Challenge Journal #3: Missed Opportunities

When I thought about an assignment that I would love a chance to re-do with thirteen weeks of useful guidance, I couldn’t come up with anything at first until I remember the policy brief on transportation that I wrote as part of my semester in DC. The fact that this assignment barely came to mind is already a sign of how little importance it had to me – especially as it was just written in December and (technically) was a semester long project! It had all the potential to be something interesting, but I’m not proud of it, nor do I even consider it a “real” paper I’d want to share.

The fifteen page paper was written within the span of a week after 3 topic changes and some barebones guidance from the professor, whose main concern was that I simply “make him an expert” for when he went to dinner parties. Because he was my direct audience, and that minimal level of detail and analysis was what he wanted, I didn’t let myself focus on the topics that really interested me, about transportation or any other policy topic. I let myself be limited by his concerns instead of pushing back on his desire for a basic, explanatory policy brief. Because of the lack of inspiration, I ended up writing lackluster sentences, such as “reliable and efficient transportation is of key importance to all Americans” and “although the fund was created in 1956, the Mass Transit Account within the Highway Trust Fund was created in the late 1980s.” When I read it back, I can almost hear the dryness and boredom in my voice, a tone that does nothing to appeal to a wider audience.

If I could re-do this assignment, I would take more ownership of the final product and use it to figure out how to write a brief that doesn’t bore me and a research paper that sounds exciting and worthwhile. I know there are ways to be creative and write efficiently and beautifully in a research paper — another shot at this paper would have given me a chance to try.

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