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Writing Foundations


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Students and Writing

In Writing Foundations, the primary objective is to prepare students for a successful career, both here at ECU and beyond!  The writing skills students learn now will be vital in advanced courses later, as well as in their future professions.  Here at ECU, we provide these "foundations" to ensure students' success both in the classroom and on the job.  Regardless of students' intended fields of study, Writing Foundations gives them the skills and resources needed to pursue their futures.

The Importance of Writing Foundations

Hear what Pirates have to say about their writing experiences:

 
 

Dr. Steven Ballard, Chancellor of East Carolina University

ballard

 On the importance of writing in his career:
"Writing (and all forms of communication) have been instrumental in my career. I did not realize early on (for example, in graduate school) how important writing would eventually be, but I think it becomes more important all the time. Effective communication is the key to good leadership, to problem solving, to working in a team. I'm very lucky that my mentors early in my career stressed good writing and didn't let me get away with anything less."

Did he realize how important writing was in college?
"I did not realize it at that time. I probably started to realize it during my first faculty appointment in the later 70's, but realized it even more as my career progressed and as new opportunities came my way. I did have a great history teacher as an undergraduate who stressed writing and I think that was the beginning of my appreciation for this skill. There is just nothing more important than teachers/mentors who help you improve your communication skills."


What writing advice would he give to college students?
"My advice centers to two lessons that have been very valuable to me. The Economist John K. Galbreath once said that there is no such thing as a good first draft (he had already won the Pulitzer). Galbreath typically used dozens of drafts before he was ready for others to review his written materials. If that is good enough for Galbreath, it is good enough for me... it just takes writing, re-writing, thinking, reviewing and re-writing. No big secret, just hard work.

"The second piece of advice is that simple structures of your writing often work the best. Clear topic sentences, clarity of words, avoidance of overly complex and run-on sentences... those kinds of things have served me well, I think. This is especially true when one writes for non-expert audiences, for public policy, for general audiences."


 

Emily Woodrum, Rehabilitation Services

emily


Emily Woodrum grew up in Angier, NC.  She is currently an Occupational Therapist for Wake County Schools.  She holds a BS and MS in Rehabilitation Services from ECU. Emily was one of the recipients of the Keats Sparrow Awards for her research paper entitled, "The Harry Potter Controversy." She is a former student of this class. Emily works at Therapeutic Life center and she enjoys drinking coffee and making jewelry.


On the importance of writing in graduate school:
"As a graduate student, writing proved to be highly important. I was assigned far more papers than ever before. In my first year in the OT program at ECU, in one class alone, I had four 10-12 page papers assigned throughout the semester as well as one large 20-25 page paper, which was due at the end of the semester."

Did she realize how important writing was in college?
"As an undergraduate, I think I understood that I would continue to use writing skills in the OT program, but I didn't understand the quantity of expected written work."


What writing advice would she give to college students?
"I would advise students to simply put the time in when writing a paper. Writing a paper the night before it's due shows up in the quality of writing. The resources are freely available to write a quality paper with the help of your professor and the writing center. Take advantage of these sources, you're paying for them with your tuition. Also, if it's an option, write about things of interest to you. When you care about what you're writing about, you'll be more apt to spend more time on it. And of course: revise, revise, revise."


 

Michelle Hanson, Senior Manager of Executive Communications at Dell Inc.

michelle


On the importance of writing in her career:
"Being in the tech industry, for better or worse, email is the primary means of daily interaction with many of my internal and external clients. The ability to present my ideas, recommendations and counsel through concise, clear writing is crucial -- email, PPT, whatever the specific written vehicle.

"Until I was sought out for a particular job, I never realized the importance of writing. It was always something that I just did as part of every job. However, it was my writing that got me noticed, and ultimately landed me the most prestigious and rewarding position I will probably ever have -- writing speeches and developing presentations for top tech executives."

Did she realize how important writing was in college?
"Not at all. I loathed it. I was good at it, but never thought the skill would be the basis for building my career."


What writing advice would she give to college students?
"Start each writing assignment with these 3 questions:
1. What unique perspective can I bring to this topic?
2. What one message do I want my reader to remember about what I wrote?
3. How can I make this assignment applicable beyond its end/or this class/or this grade? -- for example, I still look back at a paper I wrote for Dr. Fadley and remember what I learned about myself from the pure mechanics around how I put together a persuasive argument."


 

Michaelina Antahades, Public Relations

michaelina

Michaelina Antahades is a Public Relations major through the Communication Department and plans to attend graduate school to get her Masters in public administration. She is a former student of this class.

On the importance of writing in her career:
"E-mails, memos, presentations, and resumes are all extremely important in both from what I can tell and I'm not even working in either sector yet. Everything including e-mails need to be formal, well written, and have no spelling errors."

Did she realize how important writing was in college?
"I'm still a student but I've always known how important writing is. In the professional world it is how you represent yourself and how other's see you. You always want to be well spoken (through your writing). If you are published or quoted it is an even bigger deal. People can judge you based on your knowledge of grammar and proficiency of the English language. I can't tell you how many times friends and I in my major complain about how we hate it when people use the wrong form of "your" "you're" or "to" "too" "two" just to name a few."


What writing advice would she give to college students?
"Writing takes practice and guidance. Take full advantage of any professor that agrees to review your work before submission and also try to get friends to review your work, even if it's just your roommate, every extra set of eyes that can make suggestions helps!"



 

Chris Omohundro, Communications/Business

chris

Chris Omohundro has been Senior Manager of Logistics at Novartis Animal Health for ten years. He has an MBA from Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University. He is an all-around good guy and was a fifth-place finisher in his fantasy football league last year.

On the importance of writing in his career:

I write every day, and I find that it is usually the most effective method for communicating clearly. Of course the majority of this writing is in the form of e-mails, but I also deliver presentations, write standard operating procedures, send requests for proposals to outside business partners, review contracts, write performance appraisals of employees, summarize complex investigations, review technical documentation, and numerous other tasks that rely on my writing ability. And I also find that the more I write, the better I speak. And with both writing and speaking, the recipient(s) of the information will judge you based on your ability to communicate. This is an unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless.

My job is Manager of Logistics for a pharmaceutical company, which means that I am responsible for making sure that the 500,000 orders that are placed annually for our products are delivered on time, and to the person who ordered them. On its surface, the job description doesn’t suggest that writing would be important. However, pharmaceutical companies are regulated by the FDA. I write instructions (SOP’s) for our warehouses to ensure that they comply with precise label requirements that we have submitted. And if there is an investigation about how a particular batch of product has been stored, I have to write some portion of the investigation. To satisfy FDA requirements, I need to provide clear and concise documentation so that there is no ambiguity about how the company handled a particular situation.

Another item I have been asked to write is the “executive summary”. Apparently, once you reach CEO or Senior VP level in a corporation, you scarcely have time to read more than one page. So if I have an idea I need to present, or a defense of my budget for next year, or an explanation of how I handled a particular matter, I will write an executive summary. Again, clarity and brevity are crucial so that I can convey as much important information as possible in one page, without a lot of unnecessary rhetoric. These are just a couple of examples of writing in my daily life.

Like my job, there are many positions in my company – scientists, veterinarians, financial analysts, etc. – that require writing skills. In addition to positions like marketing, communications, etc., there are writing skills required at virtually every position in our organization. So even if an applicant is seeking a job in quality assurance or technical product support, he or she might not realize how much writing will be involved. The importance is by no means confined to positions with “writer” in the job title. I have moved literally dozens of resumés to the “no” pile because of poor grammar. If an applicant cannot recognize the proper use of the language in a resumé, then I have no confidence in his or her ability to clearly convey information. And while an employee can be trained on systems, processes, procedures, etc., companies will not typically invest in training employees in what are considered basic skills.

Finally, I find that the quality of writing overall has diminished. I have been able to distinguish myself from my colleagues through writing. As a result of this distinction, my career has advanced. I also have an MBA, and I was surprised by the amount of writing required in business school. I knew nothing about accounting, statistics, etc., but was able to contribute to my study group with my writing ability.

Did he realize how important writing was in college?
Not in the least. I was essentially oblivious to the impact that writing would have in my career.

What writing advice would he give to college students?
I was a Broadcasting/Cinema major, and I had some communications courses that helped, but most of my beneficial instruction came from English courses. One part of my job is general process improvement. So if I identify a possible improvement for the organization that requires an investment, I have to prepare a justification for the expense, or essentially a defense of that position. And I find that when preparing a presentation, I fall back to some of the things I learned about persuasive writing in English 102. The structure is usually the presentation of the idea, several points to support it, a page or so about concessions or possible pitfalls, and a conclusion/summary. Even though it is a presentation and not a written document, the traditional structure of writing a persuasive paper is very reliable.

I wish I had taken a class or two in journalism or more advanced writing. And to reiterate, now is the time to take advantage of writing classes. Even if a company will invest in training for this skill, business writing seminars are available in the business world, but they typically last one day, and there is not much opportunity to hone your skills.