Notes from the Project

Only a few more weeks left of the Capstone! Oh man! I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on getting everything done, but there is still the matter of actually executing…

As I was tying up the loose ends of my project, I found a page in my notebook with a few bullet points under the title “Things people said…” This came from a day when I had a bunch of my co-workers help me out by filling out “The Candid Application,” one of the major components of my project. It asks participants to answer frequently used application questions candidly. One of the fun things to do with this project was to have a group of people do this exercise together. This set up produced some of the most interesting applications. While people didn’t necessarily share their answers with the group because they were often very personal, there was a certain dynamic or atmosphere with a group of people doing the application together. Often we would talk about disastrous applications or the stupid things we said in our college admissions essays. I think this got people into a good head space to be really candid and actually reflect on applications.

A lot of the notes I took from this particular day are not appropriate for reproduction here, as there was quite a bit of cursing as I asked my co-workers to think about their failures and achievements. Inbetween bouts of laughter one of my participants commented, “this is emotional, it’s getting raw” and “I hate this because it forces me to think about myself.” Now I wasn’t setting out for people to have a mini existential crisis just from filling out a little application for my project, but I think the discomfort my co-worker felt made her responses really interesting. While I wouldn’t assume this exercise has had a lasting impact on her life, I hope it was at least an interesting ten minutes of her day.

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!

Discovering Complications

As a mini assignment for Shelley’s class, we were asked to choose drafting development mini assignment and write a blog post about it.  Considering I have experienced nothing but complications with my project, I thought the discovering complications assignment was quite fitting.  Write a few paragraphs about the funny side, the absurd side, the dark side, or the maddening side of your project.

My idea for the capstone labyrinth-1013625_960_720project was to create a website for the general public to use to help them navigate scientific articles.  I wanted to include a words to know section, an explanation of the scientific process, and most importantly interviews with scientists giving advice to people reading their papers.  I started my interviews and heard a lot of positive feedback from those I was interviewing.  Most everyone I talked to agreed that something like this is needed today.

I had a few basic questions such as What are you studying?  Who do you communicate your work to?  Any advice you want to give to non-scientists looking to read scientific articles? I couldn’t get some of the people I interviewed to stop talking with these questions.  A dialogue formed and we explored topics I hadn’t even considered before, such as the cost of open-access publishing.  On the other hand, some scientists I spoke to barely gave me answers to what I asked.  One word responses made it difficult to continue a conversation.  (Not much to talk about when I ask if they have advice and their response is no…)

I was stuck.  I couldn’t present these interviews in a Q&A style format now because the length of the answers would vary significantly (I prefer everything to be unified in length, size, and color).  Additionally, as a senior about to graduate, I found myself asking the scientists questions about their careers and interests once we entered an open dialogue.  I am about to start my first job, so naturally I am curious about the path people took to get where they are today.  These conversations were probably the most intriguing to me, which got me thinking… what if this website was geared towards aspiring scientists rather than the general public?  What if gave insight to incoming freshman on what health-related careers are out there (health-related because I spoke to Doctors, Physicians, Clinicians, and scientists studying health and cancer).

Those I spoke to who were a little less talkative still spoke plenty about what they study, meaning I wouldn’t have to worry as much about the length of their interviews.  And as my blog group suggested in class, I could just take a few quotes from my interviews rather than typing it all up.  I decided all of this before my final interview, so when  I was speaking to the scientist, I discussed the development of my project.  He was very supportive of my choice.  Although he still thinks there is a need for my initial idea, he agreed that there was a need for my second one as well.  And considering the time frame for our capstone, he thought it would be more realistic as well.

So here I am two weeks before this project is due with a completely new outlook on the entire thing.  I can feel a panic attack coming along, but this is where my interviews took me.  I know as a freshman I would have wanted a resource such as this.  Now if only the Pre-Health advising people would email me back about what they think would be useful in a site such as this…. complications.  I guess they’re inevitable.

 

workworkwork

Does anyone else feel like they’re experiencing the verses in “Work,” by Rihanna? Let’s be real honest, nobody knows exactly what she’s saying, but we all pretend to mumble along until she hits lyrics we can decipher.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been stuck mumbling along. Everything seems to be so fast-paced, be it in class or just in daily life, that I’m having trouble keeping up. I have brief spurts of confidence when I feel comfortable enough singing along, but those only last for a short while. The end of the semester looms, and there is so much I want like to accomplish before that time comes. Graduation hovers just behind, signifying the end of this chapter of my life, and there is so much I would like to process and understand before that change happens. After the day of graduation, I have three more days in Ann Arbor, and then I leave Michigan. I don’t know if or when I’ll be back. It’s going to be such a permanent shift that I want to make the most of the time I have here.

Before I graduate, I want to produce this capstone project, and make it amazing. I want to celebrate our hard work with my senior design team. I want to thank the professors and peers of mine that have taught, encouraged, and struggled with me through the past four years.

Before I leave, I want to finish my edible Ann Arbor bucket list. I want to watch the sun set over the Big House one last time. I want to spend rich, quality time with the people that have come to be so dear to me during my time in Ann Arbor.

I don’t want to trip over my words or myself when I do these things. I don’t want to be mumbling along—I’d much prefer the chance to sing along at the top of my lungs.

What do you want to do before you leave?

March Madness

One of the better March Madness commercials I’ve seen is one from Buffalo Wild Wings, which assures the wives of husbands who’s husband has gone rouge to watch the NCAA basketball tournament at the restaurant chain that their men will resume responsibility in April, after the championship game, of course.

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/AbNx/buffalo-wild-wings-dropping-off

I reference the commercial because it sums up my month of March with regards to the writing process. Sure, I am a huge sports person and I do have money on Oklahoma winning the Big Dance, but the real (or rather my) problem is the madness associated with second semester senior year. It seems that Spring Break marked the point of no return in terms of my friends letting lose. They got into medical school, settled on law school, got jobs, decided they had done enough early on to pass their pass/fail classes. They got senioritis, which is fine because they have worked their behinds off every semester until then.

Once the friend who was ahead on all of her work and ready to participate in whatever adventure from whatever friend was up for it, I find myself stressed by all the fun to be had. Of course, it’s my own fault, but it feels like all the time I’ve set aside to write has been scheduled over by a new restaurant or a drinking holiday or a nap to recover from a friend’s birthday or a last-minute interview or, well, basketball. The result has been nearly a week of no progress whatsoever, the realization that the project is due in one month, just three weeks after the conclusion of March Madness.

It also means that there is no time for writer’s block on free, lazier Sundays that should be spent writing the day away. Low and behold, feeling lost on a Sunday has gotten me no further than this blog post. Also there is a couple sitting across from me play fighting and kissing, so that’s not helpful, but I digress.

With St. Paddy’s Day behind us, I am hopeful that some of this madness is behind us. Then again, I have Wisconsin beating No. 2 Xavier at 8:40 pm ….!

Image Close-Read

In class on Wednesday, we spent time looking at pictures and analyzing them in terms of our eportfolio.  Is this a picture we would use? What is the picture’s composition? How would this picture fit in with the rest of our eport?  I found this assignment very difficult to do.  I want to be able to show it to employers in the future, which makes me question what kinds of pictures would be necessary/appropriate to use.  I don’t want to be boring, but I don’t want to be unprofessional with the pictures I choose to include.  Another issue is that a lot of the pictures I take are of nature/scenery.  I’m not sure how to include them without making my entire portfolio nature themed.  This assignment got me thinking a lot harder about my project, and I think I will try to close-read some more images to further develop my ideas for this project.

Here was my image close-read:

IMG_1732

I keep going back and forth between what audiences I would like to have for my capstone portfolio. I want it to be less about me, and more about my writing and how my writing makes me feel. I have some great pictures of nature and scenery that I think I would like to use throughout my eportfolio. When I write, I feel free, which is a similar feeling I get from pictures about nature (and actually being in nature). This photo above is one I would like to use for my about me. As I said earlier, I want my eport to be less personal and more of a representation of my work, so I would like this picture to be one of the only ones with me actually in it. This picture is made up of three important elements: me, my school, and nature (my freedom from school). This is very important because each element is something I would like to emphasize in my portfolio. This is all natural light from the sunset. Also, I’m short enough you can see the horizon! It looks like me looking out into my future, my freedom. If I make this theme very prevalent throughout my portfolio, it may be easy to understand. Ultimately, I would like to use this as my “about me” photo if I were to stick with this nature/freedom theme.

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.

Making Another Writer’s Decisions

In class a month or so ago, we focused on helping each other with project ideas based on interests, passions and areas of expertise. It was interesting to work with Cameron on this, as our interests are very different- his in medicine, climbing and mental health, mine in business communication, immersion journalism and public relations.

I discussed project ideas with Cameron and thought we had a really helpful conversation. A couple ideas Cameron gave me stemmed from some of his past projects and the shared interests we discussed. He did a podcast on his family ties and we talked about the possibility of me doing something similar. My entire extended family lives in the same small hometown and one idea we had would be to get perspectives from everyone in the family, young and old, and try to tell a collective story about either the place or the people. Another idea Cameron helped me formulate was to try something in fiction. This is an area neither of us have explored but we thought about taking the challenge and discussed where we might start—whether with poetry, a short story etc. I am interested in immersion journalism after taking English 425 last semester and another idea that came out of our conversation would be to pursue an investigative immersion journalism piece about Detroit or something on campus. I am going to be doing strategy consulting after graduation and business writing will be ever-present in my career, so I want to pursue something different with this project and Cameron concurred, encouraging me to look outside my field.

 

My conversation with Cameron encouraged me to think outside the box in terms of mediums for my project. I tend to stick with what I am comfortable with and have strayed away from new media in a lot of recent projects. However, Cameron did a podcast project for the Gateway and shared with me how challenging but beneficial it was for him to try to tell a story in a medium that was outside his original comfort zone. I hope to push myself to do the same with this project.

Freewriting- My Capstone Project

For my capstone project, I hope to develop a comprehensive curriculum for an elective course to be taught within the BBA curriculum at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. As part of the project, I have elicited the help of a Business Communications (BCOM) professor I have worked with in the past to advise me. This professor will also ultimately be teaching the course if it is approved, so we will be working closely together in development.

 

One thing I have to keep in mind in terms of audience focus are the politics behind academics at the school and the variety of stakeholders that will be involved, including administrators, faculty in the BCOM department, and professors that teach other similar classes. Another department that I will have to consult is the Communications department through the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts to ensure there is not significant overlap between the class I am developing and any Communications classes. There may even be components of curricula in these classes that I can draw on for the BCOM elective. Directly, my audience will be the professor I am working with as the teacher and the committee I pitch the elective to for approval (this will probably be the BCOM department and/or undergraduate dean). Indirectly, my audience will be the students that take the class.

 

The focus of the class will be public relations and business crisis communication for all undergraduates. I am currently working on defining public relations further and refining the scope of what the class will include.

 

A few ideas I have for deliverables and multimodal components I want to include in the project:

  • Comprehensive course syllabus with model dates and guidelines
    • I could list assignments/deliverables in the following format: assignment, explanation, goals, procedure, deliverable, grading etc.)
  • Multimodal course resources for students
    • Website or mock CTools or Canvas
    • Video
    • Infographic
  • Model simulations professors can use as part of the class for students (action-based learning)
    • Press releases
    • “Crisis communication challenge” etc.
  • Examples of complete assignments or simulations

 

I am still figuring out how I will build these resources and also how I will put them all together and house them, whether it is through a website or mock CTools or Canvas site or a written document or some combination of the two. Another crazier idea but something that might be interesting to pursue would be a mock lesson with students that I record on video and provide as a resource for both professors and students as a form of pitch for the class.

 

One thing I need to keep in mind as I engage further with this project is the importance of meeting with professors, both my advisor and possibly Minor in Writing professors, about how to develop curricula, create syllabi and engage students through a variety of assignments and types of work as this is something I am interested in, but have no experience in. It may be helpful to also talk to a professor or student in the School of Education as well.

 

My Writing Communities

As I reflect on the different ways and mediums in which I write, I have realized that I belong to several diverse writing communities that have influenced me as a writer.
One writing community I belong to is the professional business writing community. As a BBA student entering the corporate world after graduation, I have spent the past several years working to perfect my business writing, including resumes, cover letters, memos, and it may sound trivial, but great emails. Paying close attention to my business writing style and the content I write, such as being extremely direct in asking for help or putting myself out there, has proved very beneficial in my past internships and in the process I went through to secure my full-time job. In this writing community I am careful about my personal brand, diligent, not-very-creative and attentive to detail.
Another writing community I belong to is one created through my English 425 class last semester that focused on immersion journalism. The class had less than 20 students and was my first exposure to this form of writing, which I grew to love. My focus in the class was to learn as much from my peers as I could while striving to become a better writer and challenge myself with different material and styles. I found that my peers, many of whom were aspiring journalists or well on their way in the field, helped me grow. I realized that a career in journalism is really interesting and intriguing to me and writing has since become a more important part of my life. In this community, I was a careful observer, critic, engaged listener and hard worker. I was more creative, less comfortable and willing to (even if maybe reluctantly) take risks with my writing. I put myself out there both as a person and as a writer. More than anything, in this course, I learned from my peers’ writing. I became interested long-form journalism and now read several publications and try to find essays whenever I can. I have followed my peers from class that are Michigan Daily reporters and kept up with their work. I really appreciated this engaged, supportive community as I explored I genre with which I was initially uncomfortable and unfamiliar.