Alumni Spotlights

Grayson Mack 2015

What is your current job title?

Content Strategist 
 

Describe your current position.

At a high level, I own the content strategy across the support ecosystems for Google Photos, Google Duo, and Android Messages. This means that any time a user encounters an issue with one of my products, such as wanting to learn more about a feature, troubleshoot an issue, or get in contact with one of our support agents - I've given them the tools and information they need to do it. 
 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position?/What type of writing/design do you do for work?

I use writing every day to do my job; mostly, I use it to write project docs, proposals, team communications, and instructions for the writing team to execute projects. I design a lot of experiments, including defining the problem we’d like to solve, the experiment acceptance criteria (how to set up the experiment), the goals of it, and the next steps. 
 

Briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position
For context, my title trajectory is as follows: Knowledge Management Writer intern --> Technical Writer ---> Senior Information Developer / UX Writer--- > Content Manager ---> Content Strategist.

Overall, how I've landed in this role is my ability to understand a business (or product's) goals and user needs. Then, I develop content strategies to help meet those goals while improving the user experience. So, it's important to see the big picture of a business strategy but balance those motivations with your end user needs. Sometimes what a business needs at the moment is not the same as what an end user needs. And the work I do is really about helping the user succeed, and then showing the business how that helps them meet their needs in quick, efficient, and scalable ways. Beyond that, when I have the time, I look for work beyond my written job description to see how else I can make impact for an organization, group of people, product, etc. 

And as an extra aside, I have worked in predominantly male cross-functional teams. I've often been the only woman/person of color in a meeting. I've learned how to advocate for myself, my ideas, and my impact, and find others who will help advocate on behalf when I'm not in the room. I think that's been a large part in how I've landed in this position as well. 

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional?

1) Understand how to translate classroom experience into demonstrated skills/stories to put onto my resume or speak to during interviews.
I believe that I approached and treated school the same way I do with any full-time job. When you're working on projects, attending class--put in the work and effort. And document it! Save your projects, screenshot work, jot down notes about the challenges of an assignment and how you overcame them. And I know that sometimes life circumstances can take priority over this step, but when you are able to, really commit. 

2) Take relevant internships to anything related to content/writing. And if you can't, use whatever job or internship you have to stretch transferrable skills. 
With a whole lot of privilege, a dash of skill and luck, my three paying jobs my last two years of university were focused on writing. I completed two editorial internships on campus and worked as a Writing Consultant. Unpaid, but for the experience, I was a poetry editor for fishladder. This was my entire résumé as I started full-time job hunting. For those that can't have a similar graduating résumé, I suggest using whatever work you have (including classroom work) and focusing on growing your skillset in communication, collaboration, documentation, leadership, inclusivity, problem solving, etc. Those are the skills workplaces need, regardless if you learned that through working in a restaurant or on a magazine. 

3) Learn the workplace through studying job descriptions and titles.
This is pretty self-explanatory. I researched and studied the field of work I was interested in and understood what those companies were looking for. I aligned my experience and skills to those job descriptions to illustrate that I could do the work. 
 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley?

See question above and talk to people in the industries you're interested in, if you can. Take them out to coffee and learn from them, ask them thoughtful questions, tell them specifically where you need advice and guidance. 

Grayson Mack Headshot


Emily Boswell 2016

Current job title 

Digital Marketing Manager

 

Describe your current position 

I manage the social media sites for companies that make machines for food packaging, and food forming. For example, some make machines that form ground beef into burger patties. I also run the social media for Gaming Paper. They make grid paper and other such things for table top roleplaying games, like Dungeons and Dragons. 

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 

Writing plays a large roll in my job. My primary duty is to write and schedule content for the different pages and companies. When I'm not creating posts, I'm responding to comments and messages. Everything needs to be precise, error-free, easily understandable, and use a consistent, friendly tone. Occasionally, I will also make simple graphics featuring different machines from the food processing companies. Gaming Paper has an Instagram page, and I've had to brush up on some basic photography, and photo editing skills for that as well.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 

Before working as a Digital Marketing Manager, I worked in food service, mostly at Boardwalk Subs. I'm very lucky in that I work from home and might have the option to take my work with me to a new city. This will hopefully help me towards my goal of earning my Master of Fine arts in Fiction, and starting a career as a writing professor. 

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 

I'm grateful that I chose to be a writing major because it forced me to take classes outside of my comfort zone. The fact that GVSU offers a writing major, and not a creative writing major, is an important distinction. Because of this, I had classes in professional writing, design, writing for the web, and magazine writing. These opened my eyes to the world of professional writing, and gave me tools to help market myself when job hunting.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 

My advice to current and future writing majors at Grand Valley would be to take classes outside of your comfort zone. Being a writing major is more than workshop, as wonderful as it is. It's design, technical/professional writing, marketing, journalism, rhetoric, and more. The skills you learn will help you not only become better at your craft, but will help you in your future professional life. My other word of advice is to be patient with yourself after graduation. You might not land a job or get into grad school right away, but that's okay. Keep working hard, and it will happen before you know it. 

Emily Boswell Headshot


Meahgan Pear 2007

Current job title:  
National Senior Marketing Manager—Advisory at BDO USA LLP

 

Describe your current position: 

As part of the National Advisory Marketing team at BDO, I serve as a strategic advisor and spearhead the marketing efforts for the firm’s National Corporate Finance practice. In this position, I develop and lead the go-to-market strategies that drive brand awareness, market penetration, lead generation and client experience.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 

One of the reasons I love the profession of marketing is because we get to tell stories and create change. We are strategic storytellers for our brands and for our audiences. Whether it’s through thought leadership, a marketing campaign, brand story video, or even social content, I utilize my writing experience every day. It’s my job to create a connection with our audiences; communication and stories are at the heart of that connection. 

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 

I knew I always wanted to be a marketer, and I knew solid writing skills would be critical to my success in the marketing field. I started my marketing career in the nonprofit sector, which allowed me the invaluable opportunity to wear many different hats. It also allowed me to grow as a storyteller, as nonprofits are built on stories. After five years in the nonprofit sector, I transitioned into the world of accounting marketing serving as CMO for a local firm and then on to my current position at BDO. 

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
Our job as marketers is to communicate with our audiences, and strong, quality writing skills are the foundation of effective communication. The writing major at GVSU helped me hone these skills and develop a keen sense of story ideation that I still use to this day. It helped me learn the importance strategy plays in creating bold, creative messages, and it helped strengthen my appreciation for the beauty and power of the written word. 

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Write every single day—even if it’s only a few words. Writing is a craft, and it takes practice. Also, find your passion and share it with the world. 

Headshot of Meaghan Pear


Jessica Biegalle 2010

Current job title 
Creative Team Lead of Digital and Social Design at Meijer

 

Describe your current position 

In my current role, I manage a group of graphic designers and art directors who create digital content. This involves facilitating the creative process as my team designs websites, mobile apps, social media posts, photography, video, web banners, and other ad units. I provide feedback and guidance on design and copy and help build branded campaigns and style guides. I also manage the creative execution of art and copy for social media and lead the team in the creation of all Instagram content. 

I love being involved in all aspects of the creative process — seeing through my ideas from beginning to end is really fulfilling. Starting with initial pencil sketches and mood boards, art directing in the photo studio, and putting your work together in a final design with the perfect copy is really gratifying. I think the best part of working in a creative field is that there are always new ways to be inspired. I’m never bored.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 

While my current role is more visually focused, I find that it is always important for graphic design and copy to work together harmoniously, so I am often involved both. Both art and the words that accompany it should complement each other and that takes collaboration. I started off as a copywriter, and I still write copy occasionally. I also review all copy written for social media and provide feedback and guidance to writers as needed to ensure that the voice we write in is strong, unified, and true to the brand. 

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 

After graduation, I went to Honduras to teach English at an orphanage. It was a great experience that allowed me to exercise my Spanish minor and get outside of my comfort zone. When I came back, I worked a few odd jobs while I tried to find a position that would allow me to write. I found a job working as a designer/writer/photographer at a small fair trade company on the east side of Michigan. I learned a lot in that position, but ultimately wanted to be closer to Grand Rapids and found work as a copywriter at Meijer. I wrote web copy for four years. During that time, I was also doing a few graphic design projects and became very interested in exploring and building these new skills. I grew to love designing and art directing, and how I could impact visuals that would later pair with my words. I ended up joining the design team three years ago, and last year got promoted to my current position as team lead. My current role is part managing, and part design, but it’s a great balance and I very much enjoy both. 

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 

I think the workshop setting was really valuable to me and helped me grow quite a bit. That’s where I learned to respectfully give critiques and be critiqued. It was helpful to practice that so often. As a professional, so many opinions about design and copy are subjective, so knowing how to turn your subjective opinion in to concrete suggestions is really key when you’re trying to provide actionable feedback for your peers. The workshop setting also helped me learn how to receive feedback in a positive way, and how to put sensitivities aside and focus on improvement. I think I really got a lot out of the workshops, and they pushed me to want to be better.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 

Invest time in building your portfolio. Most creative managers I’ve worked with care much more about the portfolio than the actual resume. Proving your talent and skill through real examples is important. In the beginning of my career, I did whatever writing assignments I could get my hands on — even if it was for free or for very little pay. This way, when I went to interview for my first full-time copywriting position, I already had several projects to show my prospective employers. Ask friends, ask local business, ask around if they need any writing help. Experience is more valuable than money, especially in the beginning.

Headshot of Jessica Biegalle


Jarrett Weber 2014

Current job title 
Technical Writer for IBM Watson Health

 

Describe your current position 

I support internal and external users by maintaining a documentation library. I work on a team where everyone has their own set responsibilities, but we all work together to achieve the common goal of delivering simple, user-friendly documentation and training materials. Our documentation helps minimize the risk of mishandling data in the health industry. On a day-to-day basis, I regularly update and maintain documentation, learn internal tools, meet with SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), attend trainings, learn new technical writing skills, and develop continuing education and professional development materials. 

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Writing is involved in every aspect of my job, as my team is the main documentarians for the business unit. We write all of the documentation, and we are all responsible for making sure that our documentation adheres to strict branding guidelines. The design work I do is mainly part of our authoring systems and publishing applications. We must ensure that branding is correct and that all the headings, styles, and different aspects are applied properly so that end-users can quickly recognize our documentation. We run our finished documents through several internal tools to make sure that the language and branding requirements are accurate and consistent throughout the product offerings. 

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
During my time at GVSU, I completed several internships and worked as a writing consultant, which helped prepare me for graduation. After I graduated, I started working at a mid-size ERP company in Grand Rapids. There, I was introduced to the tech industry and got my first taste of all the complexities that come with real world application of products. I worked in this position for two years and tried to learn as much about technical writing as I possibly could during that time.

Once I moved from GR to the east side of Michigan, I took a technical writing position in the automotive industry. I wrote and designed the Quick Reference Guides for Nissan North America. A GVSU connection helped me obtain my current position that I recently started at IBM Watson Health.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
The strongest impact that came from the writing major was working with students and professors. All the advising sessions and projects helped me learn how to work productively. The conversations, swapping of ideas, and hearing other people’s opinions is truly a useful skill. 

As for courses, document design, visual rhetoric and document design, multimodal composing, advanced web writing, and intermediate fiction were heavily influential for me. The classes that focused on practice and producing something from a written word still impact me today. I changed the way I write because of those classes. 

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 

The first piece would be to set a goal and do everything to obtain that goal while staying true to yourself. That may mean learning to endure the outside world (which can be unforgiving). It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day activities and lifestyle of the major, but preparing for what comes next is crucial. You need to act and get going; graduation approaches much quicker than expected.

Another piece of advice I would give is to find a source of informative reading material and keep reading. Reading is a crucial part of writing. If you plan on being a technical or professional writer—you can expect to read blogs, training materials, and articles that challenge the processes of corporate ideology. It’s essential to learning new skills. If you plan on being a creative writer, the same advice applies. Your stories, ads, or other work will depend on what you are influenced by. Challenge the writers you’re reading mentally. Think about what they are writing and why they are writing it. 

Other pieces of advice would be to write constantly, complete internships, network, create a portfolio, and/or start a website. These will help give an extra edge when applying for new positions. You might also invest in additional learning: LinkedIn learning, Lynda.com, and YouTube are all great places to learn new skills. It’s important to stay sharp and learn new authoring tools. 

My last piece of advice is to be patient and enjoy the rollercoaster of life. When I graduated, I had a vision of how my life was going to go after college. Some parts, I had predicted for myself; other parts, I wouldn’t have predicted in a million years. Try not to let life interfere with your progress as a writer—stay focused. 

headshot of Jarrett Weber


Erika DeVriendt 2012

Current job title 
Advertising Copywriter at Leo Burnett Chicago

 

Describe your current position 

I concept ideas for advertisements across all mediums—think, TV spots, magazine ads, website content, social media, e-mails, in-store signage, and more. I sell the ideas to clients through storytelling and bring the ideas to life by overseeing them through production. Along the way, I write the headlines, scripts, and content within each project, and make consumers fall in love with brands through my dazzlingly clever words.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 

It's the basis for my career! My position requires me to be creative and produce and publish written work for global companies. 

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduating from GVSU, I accepted an Account Coordinator position at a Detroit advertising agency, Campbell Ewald. This was an entry-level position, without a focus on writing. From there, I remained within the company, working in account management. I expressed my interest in a copywriting position and leveraged my resources and connections at the agency to eventually land a junior copywriter position at a sister agency, Commonwealth//McCann. I have since re-located to Chicago, where I’ve had the opportunity to work on the SC Johnson account at TracyLocke, and my current position working on the MillerCoors account at Arc/Leo Burnett. 

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
Creative workshops—they really taught me how to handle constructive criticism on my work. I have to deal with that on a daily basis.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
The cool thing about the writing major is that it's obviously something we’re all passionate about. You can take it and use it in many different ways. You might not know which way that is right away, but you can leverage the program to help you figure it out. Writing can be a hobby AND a career—don't let anyone tell you otherwise! 

Headshot of Erika DeVriendt


Daniel Abbott 2012

Current job title 
Author

 

Describe your current position 

My debut novel, The Concrete was published in May, 2018 by Ig Books. I am currently on submission with several short stories and revising my second novel.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Since graduating from Grand Valley in 2012, I have been writing and publishing fiction. I was fortunate to land a few short stories at some smaller literary journals before my first novel became an all-consuming endeavor. I am currently working on publishing more short fiction as my second novel goes through its stages. 

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
I took a year off after graduation before attending the MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. At VCFA I worked exclusively on The Concrete, finishing six drafts in two years and began querying literary agents shortly after earning my degree in the summer of 2015. I signed with an agent later that year and spent another eight months revising my novel with her. The Concrete was sold to Ig Books in July of 2017. Then began the promotion, the book tour, and the beginning of my transition from aspiring to working writer. 

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
I came into the program as a nontraditional student with no formal writing experience. 

The workshop component was huge for my development as a writer. I studied fiction with Caitlin Horrocks and creative nonfiction with Sean Prentiss. Caitlin and Sean are both talented, hard-working writers and teachers. They did a wonderful job helping me develop my voice. I also had some great classmates who also contributed to my development as a writer.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Do not romanticize the craft of writing. It is work. Talent is fruitless unless you are willing to make sacrifices and deal with a ton of rejection. We all are our own brand of busy. Those that are actually publishing are setting an alarm clock or sticking to a rigorous routine of writing, revising, and repeating the process. Excuses are cheap in the publishing world. Sure, there is some luck involved, but the best approach to achieving publishing success and longevity is a strong work ethic.

Headshot of Daniel Abbott


Megan Rodawold 2016

Current job title 
Marketing Communications Specialist 

 

Describe your current position 
I work on the Marketing Communications team at Northern Illinois Food Bank, where my main responsibilities are storytelling, social media, branding and messaging, and materials development. 

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
Writing and design make up 99% of my job. For design, I create a lot of flyers, posters, newsletters, and social media graphics. Writing is a LOT more extensive – my work in this area ranges from blog posts, social media copy, and internal marketing materials to talking points, video scripts, brand guidelines, key messages, and both short & long-form stories.   

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduation, I moved to the Czech Republic to spend ten months as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at two secondary schools in the Eastern Bohemia region. When my Fulbright grant ended, I moved back to the Chicago area and began a one-year AmeriCorps VISTA term with Northern Illinois Food Bank. Immediately following the end of my VISTA year, I joined the Food Bank full-time as part of the Marketing Communications team.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
The many opportunities to workshop different pieces of writing. For one, workshops helped me learn how to give and receive thoughtful critique and also clearly taught me to distinguish between critique and criticism. The modules were really impactful as well, because I was able to experiment in different genres and styles, gain more skill with interviewing and long-form writing (thanks, Magazine Writing!), and learn to incorporate multimedia elements into my work. Lastly, the writing faculty’s emphasis on purpose, audience, and context affects the work I do each and every day. For me (and I’m sure for a lot of other people, too), nothing exists in a bubble; every piece of writing or design is not only handled by multiple people with individual perspectives and needs, but is also intended for many distinct audiences. Knowing how to customize a written or visual product makes the creation process much easier, and the end result much more effective than it would be otherwise. 

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Write as much as you can. Don’t be intimidated by unfamiliar genres, and take at least one class that makes you uncomfortable. Consider submitting to publications like fishladder, The Lanthorn, and The Rapidian. Learn to be flexible with style – not only will doing so help you grow your portfolio, but it’ll also create more opportunities in the future. Visit the Writing Center, because EVERYONE can benefit from peer review. Remember that sometimes corrections and critique from other people can be just a matter of style and opinion. Embrace your crummy first drafts; you can always revise later, but you can’t revise something you never wrote in the first place because you didn’t want it to be “bad.”   

Writing can sometimes feel like a really broad degree or like it’s not a particularly specialized skill. But there is immense and incredible value in not only the writing major at GVSU, but also in writing as a discipline – it’s SO important to many areas of your life. And once you find where your passions and interests intersect with writing, you’ll be amazed at the personal and professional possibilities you can generate!  

headshot of Megan Rodawold


Mieke Stoub 2013

Current job title 
Marketing Manager for Local First of West Michigan

 

Describe your current position 

I oversee and execute all marketing efforts for Local First of West Michigan and the Good For Michigan initiative. 

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
I write on a daily basis. Whether it's writing a clear email to stakeholders, updating website content, or designing promotional materials for the organization's programming, writing and document design are both integral to my job.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
The July after graduation, I took a part-time job working for a small nonprofit. It didn’t pay the greatest, but it used all the skills I had acquired during my education. I also took an unpaid internship with Local First to fill my time and gather more knowledge. Two years later, I outgrew the part-time job just in time for the position at Local First to open. I sent in my application package, interviewed, and was hired.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
The semester-long projects were really meaningful. They taught time-management and set the bar for the work I'd be doing in the workforce.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Build relationships intentionally and honestly. It’s more than swapping business cards at a mixer – it’s about following up and finding ways to collaborate in a meaningful way. It’s not only about "who you know,” it’s about "who knows you."

Headshot of Mieke Stoub


Tom Mitsos 2009

Current job title 
Copy editor for Gemini Media

 

Describe your current position 

I edit all articles for the company's three publications (Grand Rapids Business Journal, Grand Rapids Magazine and Michigan BLUE). I make sure stories are grammatically correct and align with AP style guidelines. I also check stories for factual errors and coach new reporters with style/writing questions.

 

To what extent does writing relate to your current position? / What type of writing/design do you do for work? 
If a story is missing information or awkwardly worded, I need to be able to re-write it in a way that succinctly conveys the message. I also write headlines for the print publications, which often require short and concise headlines. Each publication has its own voice, (the Business Journal is straight news writing, whereas BLUE is more flowery and poetic), so I have to ensure each story matches the voice of the publication. 

In addition to my full-time job, I do freelance work for a Detroit Red Wings website and have written for The Athletic.

 

Please briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 
After graduating, I contacted Mary Ullmer, who I had interviewed for a paper in college and was then the sports editor of The Grand Rapids Press. I was hoping for an internship, but she surprised me with a part-time job recording high school sports scores. After a year, I worked my way up to copy editor and split my time between that and as a high school sports reporter for seven years at The Press/MLive. In 2016, I was laid off from MLive and, again, reached out to a contact I had made during my internship at Gemini. Editor Carole Valade needed a copy editor when I was laid off, and I was offered the position about a month later.

 

What parts of the writing major had the strongest impact on you as a professional? 
Any classes that featured peer discussion on stories had a positive impact. If a reporter didn’t include important information that should be in a story, I need to be able to explain that but do it in a way so they don’t take it personally or don’t feel like I’m talking down to them. My internship at Gemini Publications gave me firsthand experience of how newspapers/magazines operate. I also learned the importance of changing my writing style to fit the publication.

 

What advice would you offer to current/future writing majors at Grand Valley? 
Take on as many internship opportunities as you can. Today's job market is all about who you know — make connections. Go to networking events and put yourself out there.

Headshot of Tom Mitsos


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


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.

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Page last modified April 24, 2019