People I’d like to impress for my evolution essay

My evolution essay is based on the idea of acquiring different “skills” as I’ve dabbled in more genres of writing. I move through these skills in an unspoken chronological order. I always thought of my audience as someone who is interested in my writing and the minor in writing committee who will be reading my work. I didn’t really think about people outside of these two audiences who would be interested, but I considered the following people I would like to impress with my essay:

A top expert in your field (business)

  • Warren Buffet, businessman and investor
  • His reaction: “What the heck is this??” In all seriousness, he would not know what this is and why he’s reading it. He writes an annual letter to his shareholders (a whopping 30 pages long for his 2015 letter!!) that focuses on his investments, why they’re going well or going badly, blah blah, so this topic specifically focused on writing might be foreign to him. But, I think he would appreciate the reflection and growth in my writing because he reflects about his company in these letters. He writes in a very conversational and easy to understand tone, which is an approach I’ve taken as well. I’d imagine he’d like the “skills” format I use because it’s something similar to a resume.

A close peer in the minor in writing

  • Kaitlynn , currently in my capstone section and was also in my gateway course
  • Her reaction: I imagine Kaitlynn would find the way I structured my essay a little boring. She told me she is using more of a “concrete theme” for her evolution essay. Mine is not necessarily creative in that aspect.

A peer from outside the minor in writing

  • Rachael, not in the Minor in Writing, but she works for Sweetland as a writing consultant and is an English major
  • Their reaction: I think she would be surprised about the different kinds of writing I’ve tackled. Since she works at Sweetland, she would understand what the essay is about and understand my progression. She actually read the nature essay that I talk about in my draft.

Someone who isn’t an expert in writing or in your field

  • Jun, computer science major who spends his whole day coding
  • Their reaction: I don’t want to discount Jun’s knowledge, but he doesn’t do much writing and just asked me the other day to read over a sentence he wrote. I think he would like this and think that it’s good that my writing has changed so much over the years. I would hope he likes reading my writing excerpts.

Well that was fun. Reflecting about people who I want to impress, I realized that an expert in my field (business) may not be the person I necessarily focus on because they wouldn’t understand the nature of the essay. They would think it’s cool to see my changes, but I think they would rather see actual examples of my work (or maybe something with graphs and stuff.) I think the “skills” format is helpful because they know what I’m able to do within my writing.

I think my friends who are either involved in writing or even not involved in writing would enjoy reading my evolution essay because it shows my growth as a person throughout college. But, I wonder if they would find the format boring… I enjoy it though, but maybe that comes down to formatting the aesthetics of the paper.

 

 

The maddening thing about my capstone project!!

The due date is creeping closer for the capstone project meaning that I’m closer and closer to seeing it being completely finished. (It doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of work to do on it though.)

For my project, I’m interviewing 16 students about their college experience either from being a first generation college student (first in their family to go to college) viewpoint or a continuing generation student standpoint. For the most part, these questions have been similar throughout to make the comparison between these two groups easier. The questions have garnered insight to what it’s like being a college student at the University of Michigan.

One question and concept has puzzled me as I transcribed the interviews: the lack of students going to office hours.

This isn’t an issue unique to first generation college students because many continuing gens have said the same thing. This is outside the scope of my project in finding out why that is, but this idea utterly confuses me because I’ve visited office hours throughout my years. It’s not that I go every week, but I’ve found myself visiting them at least once a semester for help.

Thoughts on Office Hours

Part of the reason I’m surprised is because professors serve as great writers of recommendation letters and since many people have aspirations of going to graduate school, I thought this would be an incentive for them to go talk to them. Most of all, professors are here to help, but nobody seems to be taking advantage of this. Some people have responded with the fact that they don’t need help, so they don’t feel the need to go. But, besides getting help professors have deep pockets of knowledge especially as we get further into our courses of study. Most professors are in academia (which not a lot of students want to do), but some have made the transition from the workplace to academia, so they have valuable insights about what actual jobs will be like in that field. It seems that for most upperclassmen, they know their professors better, but some have quoted that it’s a “weak spot” for them. Something that they’re still not really “good” at. I agree with this thought because sometimes I’ll be sitting in their offices and I don’t know what the heck I should say to them… Then there is the excuse of  “I don’t have time.” It seems like we need to make students realize that office hours is worthwhile.

What now?

To a freshman in a huge lecture hall, professors can seem intimidating, so how do we remove this stigma? I know I’ve gone to my GSI (graduate student instructor) and not the actual professor because they seem more approachable. I think the university needs to work on making professors and teachers more approachable for ALL students. While this wasn’t the direct goal of my project, I think it’s something that will benefit the entire student body and something I will mention in my final thoughts section of my project.

Go to office hours. Your professors are people too!

A picture has a lot of meaning

Everybody knows the thousand year old cliche, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but I don’t think we actually think about how true it actually as. There’s so much that a photo can show that couldn’t be done justice with only words.

We were tasked with doing a close read of an image (one we might use in our e-portfolio) and analyzing what everything in that photo meant. That includes its composition, lighting, body language of the subject, subjects of the photo, and a lot more stuff.

I chose this photo (which also happens to be my Facebook photo):

It’s me at Harry Potter World in front of Hogwarts. I thought this would be fitting for an “about me” picture. I think the lighting is great, and you can see the sunlight hitting my face.

I’m not the focus of the photo. Instead, the photo is aligned in a way where the background takes up most of the focus. Mainly because in this moment the photo wasn’t really about me, but it was about the place I was at. That moment was about me being AT Harry Potter World.

Interestingly enough, the outfit I’m wearing is similar to the other colors in the background. I’m wearing a mint green top that goes well with the blue sky and the green trees in the back. I think it adds to the overall cohesion in the photo (if there is such a thing as having a cohesive photo). It feels very balanced.

You can’t see the entire details of my face, but I’m definitely smiling which suggests that this is a good moment in my life. I think that’s also inferred by where I’m at. It suggests that I’m on vacation, it’s also a happy time in my life.

I guess one thing is that not everybody would know this is Harry Potter World. I’m not sure that if I saw this in the background of someone else’s picture I would know where this is without a caption. I don’t think that’s an issue if I were to use this in my e-portfolio because it isn’t showing off my travels, but just showing a picture of me and who I am.

I think the image communicates that I’m an easygoing person, just from the smile. Maybe even that I like nature based on how many trees there are in the background. I think the image conveys me as a pretty approachable person.

Looking at all these aspects of the photo, I’m not sure if I will end up using it because I have a few other pictures, but I do like this one. I plan my audience for the e-portfolio to be employers, and I don’t think it’s an issue that they would see this. It’s not a full professional head shot, but it’s a personal one that shows who I am. With many employers stressing the importance of work-life balance, I don’t think they would perceive this photo in any bad way.

 

Doing a close read of an image is helpful especially when putting it on the web for potential important people to see. Even if you’re just putting a photo on Facebook or Instagram, it’d be good to think about what this picture shows about who you are as a person. A picture does say a lot.

About my writing

We did some freewriting in class and I wasn’t sure what to expect because we didn’t know the question until it was given to us. They all related to reflecting on my writing though. Some of the questions were hard and some I knew the answer to right away. Regardless, it made me think.


 

1. What characterizes my writing at its best?

It’s a question that’s hard because it makes you think about all the writing that you’ve done. Both the good and bad. I feel like I know what I’m good at, but I’m not completely sure.

My best writing has come from a place of honesty where I’m honest with myself and the world. I think we need more of that in life. If I’m able to articulate my thoughts in the way I really feel, I know it is successful because there’s bound to be at least one person who shares those same feelings, but is afraid to articulate them. I guess it’s writing without fear of judgment or ridicule because then I know I have nothing to lose.

When there’s stuff holding me back, then I know the reader is missing something too. Looking at all the past genres I’ve done, I’d say the one I’m the best at is the personal narrative. I think it’s an area where I get to write honestly and it’s from my own experiences as well. In the world, we kind of blend in as we’re just one in the crowd, but with personal narrative it’s a way we can stand out and speak from our own experiences because nobody has seen the world like us before.

Sometimes I feel like my best writing comes from a topic that’s been on my mind for a while. Something that bothers me about the world or some commonality that I’ve noticed. It makes me think that I’m not the only one who notices and I want others to know they aren’t the only ones either.

2.

How will your project reveal something about me as a writer?

Tying in with the last part about my best writing coming from a topic that’s been on my mind. I’ve thought about my identity for a while, which is why I chose to take on this project.

I think my project will reveal the issues I care about. Coming in as a freshman, I definitely didn’t pay attention to social issues as much and I’ve seen that change in myself throughout the years. I’ve lived more of life, seen unfair things, and read the news. All of that has attributed to figuring out what’s important to me and what upsets me in the world.

Now with my project, it’s a commentary on higher education and social class. I think it’s a way to let people talk about things that they generally don’t get to talk about, and it’s a way to get people thinking. There are opportunities on this campus to tell their story, but sometimes you’re not in the right group or right place to hear about them. I don’t think the people who are self selected to talk about their stories can represent everybody, so I think my project is about giving a voice to people. Now I recognize there is self selection because I’m choosing people to interview, but I’m trying to a variety of people in my contacts.

I think writing is sometimes seen as an individual process, but since I’m doing interviews I’m involving other people which shows that I can’t do writing alone. I’ve evolved as a writer with the help of other people.

3. What do you still not know about yourself as writer?

An answer to this question immediately popped into my mind! Am I good writer?

Good is very subjective, but as I’m graduating with this minor in writing, I don’t know if I am a good writer. I feel like I’ve improved, but I don’t know for sure… (class grades, people’s opinions, etc). I think some people would look at my writing and think that it’s average, but I hope that for the most part I’ve gone beyond that.

I don’t think there’s a concrete answer to my question, but I’ve tried to dabble in different areas of writing throughout my time here to try to make myself a good writer. I think I’m still trying to figure out what genre I excel in. I’d like to say it’s personal narrative, but in a way I don’t want it to be only that one. I don’t know… I feel like there’s a lot I don’t know about myself as a writer because I’m also still trying to figure out who I am as a person too. I wonder if I’ve taken enough risks as a writer… I feel like I took a leap pursuing this minor, so maybe I have.


 

These questions made me think about my writing and how far I’ve come. I think this type of reflection is good for thinking about my evolution essay.

Peer Review of Early Capstone Project Draft

Just as a reminder: my project is comparing the lives of first generation college students and continuing generation college students focusing on all class levels from freshmen to seniors. I am doing this through a series of long form interviews. My final product will be a website to house all of these interviews.

It’s good that we had to do a mock up and write up an introduction for our project. In my mind, I planned to create my website ahead of time, so I could plug all my interviews in when I had them instead of worrying about aesthetics. In the process of creating my mock up out of rectangles and squares in Word, I wanted something more tangible, so I went ahead and created my website.

This step alone made me feel good coming into workshop. I actually had something tangible after all of the brainstorming we’ve done in class. After hearing my peers’ feedback from seeing the actual website was even better because they enjoyed the layout. It was helpful to hear some idea’s about what I could do with my website like hovering over a person’s image and seeing one of their quotes. Unfortunately, I don’t think Wix has this capability. I didn’t send out my link to my peers yet, but I think that would’ve been helpful for them to have it in front of them, so they could give me feedback on the user interface.

I think the biggest role that research will come into my rough draft is inspiration (I have some good models). There are so many beautifully created websites, and I might see something I like even more than my current design.

The biggest next step to making this into a complete working draft will be conducting interviews because then I will have even more tangible stuff to work with!! Having this website created made me want to go ahead and conduct interviews instead of waiting until after break. I am actually meeting up with a few people before spring break!

I’m happy with how everything is coming along so far.

The Piece I Wish I Wrote

“What do you wish you had written?”

It’s definitely an odd question because it hints at regret, and as a senior, I have been thinking about what I wish I would have done both academically and socially. I’ve always been attracted to pieces that inspire using personal experiences because it brings out the author’s personality along with the author’s creative approach. There is one piece that I wish I wrote which appeared in the Yale Daily News, Yale’s student newspaper (the equivalent to the Michigan Daily):

The Opposite of Loneliness

This is a short piece you have to read if you are about to graduate. There’s a haunting feeling about this piece because the author passed away in a car accident just a few days after graduation. The main argument of the piece is this idea of what happens after graduation and how it’s ok to not have it all figured it. She reflects on this term “the opposite of loneliness,” which we don’t have a word for, but she describes what this feeling is like. It’s not necessarily a feeling of having a ton of friends, but feeling that you’re not on your own. A feeling I completely understand and feel myself. Keegan writes this specifically about Yale, but it’s also so generalized that I can apply the same ideas to my experience here at Michigan as well. All I have to do is replace “Yale” with “Michigan” instead. Writing like this is powerful because it targets more than one audience.

“Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year.”

Part of the reason I wish I wrote this myself is that this whole piece is so relatable (as cliche as that is) and easy to read. I identify with knowing that I’m going to lose my circle of people here that I can easily call if I ever need help or if I’m bored. I love that her writing is short and concise. The sentence structure makes it’s very easy to read and delivers each of the points well. With the short sentence structure, it really makes me think about each point as I come across it.

“We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young.”

I wish I had written this article because I feel like this is something I could have written. There’s honesty and wittiness and insecurity littered throughout, which are things that I admire in other people’s writings. I think the idea of the “opposite of loneliness” is intriguing, and I had to google “antonyms lonely” just to make sure that this claim she makes of not having an exact word to define this term is true. I found that the closest antonym is “popularity,” but I’m not sure if that even fits into the way Keegan defines it. So, Keegan defines this term in her own way which gives this piece even more of a personal touch.

Keegan takes what can be a cliche topic about graduating and moving into the real world and gives the reader a new way of looking at it. I hope to be able to do the same thing and write about a topic that’s been written about before in a new way. For my capstone project, I’m looking at the topic of first generation college students and there have been articles done about them before, so I do have to see what new insights I can add to the conversation.

When do you become an adult?: Discussion

baby

With a title like that, this article definitely caught my eye. “When do you become an adult?” appears in The Atlantic and tackles the concept of what milestones or markers make you an adult. The author comes to the conclusion that age doesn’t make you an adult and explores if there are any milestones that make you one. Beck acknowledges that there is no answer, but she tries her hardest in this article to give an answer with the help of readers’ responses.

She has a very methodological approach and first looks at the scientific explanations of being an adult like puberty and when you stop physically growing. She also looks at cultural markers like bar mitzvahs and Catholic confirmations. By taking this approach of examining the different explanations, she takes an analytical approach and makes this light-hearted subject more serious. As she goes through these explorations, she quotes experts in the fields and links to other websites explaining the information in more detail.

Besides the title, I found the layout to be visually appealing, even though the article is lengthy. Beck achieves this by incorporating readers’ responses by using gray boxes separate from the article and quoting their words directly.

In discussion we’ll talk about this method and how she uses readers’ words:

  1. By not quoting readers’ responses directly into the article and using expert’s quotes instead, what effect does this have on the article? How does it affect its tone?
  2. How would the article be different if the readers’ responses were embedded into the article instead?
  3. By using the gray boxes for the readers’ responses, how does this affect the article visually?
  4. Many articles on the internet link to other websites for more information. Beck does the same. Was this effective at all? How many links did you click on? What’s a good way to make this method work?

I hope these questions are helpful for people who are doing interviews, and if you aren’t, this article can still  help you think about the visual appeal of a work. Even though this article does not answer the question it poses, I hope it makes you think more about your own definition of being an adult. There’s really no right answer.

Pitching my Capstone project to the class

I was looking forward to the class pitches for the Capstone project because I was interested to see what everybody else was going to come up with. I felt confident about the core topic of my project because I know it’s something I’ll be engaged with throughout the semester, but I still had to flush out the details of the purpose of my piece and where I see this published.

I want to compare the lives of first generation college students and continuing generation students at the University of Michigan through a series of interviews. Given recent diversity initiatives, this is a topic of interest to many faculty and administration, but the topic would also be of interest to current and future students who want to learn more about people’s experiences at the university. I have decided not to do a podcast and instead transcribe the interviews, although recording the interviews will be key to the transcription.

I got some good suggestions about where this project could be published, and I’d like to like to see my article as a long form interview housed in The New York Times or any other similar news publication. I know past first generation college student articles have appeared in NPR, so that could also be a good avenue because they take on social issues like this.

I think purpose is what I’m struggling the most with because there have been a few pieces of content generated in the recent years around first generation college students. So, it comes down to “What more do I want to add to the conversation?” Shelley questioned why I want to interview continuing gens and what purpose that would serve to my story. I’m still mulling on the answer to that, but I want to use the continuing gens to serve as a contrast to first gens to make the difference between the two more obvious. There has been research showing that first gens have a harder time adjusting to college compared to their peers, but from the editorial pieces that I’ve seen, I haven’t seen that direct comparison from actual student experiences themselves. I’m also interested in if this identity is embraced by students right when they first enter or if it changes as the years go by. I think people tend to identify with their racial/cultural identities more than with their first gen identity, so I want to see if this is true.

the mich daily

I feel good about writing a formal proposal even though the task seems daunting. I think my project will grow and change even as I conduct interviews. I’m excited in hearing about each person’s different story and giving them a voice about their experiences. This could really add conversation to an important topic, so that is exciting in itself.

Doing the pitches in class helped me articulate my thoughts and figure out what more I need to do. And there’s so much more to do.

3 Magazines That You Should Consider Reading

In Shelley’s Capstone course, we were asked to read an article titled “10 Magazines Every Writer Should Read” and write about the top three that interest us the most. I was surprised by some of these titles because I had never heard of them before like Mental Floss and Lucky Peach, while some were more known by the mainstream such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. I moved the list, spending more time on the ones that were less known to me, and I came up with my own personal top three that I would read.

1. Entrepreneur: Entrepreneur Magazine interests me because it’s related to my major, business. I think pursuing entrepreneurship would be a cool thing for the future, but even for people who aren’t going that route a lot of the life skills can be applied to other parts of life. This magazine has a lot of content about up and coming companies, which is interesting to see what new and creative ideas people are coming up with. A lot of the articles are about motivation and productivity which applies to people even if they are not an entrepreneur. Here’s an article about how to become a better public speaker, which is important no matter what you’re doing in the future.

2. Make: Make contains content that would easily distract me from doing work. It appeals to me because there’s a bunch of cool stuff that I would LIKE to make, but I’d never get around to doing it. I just don’t have the creativity or the patience to make something like making lego candles. But, reading these articles would inspire me to be creative and actually create things. This burst of creativity might also trickle out to my writing.

3. The Atlantic: I like the Atlantic because it’s a good commentary on current events. It lets people read about current events in a way that’s easy to understand. There are some articles that are shorter and ones that are more long form, so there’s something for everybody. What makes The Atlantic great is there’s really an area of interest for everybody from culture to politics.

There are definitely other honorable mentions on the list, so it was hard to choose my top three. Take a look at the list and discover something new to add to your reading list! I know I sure did.

My Writing Communities

After reading other people’s posts about writing communities they belong to, it helped me realize there are other ways to define a writing community. I was surprised to see that many people defined it based on classes they were in. When I first approached the idea, I thought about writing communities in a more general way.

The two writing communities I belong to are the new media one and the academia one. With new media writing, it’s more informal and doesn’t have to go through a long editing process. New media gives me the ability to write something, read it over once, and hit post. There’s Twitter where you have to be really concise, but with a blog you can write as much as you want. With new media, it can transcend beyond traditional writing and you can connect images, video, sound, or hyperlinks into the writing.

With academic writing, everything is generally written in essay form, which requires a more lengthy editing and revision process. While the language I’ve used hasn’t necessarily been formal, the structure of the essay usually has a minimum page requirement. As I mentioned new media doesn’t have these constraints. There also isn’t any flexibility to add other forms of media or necessarily be creative.

Comparing the two, visually any two essays will look the same, but if you look at two new media posts, they can vary depending on the site they live on. Both of these communities still value clarity and conciseness with the argument that it is more important in new media, because of people’s short attention spans.

It looks like these are two different worlds almost incapable of intersecting, but who knows? One day, professors may be more flexible about the essay structure in academic writing.