Teaching

You can learn more about my teaching and administrative approach

But, here’s a quick overview that guides both my teaching and my administrative work.

I started graduate school after 15 years working as a technical writing consultant. Most careers demand that writers draw on different skills to fulfill a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. Throw in changes in technology and the life as a technical/professional writer requires flexibility and adaptability. One of the strengths of any TPC program is that it allows students to customize the curriculum to fit their individual needs, while still teaching the range of skills required to adapt and change throughout a writing career.

This dual approach of foundational and flexibility has been something of a guiding orientation to the two degree programs where I have worked (UC and USF). What this orientation means in practice is that programs are guided by a set of program outcomes that point students toward foundational skills that are adaptable to many career paths and remain valuable even if technology or job structures change. For example, the ability to understand audiences in a deep and nuanced way is central most communication tasks in the workplace. Understanding how to research audiences and write to their needs is a key facet of a TPC program.

Flexibility in TPC degree programs means that the curriculum is set up in a way that any major shifts in the workplace can be accommodated into the curriculum without having to restructure the entire program. the emphasis on flexibility can be seen in programmatic decisions to integrate engagement opportunities within the courses and the curriculum. Here engagement opportunities means established relationships within the larger community so that students can work with clients and organizations within the safe confines of a course. For example, while I was at Cincinnati, the professional writing program had developed a long-term relationship with the Freestore Foodbank, and over the course of several years, the students (in different courses) worked with them on a communication strategy, knowledge management project, and on other discreet projects (such as new brochures for all their services). This type of engaged curriculum affords students the opportunity to put theory into practice, It also represents what is meant by both foundational and flexible curricula.

Programs also have to be inclusive to prepare students for understanding how to use their skills to affect change in the workplace. That means I am guided by wanting students to become a “critical pragmatic practitioner,” which means that students should  be able to critically assess the cultural, social, political, and economic connections between language, power, information, and the organization’s role in society. Essentially, students need to learn to both critique existing structures, and also offer alternative solutions. 

This critical approach needs to start with an understanding that no matter how it may appear on the surface, there is nothing objective about TPC because it is always produced in conjunction with an organization’s culture, which includes the norms, values, and ideologies of that organization. Ethical professional and technical communication must take as part of its goal the role of naming racist and colonial practices that uphold systems–usually created through policy and documentation–of inequality and disparities. 

This teaching orientation is a quick hits through some of my main guiding tenets. These have apparently worked out since I’ve been humbled and honored to be recognized for my teaching. At the University of Cincinnati I was admitted to the  Academy of Fellows for Teaching and Learning, which is a peer nominated and Board of Trustees appointed honor. I am also the 2019 recipient of the Jay Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching Technical Communication from the Society for Technical Communication.

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