Alumni Spotlights

Kiera (Wilson) Prince-Stevens 2011

Current job title 
Instructional Designer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

 

Describe your current position 
My job is to create training material for sales reps at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. I design course objectives, content flow, and learning interactions. I also develop training materials for classroom, webinar, and eLearning formats, which means that I write all the scripting (that facilitator's use) for classroom training and design slide decks, job aids, and participant guides. I create eLearning using Adobe Captivate and Camtasia Studio. Usually I work extensively with subject matter experts (SMEs) to compile content and to ensure training materials meets the needs of the business and target audience.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
At least half of my work is writing. As mentioned above, I write detailed scripts for facilitators/trainers. I write design maps (essentially outlines of course content), and I write scripts and storyboards for any videos or eLearning voice over content. In some cases, I write the course content from scratch if no SMEs are available.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduating, I went to Clemson University and got a master's in professional communication through the MAPC program. I was intent on becoming a professor. It was there I did research on game-based learning and discovered the world of instructional design through MAPC alumni. Instead of getting my PhD, I decided to take a detour from pursuing an academic career. Instructional design allowed me to stay in the field of instruction and teaching, just in a different way. About a year after I graduated from Clemson, I got a position as a learning and development specialist at Hewlett Packard training call center agents. I was there for a year after deciding I wanted a position that focused more on course development. Taking my current job at BCBSM has allowed me to hone my writing and graphic design skills.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
The professional writing courses, in particular document design. I took the introductory and advanced courses. Learning to use Adobe products gave me a leg up in the job market. Adobe is still the gold standard, so learning those programs can be essential to getting a position. Document design also provided me foundational skills that I still use to this day in how I create documents for work.

Consulting with writers was an awesome course. It broadened my understanding of feedback and how essential it is to what writers do. A huge part of my job is giving and receiving feedback. Your writing in the workplace is always going to be looked at by someone else, so being able to take constructive criticism is important. 

Multimodal composing was a great course that introduced me to how writing can be combined with so many other mediums. That relates to a majority of what I do—deciding what works best as text, image, audio, or video so that it is most engaging for my target audience. I focused a lot on multimodal composition in grad school and bring it into my work daily. I'm always advocating for multimedia based eLearning in our department or modernizing our old read only content.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Be open to the scope of what you can do with your writing major. Just because you major in writing doesn't mean you have to go out and become an editor or author. It may feel like you're limited or that writing isn't lucrative, but it is a greatly underestimated skill in the workplace. Communication is so important to how a company functions. If people do it poorly, the business suffers. I've seen entire projects fall apart due to poor communication. Writing/communication is a soft skill, but that doesn't make it easy.

Headshot of Kiera Prince-Stevens


Jorri (Heil) Smith 2008

Current job title 
Provider Communications Manager

 

Describe your current position 
As a Provider Communications Manager, I am responsible for educating and communicating to Priority Health's physicians, hospitals, and ancillary providers about the organization's programs and policies to ensure we're providing excellent and affordable health care.
 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Writing is crucial in my team's day-to-day work. We take complex information and communicate it in writing in order to drive change. The communication always starts with written pieces that can then be translated into other channels, such as in-person discussions, presentations, etc.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
I double majored in writing and PR. I started in automotive manufacturing as a communications specialist. Then I worked in construction as a marketing specialist with some business development functions. Since joining Priority Health, I have moved from the marketing department in member communications to project management roles and now to a department-specific communications role.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
Refining my writing skills has given me an edge in all aspects of my career and sets me apart from the competition. In business, strong writing skills are often an unaddressed need. Early in my career, the HTML/CSS coding I learned in a writing for the web class also gave me an edge in early roles where I there was a need for someone with technical skills to manage web content.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Writing is a skill that will always help you set yourself apart and give you a competitive edge against the competition. Stay curious and be willing to take on roles where you can learn the business-side of the organization you work for. Pairing business acumen with strong writing skills will help you position yourself for a rewarding career. Also, you can never take too many internships. Get as many experiences as you can writing for various communication tactics: business plans, grants, press releases, presentations, etc.

Headshot of Jorrie Smith


Kelly Brown 2014

Current job title
Marketing Projects Manager and Freelance Writer

 

Describe your current position
My full-time position is as a Marketing Projects Manager for Green Giftz (a GVSU Alumni-Owned Business. Go Lakers!). At my full-time position, I am responsible for drafting branded merchandise presentations and ideas to pitch to clients like Steelcase, Herman Miller, Haworth, Byrne, etc., quoting, entering orders, and tracking orders to completion. I interact face-to-face with my clients on a weekly basis. We create mock-ups for their items, and I work with local suppliers to create custom projects like messenger bags created from scrap tradeshow banners or beautiful hand bags/pouches constructed from Herman Miller's scrap fabric.

I'm also a freelance writer for Revue Magazine and Women's Lifestyle. At Revue, I produce monthly articles about events within Grand Rapids/West Michigan as well as profile pieces on various people around WM. At Women's Lifestyle, I am the monthly fitness columnist.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work?
My position at Green Giftz involves a lot of client interaction, which means I'm writing emails, quotes, and sales orders all day long. It is so, so important to have good communication with my client because I'm often working on a tight deadline. I'm also responsible for our press releases and all marketing materials. My job is flexible -- one day I'm writing an article to pitch to the GRBJ, the next day I'm writing up an analysis on our performance over the first half of the year, and the next day I'm writing emails to clients for eight hours.

As a freelance writer, all I do is write. If I'm not working on articles for Revue or Women's Lifestyle (I'm ALWAYS working on articles for them), then I'm pitching ideas to other local and regional magazines, updating my website and LinkedIn, or working on short stories for publication.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position.
I started my first full-time position before graduation at GVSU. I began as a copywriter at Create and Craft USA. From there, I moved into a Social Media Management role at Create and Craft. After two years in this position, I moved onto my current role at Green Giftz.

As a Freelance Writer, post-graduation I struggled to find my groove. I began with a few pieces published in local magazines and national/international journals. My main goal was to keep my portfolio present. Because of this, and a lot of networking, I was able to secure my position with Revue Magazine. After a strong pitch to Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and again, more networking, I was able to secure my position with them.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional?
Being creative. We are in a world where creativity is key. People ask "Why did you get a writing degree?" It is because, yes, I am incredibly passionate about writing, but it is also because I'm incredibly passionate about CREATIVITY. Workplaces need creative minds.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley?
Publish your work. Or try to. Always. And create a website RIGHT NOW (or after you read this). Stay relevant. If you want to be a poet, write poetry, but have a back up plan to help you along the way. Get work experience in different areas and be okay with it. I left GVSU with six jobs and three internships on my résumé, and they were all in different lines of work. I worked because I needed money to support myself, but I also worked to gain experience and network. I can't stress these enough.

Kitty Cats



Page last modified November 16, 2017