Alumni in Action

Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Oswald

Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Oswald

Describe your current position. 

In my role as Scientific Marketing & Communications Manager at Genemarkers, I am responsible for the success of the Genemarker’s brand. I create and implement strategies and tactics that will build brand awareness, arm our sales team with the right tools and information to win accounts, and demonstrate our value as a genomics expert to both clinical and biotech research audiences.


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

In this line of work, writing is like walking. You have to do it to get anywhere. Dorky little metaphors aside, the ability to write with the three Cs (be clear, be concise, be compelling) is vital. On a daily basis, I am writing emails to potential customers, case study reports, product feature articles, webinars, sales presentations, internal announcements or campaign pitches to leadership.


Briefly describe your path from graduation at GVSU to your current position. 

I graduated GVSU in 2012 as a Professional Writing major with minors in Advertisement/Public Relations and Art. I’d like to say that chose these strategically so that I would graduate with a great skillset for work in marketing communications (MarCom as it is known in the field). Honestly, at the time just I wanted classes that double dipped credit requirements, that met in the late afternoon, and that matched my interests in art and design. Marketing as a discipline has two fairly distinct paths – one that is more left-brained (market research, product management, pricing, and analysis) and one that is more right brained (branding, communications, copywriting, digital media). I am a right-brained creative all of the way, and my choice of major and minors has served me very well in MarCom. My first career jobs had me as a jack-of-all-trades. I conducted photoshoots, set up Google Analytics reports, negotiated advertising contracts, and served as a project manager for product launches and tradeshow events – while doing core work writing copy and creating marketing collateral. This variety was great exposure, deepened my understanding of effective communication, and sharpened my time management skills. Then, a few years ago, I found myself wanting more focus and meaning. I wanted my work to make an impact, and I wanted the mission of the entity I worked for to better humanity somehow. I made the jump into the biotech industry and have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of turning highly technical scientific content into memorable, engaging marketing moments. With this current role, I am getting the chance to put my whole professional self to the test and actually lead a brand, manage a team, own the creation and deployment of our marketing strategies, and hopefully grow the company.


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

There were a few courses that stand out as pivotal to my growth as a writer and communicator: Writing with Style (how to edit yourself and not be a flowery dolt), Advanced Document Design (how to structure information and not exasperate your reader), and Fiction Writing (how to craft a narrative and not be boring). I also had the opportunity to be part of the editorial staff of fishladder my senior year, and that was a wonderful lesson in collaboration and publication.


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

A few key things come to mind: 

  1.  Trust deep down in your soul that being a solid writer makes you valuable in any profession

    I don’t think that is hyperbole. You are not wasting your precious dollars on becoming a starving poet, nor are you doomed to writing safety manuals for a tchotchke company just to make a living. Speaking at least to the marketing communications field, you can make a comfortable living and love your work at the same time. Think of it this way – any one trying to make a difference has something to say, and you can help them say it well. 
  2. Increase the amount of four-letter-words you give about your classwork

    I was a chronic procrastinator in college because it “worked for me.” I was getting through my coursework well enough, holding a good GPA, and doing so while also starting assignments at 3:00 am the night before they were due because I had spent my day doing things like learning to make pho from scratch instead. And while I can make a pretty solid pho broth now, I know I missed out on meaningful learning and insights from my professors because I had not cared enough to take the work more seriously. I regret this, so take my advice and make the pho afteryou’ve done some heavy assignment lifting.
  3. Build classes into your schedule that will lend you new perspective

Ethics, Middle-Eastern history, public policy, gender studies, anthropology - your liberal arts requirements can feel like burden when you’re staring down a 17-credit semester with a bunch of prerequisites competing with your core classes. But good writing offers a unique take on the familiar. How better to start than to have experts teach you the unfamiliar


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Page last modified November 16, 2022