Let’s get back to our Public Relations graduate who was managing a hotel and take a look at both his writing process, and the influence his undergraduate curriculum had, or did not have, on his current writing. Actually, he didn’t think it had much influence at all, which is not uncommon. Several years ago, MIT conducted a survey of alumni who had graduated, in five-year intervals, between 1972 and 1992. Of the 881 who responded, 85% said the “ability to ‘write clearly and effectively’” was important to them, but “only 25% reported MIT’s contribution was significant” (Perelman 4). Such findings caused MIT to introduce a communication requirement into the curriculum (5). From a broader perspective, that university’s experience suggest we need to listen closely to what graduates tell us about how their undergraduate curriculum contribute to their current professional and civic activities.
While the subject generally composed directly onto his computer, using Microsoft Word, he just as habitually used notebooks as a way to generate ideas and record information. “I forget half the things that are a great idea, that I think is great. So as long as I write them down maybe at some point they’ll make it to the computer.” He also spoke of extensive e-mailing to corporate headquarters and to vendors. This aside led to a discussion of ethos, as the subject felt letters had to replace e-mails at certain moments. “Like legal things, those are things people need to see; they need to be able to carry them to somebody else to look at. You can print out an e-mail and I realize that, but there’s something about having that signature at the bottom of it that just makes it official …” The other software he used for documents was In Design, while his head housekeeper was adept with Photo Shop, so he relied on her when the occasion arose.
The subject did not see many connections between his current writing practices and his experiences as an undergraduate. In fact, he feared that if he tried to re-enter the public relations field, his writing samples from his current work would not be applicable. He credited his Senior Seminar with increasing his awareness of what “you can and cannot say,” as in hiring interviews, but felt he could have gotten more from his Communications Law class. (“I would get stuck on different cases that weren’t even my cases.”)
He felt a significant change in him since graduation, one that had affected his writing, was an enlarged perspective: “Once you actually get out there and you start meeting people from different places and different cities. I meet people who live on farms bigger than mine, and people who live in apartments in cities; you interact with a lot of different people, and you have to very cautious of, whenever you’re writing something, you have to know where it goes to.”
Regarding possible changes in curriculum, the subject would have liked practice researching legal information (“It’s different going to the court house and looking through information and deeds …”) and then writing about it. He described going through a tax appeal process with the county on behalf of the hotel, concluding that he never had practice writing about such matters. In connection with such practices, he felt there should be experience writing, as mentioned above, for a hostile readership.
Much of his current research involved Google, gathering material and quotes concerning practices at other hotels for staff meetings and other communication. Google was also used to obtain information about bus companies and the contacts within them. “Find it, because those people sometimes, they’re the decision maker for something so small, but that’s the one small thing they get to decide. And whenever you’re personal like that, that’s what puts you up above other people.” It did emerge that it was important for him to “sort and weave and pick” in order to select the sites listed by Google that would actually be useful. What he had also learned, since his undergraduate days, was to be orderly in his research rather than neat, to know where everything is and to always double-check his information when writing to any audience.
Perelman, Lee. “Data Driven Change is Easy: Assess and Maintaining It is the Hard Part.”
Across the Disciplines. 6 (2009): 29 April, 2010. Web.