Sending the right message

August 3, 2020

New customizable major focuses on writing for specialized audiences — technical, business, community and more — and is easily paired with other campus majors and certificates.

No matter the job posting — in business, engineering, healthcare or creative — there’s the often-seen phrase under desired qualifications: Strong communication skills.

“No matter what field you're in, if you are an effective communicator, you will have a competitive edge. Even if you aren’t going into a writing-specific career, you need to communicate and write well,” said Mike MacDonald, associate professor of composition and rhetoric.

That’s where a new College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters program — Professional Writing and Rhetoric — comes in. It’s for students who are interested in understanding how to write for different audiences, learning how to draft a variety of documents, and specializing in specific areas of writing like technical,  business, or cross-cultural. The program, which is enrolling students now, begins this fall.

The new major can be tailored to student-writing goals. “We will work with our students to find out what their goals are and customize a program that will work best for them,” MacDonald said. 

For example, if someone works in the engineering field and wants to communicate technical instructions to a general audience, they will focus on that area and have the option to take additional writing classes that may catch their attention. Or if someone heads a non-profit and they want more training in civic engagement or business writing, there are available courses that focus on those writing needs.

MacDonald said UM-Dearborn is able to offer flexibility with the variety of experiences the campus’ professors have in specialized writing; the majority of courses in Linguistics, English and Communication count toward this program.

MacDonald said the program is easily paired with other majors and certificates. Many of the Professional Writing and Rhetoric courses are included in UM-Dearborn’s Dearborn Discovery Core, which is the general education program for undergraduates.

“We want to help students design their professional identities, strengthen their writing, learn how culture and communication come together, and gain practical experience,” MacDonald said. “Writing is essential in almost every field. This program is designed to give our students control over their professional identities as writers as they look towards the job market.”

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