Alumni Spotlights

David LeGualt 2008

Current job title 
Teacher

 

Describe your current position 

I teach AP English and AP History at an International School in Prague, Czech Republic.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
The AP English Course I'm teaching is equivalent to a Freshman Composition course: students write personal and research essays, and we spend our in-class time reading essays, workshopping, researching, etc. In addition to academic writing, I'm also regularly applying for grants and submitting my own creative work for publication.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduation, I started an MFA Program in Creative Nonfiction at The University of Minnesota. After graduation, I worked for four years in a series of retail/labor jobs while still pursuing writing in my free time (including publishing a book of essays, teaching a community-education writing course, and serving as a judge for the Minnesota Book Awards). I missed being in the classroom environment, so I found a position teaching English courses at an international school in Prague, Czech Republic.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
They continue to be the faculty at Grand Valley State University. Ten years after graduation, I'm still on a first-name basis with many of the professors there. Although I learned a lot about being a writer and reader in GVSU classes, they continue to help me figure out what it's like to try to live a productive writing life (including advice on applying to grad school, applying for teaching jobs and applications, and pointing me toward publication and fellowship opportunities). After school, I had a hard time feeling like part of a writing community, but my strongest ties to the larger writing world continue to come from my time in the Grand Valley Writing Program.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Get involved in the Department beyond the classroom: apply to be a writing consultant, work on fishladder, sign up for the Student Reading Series, and go to the events when authors visit campus. It really is a huge privilege for it to be so easy and accessible to take part in these events, and those opportunities don't exist (or at least not as often) after you leave GVSU.

Headshot of David LeGault


Madeleine Hart 2011

Current job title 
College Sales Representative at W.W. Norton

 

Describe your current position 

I manage a territory of about 25 universities and community colleges in and around Raleigh, NC. Each day I visit a different campus and meet with professors to talk about textbooks and educational media.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
My daily and weekly duties require a surprising amount of writing. Outside of face-to-face calls, email is my primary mode of communication with clients. I'm also responsible for creating quite a bit of internal communication to alert my manager and the various marketing and editorial teams to new opportunities. 

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
Since graduating, I've worked primarily in book publishing, with a few odd jobs in between. I also attended The Denver Publishing Institute in 2013, which is a great program for anyone considering a career in the book industry.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
My job requires a tremendous amount of day-to-day written communication, so having a writing degree helped me become a skillful and clear communicator. Although I took a mix of both professional and creative courses at GVSU, I'd highly recommend at least one business writing class for anyone who struggles with workplace communication or who doesn't know how to craft a formal email. One of the biggest pain points I encounter from professors across the disciplines is that students come to college with underdeveloped writing skills. It’s ironic given that we live in an age where we’re crafting more written communication than ever (via text, email, and social media), but many students neglect the basics, which can eventually hurt them in their professional endeavors.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Although your job title may not contain the word "writer," you shouldn't underestimate how much writing you'll likely have to do in whatever role you end up in. In the past, I've struggled with feelings of inadequacy, because I didn't feel like I had a specialized skill set. Writing felt too general, too universal. But the farther I progress in my career, the more I see how many professionals of all ages struggle with writing and lack very basic skills. Over the past few years, I've come to value my writing proficiencies, which in turn has bolstered my confidence and sense of professional self-worth.

Headshot of Madeleine Hart


Rose White 2015

Current job title 
Digital Producer at WZZM 13

 

Describe your current position 

I oversee all of our web content, which includes writing articles for the website, managing social media, and developing multimedia elements for stories. Additionally, I copyedit other reporters’ stories before they are published. I am also an assignment desk editor, so I track breaking news and help determine what we are going to cover. 

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Writing comprises a lot of what I do, from writing web articles to editing articles from other reporters. Some of the articles are just short updates or stories, but some are longer more developed stories in which I’ve reported on the topic. All of the writing that I do is digitally-based, so I write within the limitations, but also the freedom that the internet allows. This means I am not just writing, but also figuring out how to best present the reporting with multimedia elements, like galleries, infographics, and timelines. Finally, I often use my background with writing when acting as a copyeditor. 

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduating from GVSU, I decided to pursue journalism because I always loved my magazine writing and creative nonfiction classes. And I was interested in learning how to report and pair those skills with my writing experience. I ended up getting an MA in Journalism from a school in England. The university worked closely with a local BBC station, and I had the opportunity to learn from seasoned journalists there. After finishing that program, I moved back to the United States and did quite a bit of freelancing. I worked for two local papers and for an independent publishing company. Then I applied for the position at WZZM 13 and went through a few rounds of interviews before starting there.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
I think the biggest thing for me was how much we learned how to think about the audience in a piece of writing—i.e. the classic rhetorical triangle (yes, it’s helped me after graduation). In the journalism field, our audience is a very important factor that helps shape our decision-making and news coverage. Every day, I am deciding if our station should cover something or put something on our website and one of the major filters is: how this is relevant to our audience? Through the writing program, a foundation of this kind of critical thinking was developed. At my current position, I find myself often relying upon that kind of thought process. While audience is the factor I find myself typically accounting for, the other elements of the rhetorical triangle often come into play. Accounting for the writer (me), especially in journalism, is a crucial element. I have to make sure that my personal filters and opinions do not limit or shape our coverage. But on the other hand, I also have to use my knowledge, particularly of this area, to guide the coverage. The purpose and context are also important—but I find myself most often thinking about the other two parts of the triangle. 

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
For future/current writing majors: The writing program at Grand Valley is wonderful. You have the opportunity to try so many different aspects of writing. It’s worth taking the classes you aren’t so sure about because it will make you a more well-rounded writer. Also, visit the Writing Center. Everyone—even writing majors—can use help and feedback on their writing. 

For current majors nearing graduation: There's not one route to take after college. There are so many paths you can take with the writing degree, and even then, there are so many ways you can achieve your goals. So, my biggest piece of advice is to figure out what you want to do with your degree—whether it’s creative writing, professional writing, design, editing, journalism, etc.—and make a plan for how you can establish yourself in that field. Also, when applying for jobs or internships, persistence is key.

Headshot of Rose White


Nancy Finney 2011

Current job title 
Technical Editor at the National Environmental Health Association

 

Describe your current position 

In my role as a technical editor, I have the unique challenge of developing learning materials for disciplines such as food science, manufacturing, law, microbiology, and public policy. I work with scientists, authors, and subject matter experts to create quality trainings.

I’m also a freelance writer for The Hypist – a music journal, and Westword – an alternative weekly Denver-based newspaper. I also perform original poetry and music around Denver.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
I utilize writing constantly with my work. I edit content to make it more accessible and logically organized. I also write press releases, develop copy for advertisements and books, and write articles about various products and programs. I use my writing and creative talents to help employ difficult concepts and work with a production assistant, instructional designer, and graphic designer to create online courses.

For my freelance work, I get to be even more creative and write about fun concerts, artists, and events that I attend. I also have been recorded doing poetry interviews and make music videos and write songs for an electronic artist – all of these are inspired by the creative writing courses I had in my undergraduate years.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
What a journey! I actually began my career back in Michigan and received my Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Valley. My career experiences are diverse; I’ve been employed as an education analyst, activity leader for at-risk youth, and managed marketing and public relations for political campaigns. After completing a research position with the Provost’s Office at my alma mater, I embarked on an adventure to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. While living in the mountains, I mentored inner-city students on a horse, llama, and alpaca ranch. I later moved to Denver to be a fiscal administrator for non-profit groups and political action committees. Now I finally landed in a place that balances my interests in science, finance, writing, and public policy.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
Finding the balance between your voice and the reader's ears. The courses that discussed thinking about things from the reader's point of view have had a significant impact on my ability to create educational content and also to write about my music experiences in a way that others can enjoy. I try to always step outside the "author" mindset and really think about how to design, organize, and write for the reader and audience instead. I think this has brought great success to the courses and my published works, as well as my music.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
The best way you can become a good writer is by writing and reading. Practice these; employ them constantly. When writer's block arrives, read something invigorating, attend a poetry reading or author event, or do something you’ve never done before. Explore until you’re inspired. Go to the library, find yourself lost in the 811 section…and remember that you, too, can have a book on the shelves. Don't give up.

Nancy Finney Headshot


Sami Birch 2013

Current job title 
Customer Resource Management Administrator

 

Describe your current position 

As a CRM Administrator, I manage the Customer Resource Management (CRM) system, Salesforce, for JR Automation in Holland, MI. My position is a unique blend of Operations and IT in that I work with our Sales and Quoting teams to understand and develop business processes, and from those decisions, customize our Salesforce system to come alongside them to assist in execution and automate some processes that were once manual and inefficient. I also create and manage all of the Salesforce metric reports and dashboards that our leadership teams use to run the business--from lead generation and financial metrics to team performance tracking, and more.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
I use writing and design to develop training materials, write instructions, and when working with our marketing team.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduation from GVSU, I joined JR Automation as a technical writer and worked with our business unit teams to write instructional manuals for custom automated manufacturing equipment. After two years of technical writing, I transitioned into JR's marketing department, working with social media, document design, website content development and design, etc. In 2016, our team was implementing a CRM system, and I was offered the position of CRM administrator. It has been a great learning experience so far, and I only expect it to continue!

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
The Document Design and Writing for the Web courses.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Be open minded to what you don't know, and always be willing to learn something new. 

Sami Birch Headshot


Allie Oosta 2011

Current job title 
Sr. Project Manager, Head of Strategy & Planning for Amazon Fashion Marketing (amazon.com/fashion).

 

Describe your current position 
I drive annual planning, goal-setting, and post-mortem analyses for a marketing organization of 65 and oversee a team of five focused on brand and customer insights; promotions and discount CX; marketing integration with innovation and technology; and global alignment with the Amazon Fashion teams in NA, EU, and Asia.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Amazon is a document-heavy workplace where strong business writing skills are highly valued. As part of my role, I individually craft and oversee the creation of several key documents for an organization of 65, including: a 2-5 year strategy, an annual integrated marketing strategy, and an annual operational plan (a financially-driven document outlining headcount, budget, projects, and goals). My ability to tell a cohesive and compelling story within these documents directly impacts leadership and team buy-in, while clarity and actionability within these documents directly correlates to the team's ability to execute. I'm also asked 2-3 times a month to read, review, and weigh in on other team member's documents and assist them in editing and revising.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduation, I served as an editorial intern at Seattle Met Magazine. Six months after graduation and three months into my internship, I was hired as a copywriter at Amazon. I've now been at Amazon for six years in various roles (Copywriter, Copy Project Manager, Brand Marketing Project Manager, Sr. Project Manager). As of last month, I was promoted to a manager level, overseeing the Planning and Strategy team for Amazon Fashion Marketing. Though I didn't realize it in college, my strengths as a writer/storyteller are directly suited to marketing and the task of reaching and engaging with customers.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
During my junior and senior years, the writing faculty offered several opportunities for writing majors to attend career talks with professional world writers. I recall this series as a turning point for me, when I looked up from my homework and actually started to consider what kind of vocation I would pursue after graduation. Magazine writing had that same impact. I started to conceptualize what it meant to be a freelance writer/contributing writer as opposed to a staff writer, and I learned how to pitch a story (resulting in my first published article in Bitch magazine in 2011).

The Distinction in Writing program was also hugely beneficial. College for me was a fast-paced experience centered around short-term deadlines. Before working on my Distinction in Writing, I hadn't spent much time reflecting on what I was learning or being mindful about pursuing more out-of-the-classroom experiences.

Lastly, the Advanced Style and Technique course had a significant impact on me as a professional. The course was designed to give students the skills to become better readers and deeper critical thinkers. It changed the way I thought about myself as a communicator. I began to see how strong, clear, specific feedback could be the difference between a team or project’s failure and its success. Over time, I learned to ask for specific feedback if and when I wasn’t receiving it—as a copywriter at Amazon, this was a game changer. As the scope of my roles expanded at Amazon, I applied the tools I learned in Advanced Style and Technique to concepts beyond writing—I learned how to ask for and provide specific feedback on ideas, plans, decisions, workflows, and team structures. These valuable skills allowed me to quickly progress at Amazon, and more importantly, they allowed me to earn trust with my peers and superiors as someone who was always listening, engaged, and dedicated to learning and improving.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Try to involve yourself in as many out-of-the-classroom experiences and programs as possible. I worked as a writing consultant and then lead writing consultant at the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors; attended and presented at writing center conferences like ECWCA; served as the Assistant Poetry Editor and then Editor-in-Chief for fishladder; volunteered to facilitate creating writing exercises for elementary-aged students at Shawmut Hills Elementary; participated in the Student Reading Series; attended writer series readings, and beyond. These experiences collectively taught me the most about myself (skills/strengths/interests) and were immeasurably more meaningful to future employers than my GPA.

Headshot of Allie Oosta


Grayson (DeYoung) Mack 2015

Current job title 
Senior Technical Writer

 

Describe your current position 
I work at a Software as a Service (SaaS) organization. We build software products that other business's use for their improving their email marketing programs. I am in charge of writing and developing content that customers find inside of our products’ user interface. I help with everything from the entire website's information architecture to evolving our voice and tone to writing button labels.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Writing is my entire role!

To get all of this done, I have to work extremely close with our User Experience Design teams and Product Managers to craft helpful, frictionless content experiences. I also help maintain our company's Help Center where customers can find additional information about using our products, troubleshooting issues, and more.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
When I was graduating in the spring of 2015, I was looking at everything from content marketing positions to editorial assistant positions. There was a lot I knew I could do with my writing degree, and it was a bit overwhelming. But after doing more research, I became interested in the world of technical writing in software companies. I reviewed job descriptions (of jobs that I didn't yet qualify for) to see the career path and evolving responsibilities of a technical writer. Essentially, I found out I had a misconception of what a technical writer's responsibilities are and discovered the role was fit for someone with writing expertise (duh), project management, and an interest in design and content strategy. I started focusing my applications on the companies that had these roles. I discovered an internship at my company and applied. I went through a few interviews and then was offered the internship. Halfway through the internship, I was offered a full-time position.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
I truly believe that the focus on collaboration within the classroom heavily influenced my success in this role. Working with other writers, learning how to talk about writing and design-related concepts, being able to defend your choices—all of these things related to communication and shared project ownership are crucial in my day-to-day world.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
First, the more traditional "practical advice": The skill set you gain from a writing degree is hugely marketable. It applies to a lot of industries and roles. Don't feel like you need to box yourself into one position, whether it be teaching, publishing, or something else. Explore different outlets where you can flex those writing skills in interesting and new ways. And if you are set on a specific career, I would still suggest doing this as it will be a great way to have more diversity in your experience and expertise.

Second, the more personal advice: Believe in yourself. That's super cheesy, I know. But writing, even when building software, is personal. Whether it's from the way you write a poem to a technical procedure, you're using emotion to create something that's going to be consumed by others. That does take guts and a lot of skill. So be confident in that skill set, and rely on it whenever you question yourself. (And if you need help with this, talk to professors in the Department of Writing. I got this advice from Professor José, and it truly is one of the reasons I've already gotten this far in my career.)

Headshot of Grayson (DeYoung) Mack


Breanne LeJeune 2007

Current job title 
Communications Specialist for The Ohio State University Department of English, the Center for the Study of Teaching and Writing, and the Center for Folklore Studies.

 

Describe your current position 
My job primarily consists of conducting research and creating and executing campaign strategies; brand development and graphic design; writing poster copy, web content and feature stories; website design, content development, and management; social media content development and management; undergraduate recruitment strategy development and execution; alumni and donor communication; event planning, coordination, and promotion; and collaborating with the college and university marketing teams. I also supervise a student communications team of four English majors who help fulfill the day-to-day communications needs of the department.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
In some form or another, I write and design every single day, often simultaneously, which is my preference. I pursued training in graphic design, photography, and book arts throughout my undergraduate and graduate education, and working in marketing allows me to maximize these interests. I am responsible for writing and designing for web, social media, e-communication, college- and university-level communication; and print marketing. I design posters, flyers, postcards, books, newsletters, etc., which requires me to think carefully about the relationship between text and image to most effectively capture my audience's attention and communicate information clearly, creatively, quickly, and persuasively.

I write short copy for posters and college announcements; develop messaging strategy and style, write content for social media (Twitter and Facebook), write copy for email campaigns, and write feature stories for e-newsletters and print magazines. I also perform a lot of proofreading and editing of my student team's work. Often, I have to translate the same message across five or six different platforms. This requires a strong understanding of rhetoric--the key to the universe!--a concept I first became acquainted with through my work in the GVSU Writing Center.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduating from GVSU, I attended the University of Alabama, where I earned an MFA in creative writing (poetry & nonfiction) in 2011. From 2011 to 2015, I worked as an early childhood educator in Columbus, Ohio, and then in Kalamazoo, Michigan. From 2015-16, I worked at the Western Michigan University Writing Center and in the Department of Geology, where I managed graduate admissions, taught graduate-level writing workshops, helped design a new writing curriculum, consulted on writing pedagogy, guest taught, and fulfilled all of the department's marketing needs. In late 2016, I began work at Ohio State in the position I hold now.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
I had an overwhelmingly positive experience as a writing major at GVSU. I chose to attend GVSU because it was a writing program and not an English program with a writing emphasis. In this way, I benefited from an in-depth education in two different creative writing genres (poetry and nonfiction) and from working with enthusiastic and supportive professors. I also worked in the Writing Center for several years, which was absolutely invaluable. I got to know other ambitious writers from across the university, learned how to teach and articulate writing to a wide variety of learners, and, through leading workshops in classrooms, I got to observe and learn from the teaching styles of countless writing faculty. This experience helped to increase my awareness of my own writing, writing process, and teaching approach--all of which gave me leg up in graduate school where I also worked in a writing center before teaching composition, research and argumentation, literature, and creative writing classes. Lastly, I also took advantage of the opportunity to work on the editorial staff of fishladder, and I coordinated the Student Reading Series, both of which gave me valuable administrative experience.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
1) Begin your major classes early, and get to know the writing faculty (visit office hours!).

2) Take advantage of the extracurricular opportunities the department has to offer: Join the staff of a literary magazine (or two or three!); attend readings, give readings, and help coordinate readings; and work at the Writing Center.

3) Cultivate interests in non-writing-related subjects. Take your GE classes seriously: research all of your options and take classes that sound interesting or that you might not otherwise ever consider. Having the freedom to explore new subjects and ideas is what a liberal arts education is all about, and it is particularly important for writers. One of the most important classes I ever took at GVSU was a GE course about the scientific revolution.

Headshot of LeJeune


Megan Smith 2012

Current job title 
Operations Manager for VerTech Solutions Group

 

Describe your current position 
As a member of our leadership team, I'm responsible for integrating the strategic vision of the company by managing and driving revenue production, process innovation and implementation, and human resource planning and training.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Clear, concise writing is the backbone of success within my position. Whether I'm writing an email to the team describing a process change or developing a persuasive PowerPoint presentation to help win over a new client, my writing must not only be professional and articulate, it must also inspire action and adoption. Unfortunately, we don't have the availability to call a meeting every time we have information to share, so written communication is critical for informing, persuading, and inspiring the action we need to be successful.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduation, I started a job as a Document Imaging Specialist at an asphalt company, which means I spent 8-hours a day scanning every paper file from the past 30 years for online storage. It was the opposite of stimulating work, but it gave me the head space and time to think about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing. It was during this time that VerTech Solutions Group, a cloud software company, reached out to offer a part-time, remote job opportunity as Technical Communications Specialist. After three months working remote from Iowa, they asked me to relocate and take on a full-time job in Denver, Colorado. Naturally curious about how things work, I took on more and more responsibilities within my role—everything from software training and CRM development to website design to even managing payroll. After three years, I was promoted to Operations Manager and became a member of the leadership team. As our company grows, so too does my position, which is exactly what I love about it.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
I frequently think about the Business Communications course that I took with Professor Toth my junior year, specifically when writing difficult emails to the team or our clients. Writing emails is an art form, and the principles I learned in that class help me on a daily basis. I also saw huge benefits from the Writing for the Web classes I took with Professor Royer. Though I no longer manage our company's website, understanding the basics of HTML and CSS has greatly supported my overall software development knowledge, a critical piece to driving the operations of a team who is developing within these frameworks.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
While in college, get a part time job in the field you want to be in. Then, get another job in something slightly different. Then, for good measure, try one more. Not only will you begin to determine what you do or do not like, but you will be able to immediately apply the concepts and principles that you are learning in class. For me, application has always been critical in truly learning a subject, and working in a variety of writing-focused jobs provided context to further enhance my education. Also, take "Large Boat Sailing" as one of your elective classes because you live in Michigan and should sail at least once in your life!

Headshot of Megan Smith


Jacqueline Bull 2016

Current job title 
Assistant Editor for the San Diego Jewish Journal

 

Describe your current position 
I write articles for the San Diego Jewish Journal, edit articles, take a little bit of photography, and manage the CMS.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
I write articles about different organizations and people in the San Diego community and what is important to them and what effect they are trying to make on the world.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
I did a few different jobs and internships during my time at GVSU. In the summer semester after I graduated, I had an internship with Current Magazine in Ann Arbor. After my internship was completed, I stayed on as a staff writer for over a year. Then, I moved to San Diego and began working at the position I'm in now.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
I think the writing major at GVSU provided a great foundation for how to think about writing and understand how to be critical and discerning about the ways to write in different contexts. We also learned about the legacy of the discipline and learning who came before you and figuring out where you see yourself in the community, which wouldn't necessarily be something you learn on the job.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
My advice would be not to expect that going to class and doing the work is enough to prepare you for life after college. If you want to grow as a writer, you need to be engaging socially with your peers and talking and sharing your work outside of class. I really enjoyed and valued the classes, but some of the most important learning was through my time working at the writing center, getting involved with fishladder, talking with my professors at office hours, and making meaningful friendships with other writers.

Everyone will tell you "Get involved!" and that is true, but I think the real message is take advantage of the environment you are. Benefit from the people that are around you and grow and challenge each other. Who makes you laugh in class? Whose writing do you connect with? They want to be your friends, too. I think sometimes the "Get Involved!" message reads as more about padding your résumés, and that is important, but it is really about the value of having other writers as friends.

Jacqueline Bull's Headshot


Kenny Porter 2015

Current job title 
Marketing Coordinator/Content Developer for Tonic as a part of Gilson Graphics and a freelance comic book writer

 

Describe your current position 

Marketing Coordinator/Content Developer – Gilson Graphics

My role as a Marketing Coordinator and Content Developer is to generate copy, concepts, and creative solutions for clients. I work with a dedicated marketing team inside Gilson called Tonic that services clients both locally and nationally for creative services. This includes developing promotional campaigns, designing packaging, writing content, and managing social media. A typical week in my position includes generating web content for clients, proofreading copy for advertisements or packaging, managing social media accounts, and generating sales samples. Most of my work revolves around different types of writing or generating ideas.

 

Freelance Writer – Comics/Fiction/Content Development

Writing comics freelance is a bit more of a unique position. It’s a healthy balance between working on licensed work for companies like SEGA and doing creator-owned projects like Barnstormers. I typically work with editors to flesh out story ideas and then pitch ongoing series, miniseries, or original graphic novels. In the case of assigned work, I have to outline the story, get the story approved, and then write with editorial notes from the company. Creating comics is a team effort. I work with artists, colorists, letterers, and editors all across the world on multiple titles at a time. Most of this includes creating my own work for pitching, which means I’m essentially a writer and a project manager/producer on my own titles.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Writing is a major part of my job description at Gilson Graphics. My job is to create concepts, copy, and content for 3D print projects, proposals, website content, and official documents. My freelance work is all writing and ranges from writing comic book adaptations for SEGA to creating promotional branding copy, blog posts, and social media strategies.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After my graduation from GVSU, I started work as a copywriter with Create and Craft and began booking jobs as a freelance comic book writer. I then took a position with Tonic inside Gilson Graphics that started as a freelance project, but soon blossomed into a full-time position.

My freelance work took off when I was found by a creative agency in California that tapped me to write comic book adaptations for SEGA's Yakuza franchise. Since then I've also been self-publishing comics and graphic novels with my most recent being Barnstormers! through Kickstarter. That project landed me my agent, who represents me in all matters that have to do with my original graphic novels or fiction works. I've also started editing other comic book series as a freelance comic editor and content developer.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
The ability to choose my own modules and craft my own degree was key. My unique blend of fiction, manuscript development, and writing for the web prepared me for the type of career I wanted to have. For me, it was always about doing half professional writing and half creative writing. The skill sets you learn in each area easily bleed into each other and can help you develop as a writer.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Finish your projects. All of them. Don't leave short stories you've done for classes at the bottom of your stack or leave them to collect digital dust on your hard drive. Always make contacts outside of academia in your industry and don't rely on one source of writing for your income or pleasure. I love writing and producing comics and fiction, but I also love having steady work on the professional side.

Kenny Porter Headshot


Josh Buck 2016

Current job title 
Marketing Generalist

 

Describe your current position 
I work in the marketing department for four fiberglass boat brands (Four Winns, Glastron, Scarab Jet, and Wellcraft) with models ranging from 16-37ft. I handle copywriting, press releases, digital/print advertising, content management and web design, all aspects of social media, varying boat testing/driving, and also act as a salesperson at boat shows.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Writing fully relates to my everyday work life as I copywrite for the web, social media, and print media (catalogs, brochures, press releases etc.). I design and develop advertisements, photography, banners, sell sheets, annual information guides, and consult on new strategies for reaching our dealers/consumers. I use the techniques I developed from GVSU's writing program on a consistent, daily basis.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
My path at GVSU truly led me where I am today. I always knew I wanted to be a marketer, but the writing department allowed me to immerse myself in that passion. And yes, I followed my passion for marketing through GVSU's writing program! The knowledge I obtained in writing and design helped me figure out my strengths and weaknesses. I sincerely wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for all the time I spent developing my writing skills, design methodology, and public speaking abilities.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
The modules I completed had a powerful impact on my professional standing. Writing for the web, writing with technologies, and magazine writing truly boosted my skills as a writer and designer. My minor in advertising and public relations also played a large role in my abilities to see how the smallest details can make or break a design. Finally, my writing internship was a promising step towards getting me ready for the professional world.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Don't be afraid to try new avenues of writing. There are endless opportunities for a writer, and most of the time we get to change the rules on what works. The writing major at GVSU lets you find what best suits you. Finding out what type of writer you are is easy through the program. And it may sound small, but keep asking questions! Finding your path is not a journey that should be traveled alone. 

Headshot of Josh Buck


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 May 10, 2018