We wanted students to under- stand the gap between the world of Dickens and Woolf they had — 48 — 79 Writing beyond the Academy been immersed in for the better part of four years and the non- academic world of writing jobs. And we wanted them also to see the commonalities of these two worlds — that the critical think- ing and writing skills at which they excelled in the academy could also transfer beyond it. Through this process, we led the students to concrete out- comes. What did our students decide they could do with their English majors? Most of them coursework online edged closer to clarity on that question. Some managed to at least rule out some possibilities they had been entertaining — for instance, finding brochure writ- ing too tedious a prospect compared with the creative writing they loved. Our sportswriter found it really did offer the perfect combi- nation of his interests.
Most students also simply learned something about writing beyond the academy from both their own experiences and those of their classmates.
One student left virtually on his own to develop both a catalog and Web site learned much about integrating the visual with the verbal and about es- tablishing a company image through his language and design choices.
Another student learned much about the vagaries of col- laborative writing on the job when she wrote a personal profile of an employee for a newsletter.
Assuming that her discursive piece was final copy, she was shocked to see it treated as boilerplate and transformed into unrecognizable bulleted material.
Students learned about differences in writing in organized and in disorga- nized workplaces and about differences in writing for congenial and for hostile bosses. Though the course was largely successful in its first run, if I were to teach it again or to offer advice to anyone interested in starting such a course, I would plan on allowing plenty of time before the course both to set up internships and to talk with stu- dents individually. Further, it would be wise to investigate the conditions and kinds of writing tasks at the internship sites. In our case, some students had the opportunity to write several pieces crucial to the organization and were invited to feel part of its overall mission.
Others, however, wrote very little and were not treated with professional courtesy. Since the writing that students did on the job occurred outside the classroom, it was also difficult - 49 - COURSE DESIGN to set up a support system or mechanism for feedback on their writing. A listserv in which students actively participate might provide some needed support, as would providing service-learn- ing sites where two or more students could work. And, finally, I would certainly continue to invite a variety of speakers to talk about their writing careers and to keep the class size small enough to offer plenty of one-on-one attention to students, since these were two of the most instructive components of the course. Service-learning writing courses focused on career develop- ment have an important practical role to play for students inter- ested in writing careers.
Such a course could also be constructively adapted to the needs of many other fields across the curriculum, particularly in the humanities, in which undergraduates, like English majors, must often make a huge leap from academic writing to writing for the inevitable world of work.
Appendix Excerpts from Syllabus Overview The world of writing at work can be vastly different from the world of academic writing when you first encounter it. This course is de- signed primarily to help you bridge that gap by providing an opportu- nity for you to apply what you are learning in class to what you are doing during a ten-week internship. Beyond that, it will also give you coursework online firsthand experience in performing community service for a nonprofit organization. These organizations provide people in the Twin Cites with meaningful services, helping with violence in families, diseases, housing needs — the list coursework online goes on. If you have social causes that you care deeply about, this class will provide you with a way to use your writing talents to make a difference.
So look at this course as a 2-for-l opportunity: you will learn about literacy practices in the workplace while giving - 50 - Writing beyond the Academy something back to the community.
In addition to your internship out- side class, we will study public relations writing within the class. You will learn about how to write newsletters, annual reports, brochures, and other kinds of writing, and, most of all, how to analyze rhetorical situations in the workplace. You will assemble a portfolio of your work due at the end of the semester using pieces you write on the job, reflec- tive writing, and course log entries. And you can expect to collaborate in small groups on readings, writings, and presentations throughout the course. Materials Text: Public Relations Writing , 4th Edition, by Thomas H. Internships In consultation with the Service-Learning Center, we have selected a number of interesting sites around town at which you might intern.
Either way, you will need to talk with us and settle on a place by at least the first week of class. These internships are similar to regu- lar jobs except that you are not paid and are instead doing them on a volunteer basis. Keep in mind that you need to be as responsible and professional on these internships as you would on a regular job.
Plan on spending a full ten hours a week on both the internship and class time.
Course Description Weeks 1-4: Meet in class twice a week. During this part of the class, you will need to keep your course log, contribute to listserv and class discussions, and work on preparing ma- terials for your course portfolio. In weeks 15-16, you will give a brief oral presentation on your experience at work (what you learned about the social concerns, rhetorical situation, and writing at your site and the kinds of writing you did). Some reflec- tions will be assigned and others will be created by you.