The Class You Didn’t Know You Need To Take: ENGL 3590W

By Corinn Gurak

“Everyone needs to take this class.”

I have heard this phrase from many teachers who have taught this course and from students who have taken it. This class teaches you how to write in a relevant way, not an abstract, metaphorical analysis way. Dr. Christopher Alexander teaches Technical and Professional Communication, that encourages developing writing skills for the professional world.  Many students at UGA can be heard saying something like, “I took this major because I didn’t want to write,” “I am more of a numbers person,” or “I’d rather take a test than write an essay any day.” All of those statements are valid,  yet those students do not realize that writing is an integral part of their professional and everyday lives. So, in this course, you will find yourself working on professional writing that is relevant to all majors, including STEM. Alexander is looking to develop skills and knowledge on how to write within various disciplines and fields. He recognizes that writing is not integrated into many classes at the University of Georgia and they rely more on multiple choice exams for evaluations. He feels that students may be “less familiar, less aware or less interested,” in writing, so this class seeks to fill the gap by providing a dynamic approach to writing.

Alexander highlighted a few projects that the students complete in Technical and Professional Writing that bridge this divide:

  1. Definitions Assignment

In this assignment, students are asked to define words that could potentially be controversial or need clarification in  professional communication. Students think about how these definitions might fluctuate based on perception and world experiences of the user.

Examples of Keywords: autism spectrum//chemotherapy//cyanobacteria//metaphor//peripheral//self-avoiding

2. Procedures Assignment

Students are asked to explain how to complete certain tasks to someone who is less experienced or has no experience at all.

 Examples of Tasks: applying to law school//changing a tire

Pharmaceutical Sciences majors are now required to take this course. I asked Alexander if the influx of these students into ENGL 3590W had affected the population in the classes and the trajectory of the class itself. I was excited to hear that he felt that the students had changed the course, but “in the most beneficial ways.” He felt that he had, “been exposed to different ideas and concepts, different writing situations, and different concepts of use and material values.” This course is centered around exposure, and adding this demographic of students to the course has done that. In the seven years that Alexander has taught this course, he has seen various majors including computer science, journalism, biology, education, pre-pharmacy and economics.

STEM majors, people who are typically not found in Park Hall at the University of Georgia, especially not in upper level English classes may find themselves in Technical and Professional Writing and, hopefully , more classes like it. This is extremely encouraging, however Dr. Alexander pointed out that this class, or another class like it, should be a part of STEM major programs. Many students operate under the assumption that within STEM careers they will not write much, or if they do it may be in a very specific way, such as lab reports. However, it is important for students to be prepared for writing requirements they will face. For example, students may need to complete grant proposals, marketing materials, press releases, and much more. It is a reality that professionals in STEM fields will need to be competent and capable to accomplish such pieces. Overall, Alexander feels that

“it’s our responsibility to show students just how much writing will inevitably become a key part of what they do for a living, regardless of their eventual careers.”

So here I am fulfilling my responsibility, beckoning you to take this class; be MORE familiar, MORE aware, MORE interested!

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