Perspective: Abby Fuller

Besides undergraduate research, every PWR major at Elon is required to complete at least one internship before graduation. Many students find writing-related internship positions over the summer with a variety of companies and organizations across the country, but some choose to intern during the school year with local organizations or departments and programs on Elon’s campus. Senior Abby Fuller is one of the PWR students who has an on-campus internship this semester—she serves as a Publishing Intern at the Center for Engaged Learning (CEL). CEL Publishing Interns receive class credit but no pay during their first semester, and many are given the opportunity to continue the internship for a second semester with pay. Besides these benefits, Abby has shared other insights into her daily internship work as well as its correlations to her PWR courses and future career plans:

How did you hear about and apply for your internship?

I heard about the Publishing Internship through emails that were sent out to all Elon English majors and on the Elon Job Network. After doing my own research from the Job Network, I saw that the position was in my skill set and decided to apply.

What are your typical internship tasks each week?

My job changes every single day depending on the tasks that I need to complete. But I go into my workspace at the Center for Engaged Learning from 2pm–5pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. After talking with my boss, Jennie Goforth (CEL’s Managing Editor), who gives me a list of tasks for the day or week, I typically am given the full three hours to complete those tasks on my own. Some tasks I’ve done in the past include book trailers for new releases (see an example below!), social media reports for comparable publishing companies, and copy editing work.

What is your favorite thing so far about the internship?

I have loved how I am given a lot of freedom to complete the tasks in the way I think is best, and I love how much feedback I receive from my two bosses, Jennie and Jessie (CEL’s Director, Jessie L. Moore). They are both committed to making this experience something I will grow from and helping to build my professional skills. I have been so thankful for their commitment to helping me grow and learn.

Have you been able to apply the skills that you’ve learned in your PWR classes to this internship, and if so, how?

During my social media reports and book trailer proposals, I try to include rhetorical terms that look at the audience and how the ethos of CEL is being presented in this project. I have had a lot of opportunities to look at rhetorical skills in copy editing as well—to check that the voice of the writer matches the intended audience and purpose.

Does this internship relate to your post-graduation plans, and if so, how?

As a Creative Writing and PWR double major, I have definitely been interested in getting into the publishing field post-graduation. Although I would ideally like to work in a more mainstream market and not specifically academic/higher education writing, I have been able to apply a lot of these lessons to any type or genre of work, because the process remains very similar across many fields. I also recognize that not everyone gets their dream job at their dream company in their dream field right after graduation, and I think this is a great lesson in learning about the process even if the field itself is not fully using my skill set. Lastly, as a Creative Writing major, I would love to write and have someone publish a book of mine one day, so this experience has been helpful to learn more about the field and see if this is something I could do myself one day.

Would you recommend this internship to other PWR students? Why or why not?

Yes, I definitely would. I love working with Jessie Moore and Jennie Goforth, and it has been so convenient to work on campus and to learn from people who understand my life as an Elon student as well. I would love to talk with anyone interested in this position in the future.

 

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PWR Perspective on Undergraduate Research: Angela Myers

Angela Myers sitting in a chair, holding a laptopOne of the unique things about Elon’s PWR program is that every major is required to complete two credits of undergraduate research during their time in college. This research can involve joining an established group project with other students and faculty in the English Department, proposing an independent study, or doing a combination of the two. One student who chose the second option is senior Angela Myers. Angela is an Honors Fellow and received the Lumen prize in 2019 to further her thesis research. Her research examines the rhetoric of colleges’ online sexual assault prevention courses, and she conducted a comparative study between courses used in the U.S. and those in New Zealand (where she studied abroad during Spring 2020). Her research also led her to launch a social media campaign about sexual assault prevention in collaboration with the GLC.

How did you come up with the idea for your research project?

I’ve always been interested in the relationship between public health and rhetoric, so I knew I wanted to do a research project at that intersection. However, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. One night, I woke up at 3am with the idea of researching sexual violence prevention. The idea wasn’t fully formed, but I wrote it down in my journal, went back to sleep, and researched the issue further in the morning. I discovered not a lot of scholars were studying how to communicate about sexual violence prevention, so I emailed my research mentor, Dr. Jessie Moore, and the rest is history. You never know when an idea will come to you, especially as a writer, so I always recommend keeping a notebook nearby for any ideas you might have. 

What methods did you use to study your topic?

For my Lumen project, I did mixed-methods research. My mentor and I scaffolded the research into phases. In fall of my junior year we conducted interviews with students, staff, and faculty on campus to learn more about the rhetorical situation for prevention programming at Elon University. In the winter of my junior year, I completed a rhetorical analysis of Elon’s program. When I studied abroad in the spring, I conducted a comparative rhetorical analysis with a prevention program in New Zealand, a country known for some of the best sexual violence prevention in the world. This fall, I am conducting usability tests for the project to collect user-feedback on samples that enact different recommendations from the interviews and rhetorical analyses. 

From this larger research project, I connected with the GLC to design a social media campaign around sexual violence, Elon Empowers. Elon Empowers is a university-wide social media campaign to promote the idea that sexual violence prevention is possible. Especially in a climate like 2020, it’s important to provide positive messaging and action steps people can take to improve their community. For this campaign, we will be analyzing Instagram analytics to determine the effectiveness of materials and will send out a pre- and post-campaign survey to a group of Elon students to further research the effectiveness of Elon Empowers.

What was the most interesting thing (in your opinion) that you’ve found so far in your research?

The most interesting thing I’ve found so far is that prevention programs which empower the users to act, give them the resources to do so, and promote the idea that prevention is possible are the most effective prevention programs. In order to create effective prevention programming, courses need to appeal to shared values, use clear and easy-to-understand language, and provide an overall uplifting narrative with strategies to stop sexual violence instead of simply telling people, “Don’t do it.”

How did the collaboration with the GLC come about?

During the interview phase of my Lumen and Honors research, I interviewed Becca Bishopric Patterson from the GLC. During the interview, we began talking about how students are involved in the GLC and how various Fellows have done projects with the GLC in the past. Becca mentioned how she was interested in creating a social norms campaign, or a communications/professional writing campaign which tries to change the perceptions and beliefs of the viewers through communicating a different message than a common false narrative. From there, I saw the connections between the campaign she was hoping to run and my own research findings. I’d found that many college students don’t believe prevention is possible and/or that they can’t stop sexual violence as bystanders. After the interview, I emailed Becca about the potential of a social norms campaign on the GLC’s Instagram and that’s how Elon Empowers was born. Elon Empowers intends to present the idea that prevention is possible and give Elon students small, tangible ways they can mitigate sexual violence on and off campus. Overall, there’s constantly opportunities which are only an email inquiry away for PWR majors at Elon; the campus community is always so excited when students want to take on projects and research which allows them to use their skills to help our Elon community!

Will you be presenting your research anywhere else, and if so, where and when?

Since the beginning, I have been cognizant about making sure the research is received by those who need it most. As of now, I will be publishing part of my research in the upcoming issue of Young Scholars in Writing and will be presenting it on a panel at the Conference on College Composition and Communication and SURF in Spring of 2021. I will also make sure the research is available to the GLC, the Title IX Office, and anyone else at Elon who might be interested in my findings. I’m also considering some public-facing speaking and writing engagements to share the project. 

What do you hope that your research will accomplish, or what do you hope people take away from your research?

I hope this research can help improve sexual violence prevention at Elon and across the country. I’d also love for people to be able to use this research when considering how they address sexual violence in their own lives. So many times the media, organizations, and individuals use language which places the blame on the victim or they don’t communicate in a clear and effective way about sexual violence and how it can be prevented. Obviously this research is just one small piece of a much larger puzzle, but I’m happy it can contribute to the scholarship and the work being done to help mitigate sexual violence and other barriers to equity and safety for all.

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PWR Social Media Internship Reflection: Spring 2020

The Journey

Emily HollandMy journey as the PWR Social Media Intern has been educational and helped me to grow both personally and professionally, but honestly, it’s been a bit strange. To start, I actually applied for the internship a whole year before I got the position. I heard about the internship in my PWR 215 class during my first semester in college (Fall 2018), and I thought that I might as well apply for the spring. The PWR faculty chose a more experienced student for the internship that semester, which I expected, and told me that I would probably be a good candidate in about a year. And almost exactly a year later, I was asked to take over the position for Spring 2020.

Going into the internship, I expected that my faculty advisors (Dr. Moore and Dr. Li) would give me tasks with lots of specifications so that I would only create content that reflected well on the PWR program. So, I was surprised by how much creative control I was allowed over my work. I read over an internship handbook that is still in progress, but for the most part, I was allowed to develop my own plan for posting content. I researched what had already been posted on the PWR accounts and contacted the previous intern for some tips, and then I put all my ideas into a big planning document.

The previous intern said that Instagram was the best platform for getting information out about the PWR program, so I focused mostly on updating that profile to reflect a positive image for the program. Most of my regular Instagram posts were posted to Facebook and Twitter as well, but I spent more time using Instagram’s interactive story features and sharing posts from related accounts to the @elonpwr story (mostly from the English Department and the Writing Center–those accounts also shared my posts on Facebook, which created more traction on that platform). I also updated the @elonpwr Instagram bio so that it would better encapsulate what the PWR program is about at a glance.

Besides working on updating the PWR program’s image on social media, I also wanted to ensure consistency in posting, which seemed to have been lacking for a while. So, I designed graphics that fit with two series scheduled across all three platforms every week: #MondayMotivation and #WeeklyWord (posted on Wednesday to maintain the alliteration). When major PWR events happened this semester, like Fall 2020 course registration and SURF Day, I created series of posts that showcased each course and each research presentation. I also made a list of other ideas for intermittent posts, like internship ads, interviews with PWR students and faculty, and photos from class visits and research conferences.

However, my ability to execute my ideas shifted dramatically when the COVID-19 pandemic moved classes online. Besides the general challenges of adjusting to working from home, several of my “great” ideas no longer worked. Getting interviews became extremely difficult, I couldn’t visit classes that weren’t meeting in person, and internships and conferences had been cancelled. Even the two major events required a new approach to promote. So, I posted about the internships that I could still find, started doing the aforementioned interactive Instagram stories more often, added video links to the SURF Day posts, and put the rest of the ideas in my back pocket for when campus reopens next semester and I return to the internship. That’s right, I’ll be back as the PWR Social Media Intern next semester, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Advice for Future Interns

Even though I’m continuing with the PWR Social Media Internship for another semester, I’ll eventually need to be replaced, and I’d give it a 10/10 recommendation for any PWR major or PWS minor. I think the biggest pieces of advice I would give are these:

  1. Ask for advice from your faculty mentors when you need it, but you’re more prepared to make and execute your own plan than you think you are.
  2. Be flexible! You may not have to deal with a pandemic changing everything the way I did, but some of your ideas still might not work. And that’s okay. Always have a plan, a backup plan, and an open mind.
  3. Work hard, but have fun. You’ll run into problems sometimes, but you can fix them or work around them and get back to letting your creativity flow.
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