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PWE Graduate Internship Student Experiences

Kasey Osborne

Internship: Shared Research Facilities

Kasey Osborne, whose background is in the natural sciences, not only enjoys technical and scientific writing, but subject matter as well. So, she knew she wanted to take advantage of the many research-geared organizations within West Virginia University.  When she learned of Shared Research Facilities (SRF) and its need of a new brochure, Kasey knew it would be a great fit. The SRF contains four “cores,” or facilities, that support interdisciplinary research: electron microscopy, materials characterization, cleanroom, and bionanotechnology. The SRF features high-tech instrumentation that researchers from WVU, other high education institutions, and private or government sectors can rent at affordable rates and receive personalized training.

 Under the direction of the SRF director, Kasey helped create the new primary marketing and informational brochure for SRF, which has a diverse audience of prospective SRF users/scientists and educated laypersons, such as regional businessowners and legislators. The brochure includes technical descriptions about the SRF instrumentation, stories about users’ research, and instructional material. Prior to this internship, Kasey had limited experience conducting interviews. However, in order for the brochure to highlight signature instruments in the context of user research, Kasey sought out and interviewed scientists whose research would appeal to the public. She really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk one-on-one with faculty and learn about the kinds of research going on in WVU that is aided by the SRF. Kasey was also responsible for coordinating and overseeing photography sessions with WVU Photography for portraits, laboratory, and instrument photos.

Kasey learned what to consider when putting content into print, how to adjust as a project evolves over time, make language appealing to disparate audiences, translate complex research projects into engaging and accessible narratives, and reenvision technical descriptions for instruments. She appreciated seeing how even the small edits from her supervisor greatly improved the writing, and they gave her specific items to keep in mind and incorporate with each new piece.

 “I think my favorite aspect is getting to learn about research while helping scientists become aware of what the SRF has to offer through my writing. I’m really grateful for the experience,” Kasey said.

Jess Walker

Internship: New South Media, Inc.

Jess Walker first read Morgantown magazine the August she started graduate school at WVU. She was sitting at one of the Colson Hall benches, waiting for class, when she picked up the free reading material. One year later, she started an internship at New South Media. New South Media is a West Virginia multimedia company that publishes lifestyle, business, and travel magazines for national and regional audiences, including Morgantown. From day one, Jess realized her writing and editing internship would be much more than penning a small piece here or there. Jess researched, interviewed, and wrote stories ranging from 50-word blurbs to 900-word features. These stories made their way into full-color spreads in Morgantown magazine, WV Weddings, and WV Living. Together with her editors, Jess also helped refine freelancers’ drafts where she saw just how much work goes into the editing process.

Her internship didn’t consist of just writing and editing either. She jumped in wherever she was needed. Over the course of a semester, Jess helped tally readers’ votes for an annual “Best of Morgantown” competition, wrote a book review, contributed ideas to editorial calendars, and proofread magazines for consistency. One of her favorite tasks was the lunch meetings with her editors and other staff twice a month. Someone would select a longform magazine story to read or podcast to listen to. Then, in their own magazine spin on a book club, they would come together to talk about the good, the bad, and any takeaway lessons for their own writing. Conversations were always lively and they showed Jess that, to be a good writer, you have to a good reader.

Jess’s internship at New South Media challenged her to grow as a writer, editor, and professional. She feels grateful for the opportunity to work in a small company where she could see the impact of her writing and collaborate with mentors on a daily basis.her writing and editing skills to good use. She particularly hopes to one day use the skills gained in her internship at APBP to receive a position as an editor.

Megan Lint

Internship: Appalachian Prison Book Project

When Megan began working with the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP), she knew it
was the right fit for her because of it combined two important aspects of her interests: social
justice and professional writing. APBP is a nonprofit organization that works to educate those in
prison in six states in the Appalachian region by providing them with reading materials and
communication outlets. During her time working as an intern at APBP, Megan worked to
improve the advertising reach of the project and improve existing documentation meant to
facilitate the work of volunteers.

Much of the work Megan achieved during her internship focused on creating promotional
materials for the project including multiple press releases, email templates and headers, and
several flyers relating to the statistics of those incarcerated and ways in which the public can
help. She also created a comprehensive brochure meant to inform all audiences of the work that
APBP does and increase volunteer activity/donations. Megan also found value in testing her
editing skills when revising existing documentation such as a comprehensive guide for
volunteers to be more accurate and up-to-date.

Megan hopes to continue working with APBP and other volunteer social justice projects to put
her writing and editing skills to good use. She particularly hopes to one day use the skills gained
in her internship at APBP to receive a position as an editor.

Celeste Lantz

Internship: West Virginia University Press

As soon as Celeste Lantz discovered West Virginia University had its own publishing press, she knew she had to get involved. In her final year of her graduate work, Celeste finally got the opportunity to work as an editorial intern at the WVU Press.

Under the guidance of the managing editor of the WVU Press, Celeste got to work preparing manuscripts for both the WVU Press and the Vandalia imprint for copy editing and production. The Press regularly publishes books on topics such as African American literature, Appalachian studies, geography, and environmental issues. They also are the main publishers for journals at WVU such as Education and Treatment of Children, Essays in Medieval Studies, Victorian Poetry, and West Virginia History. The Vandalia imprint publishes works of creative fiction and creative nonfiction.

As an editorial intern, Celeste was able to see some of her manuscripts work their way through the entire production process, from initial intake to copy editing to production and to final proofing. She also helped to proof and make suggestions to the Fall 2016 catalog. Some of her tasks were traditional editing, such as researching the correct order of a book’s front matter according to the Chicago Manual of Style, but other times Celeste had a hand in corresponding with authors and making editorial decisions about style and consistency.

Although it may seem quiet on the outside, the Bicentennial House is bustling with energy behind its doors. Celeste is proud she was able to take off the student hat and be a part of a small but significant organization while working in a unique environment on a variety of projects. Through her PWE graduate work and her internship at the WVU Press, Celeste feels willing and able to make her debut in the tricky world of publishing.

Alex Ries

Internship: Friends of Deckers Creek

It has always been Alex’s dream to use her writing and editing skills to benefit the environment. Not surprisingly, when she saw a grant writing internship for the Friends of Deckers Creek posted on MountaineerTRAK, she immediately applied! She began the internship in the middle of the fall and continued through the spring semester.

Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on watershed health and environmental education. During her internship, Alex worked closely with the Executive Director to find available grants, plan projects, and write and edit grants. Her favorite part of the internship was brainstorming project ideas: “When you first set out to write a grant, there are so many possibilities. It’s where you really get to be creative.” In addition to grant writing, Alex wrote articles for FODC’s monthly column in the Dominion Post.

Even though Alex had very limited grant writing experience prior to beginning her internship, she felt confident that her PWE courses had provided the necessary skills to navigate this new genre, and she was right. In addition to writing skills, the collaboration skills she gained from her coursework became extremely valuable. Alex was surprised how much collaboration was involved in grant writing, both in person and through Google Docs.

Alex was thankful to gain experience working for a nonprofit organization, as it was something she hadn’t considered before the internship. She learned a lot about nonprofits in general: “Working in a shared office, I got to learn a little about many aspects of nonprofits, such as board meetings, fundraising, media, taxes, volunteers, and more.”

Although Alex does not plan to pursue a career in nonprofits at this time, she greatly enjoyed her experience and would consider this career path in the future.

Rachael Garner

Internship: Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM

Rachael (Kelley) Garner’s internship materialized out of a casual conversation with a friend’s relative, who asked her about her graduate school work. When Rachael began talking about the PWE program, the woman asked for her resume because her employer, the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM, needed a grant writer. When Rachael learned this, she thought this was an ideal opportunity for her PWE internship. Excitingly, TIES was willing to work with her to create a position that fit the PWE internship requirements.

As a grant writer intern for TIES, Rachael had three primary tasks over the course of the semester: designing and writing a comprehensive “menu of services” to serve as boilerplate for future proposal writing, writing cost proposals whenever requests came in from clients, and contributing to a grant that TIES submitted to the Office of Naval Research. Rachael also conducted research on STEM resources across the country and ghost-wrote letters for TIES’ CEO. She especially enjoyed working on the menu of services, as it allowed her to essentially re-brand TIES’ boilerplate language and professional voice, and also to streamline the proposal writing process for future grant writers.

Rachael found that her coursework in Professional Writing Theory as well as Editing contributed to her ability to perform well in her internship. The collaborative work performed in Editing, which included writing a glossary, drafting workflows for other editors, and editing content for an online database, helped prepare Rachael for the dynamics of the remote workplace and collaborative writing teams she was a part of at TIES. Likewise, working with a variety of STEM education professionals, Rachael also gained a greater understanding of the relationship between freelance writer and subject matter expert, a dynamic heavily discussed in Professional Writing Theory.

For Rachael, one particularly valuable aspect of her internship was the remote commute. “TIES is almost entirely a remote company. I’d never worked remotely before, but given our increasingly networked culture as well as the off-site freelancing market for grant writers, I thought it was important for me to gain experience with that workflow.” Rachael also enjoyed applying her writing skills to a traditionally non-writing field. Thanks to her positive internship experience, Rachael accepted a full-time job offer from TIES upon her completion of the PWE program.

Kassi Roberts

Internship: WVU Career Services

When Kassi Roberts learned that her professional writing internship with WVU Career Services had a marketing/design emphasis, she was a bit nervous. However, she quickly found that much of her graduate education was transferable and enjoyed exploring how her skills and knowledge fit into these other contexts.

While interning at the WVU Career Services Center, Kassi was involved in writing and editing promotional articles, creating style guides and templates, and designing marketing materials. She drew upon the knowledge and skills from her undergraduate and graduate Professional Writing and Editing courses and applied them to these writing projects, as well as learned new tools and strategies that will be invaluable in the field of professional writing and editing.

She found that focusing on themes like interviewing, writing resumes and cover letters, networking, and evaluating job offers in her writing throughout the internship was more than just good practice: it was a learning experience in itself that helped her feel more career-ready by becoming familiarized with those topics. As a note to WVU Career Services’ emphasis on the importance of professional networking, the internship also expanded her professional network, which could be incredibly beneficial in her future.

With completion of the internship, Kassi is excited to pursue a career with these skills and experiences, as she feel more prepared and accomplished after completing the internship projects. Together, her education and experiential learning have helped prepare her for future employment in the field of professional writing and editing, as she feels more capable to take on various writing, editing, marketing, and design projects.

Jay Kirby

Internship: Technical Communication

In his Theories of Technical Communication class, Jay researched the background of the journal  Technical Communication, the journal published by  The Society for Technical Communication. He was drawn to the journal because  Technical Communication publishes articles with an eye toward both academic research and industry practice. When  Technical Communication’s book review section posted an internship, Jay jumped at the opportunity. Just as the journal looks at both theory and practice, this internship would allow Jay to both experience the practice of academic publishing while also applying theoretical research to problems in the internship.

Working in the book review section, Jay was able to gain a better understanding of the publishing process of a major academic journal. He was able to trace the processes: researching new books, procuring those books, finding reviewers, assigning books, collecting reviews, revising reviews, and cleaning reviews up for publication. While completing a review for the journal, Jay experienced these processes firsthand. And, working with the editor, he was able to see the scale of these processes as they spread across multiple issues and reviews.

Jay also researched new book titles for review in Technical Communication. This work gave Jay a more complete understanding of the field through the lenses of both publishers who were publishing academic research and those publishing industry advice. This work also showed the trends in technical communication through what topics were most published during those months.

In addition to learning about how reviews are solicited, reviewed, and published, Jay gained insight into the information management techniques at  Technical Communication. As the organization was attempting to move from a Microsoft Access database to a database more accessible to more people, Jay had the opportunity to apply theories of networked communication and genre ecologies to study how information circulated through the organization and how people used the information. This work allowed Jay to make suggestions for moving elements of the database onto Google Drive so that it was more readily accessible and did not require the editor to spend as much time switching between file types and distributing information to various parties.

The work at  Technical Communication made real the theories of publishing Jay had encountered in his Technical Editing class the previous semester. Serendipitously, the issues the journal was having with its databases allowed Jay to explore his interest in multi-user documents and networked communication. In the fall of 2014, Jay will continue to explore these issues, pursuing a Ph.D. at North Carolina Statue University’s Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program.

Martina Helfferich

Internship:  FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority)

Even though Martina Helfferich didn’t know exactly what “niche” of technical and professional writing she wanted to end up in, she still made the two hour commute to Rockville MD for her internship at FINRA every day.

She was initially attracted to the position because it would offer her an opportunity to combine her skills as an instructor with her knowledge of technical writing and editing, but what she took away from the job was a whole new perspective on her potential field. Working for the largest independent regulator of U.S. securities firms, Martina was primarily responsible for usability testing of navigation manuals and technical editing of class manuals. She also spend time working directly with her supervisor on an intensive study of anti-money laundering and fraud prevention.

Above all, Martina credits her PWE courses in Professional Writing Theory and Research, the Theory and Practice of Editing, as well as her experiences in College Composition Pedagogy as essential to her success as an intern. These classes not only prepared her for the practical side of the working world, but also trained her to think critically about professional and technical writing issues in the workplace.

As a successful intern, Martina advises students considering an internship to use this opportunity to break out of their comfort zones. “Research your potential position before applying and don’t be afraid to look outside Morgantown for the opportunity that best fits you.” Although Martina sees herself working as a technical writer or editor in the future, this experience has taught her the value of pushing boundaries. “I still have a PhD on the backburner, but I want to see how I like my career field first,” she explains. Whatever she chooses, Martina credits her internship as an invaluable experience both personally and professionally.

Jessica Murphy

Internship:  Administrative Technology Solutions (now Information Technology Services)

When Jessica Murphy first heard about the internship opportunity at West Virginia’s Administrative Technology Solutions, she knew it was perfect for her. “It’s exactly what I want to do, “ she explains. “But I knew I had to see what skills would be required and what I still needed to learn before going into the industry.” Fortunately, ATS offered Jessica just the right opportunity—one that extended from a summer internship into an assistantship.

Over her first summer, Jessica had the opportunity to combine what she had already learned in undergraduate and graduate courses in Editing, Business and Professional Writing, Technical Writing, and Professional Writing Theory and Research with her knowledge of style and visual design. At ATS she was responsible for editing business documents, creating templates, evaluating the usability of university websites while collaborating with subject matter experts like computer programmers.

One the most important lessons Jessica learned is to approach PWE professors and internship coordinators early in the process to get a better sense of the required knowledge and skills of a particular internship. “You have to make sure you have the skills first,” she explains. She also encourages interested students to take advantage of the OIT workshops in web development and design as well as the career fair and the career center, which can help you with all steps of the application process—from cover letter to resume.

Jessica’s goal is to one-day gain a position as a technical writer and editor at a company that produces goods and services that are beneficial to communities. “I also want a job where I can learn and achieve new things everyday,” she explains. Jessica’s experience working for ATS and the skills she has acquired through the PWE program have more than prepared her for this future.

Lydia Welker

Internship: Appalachian Prison Book Project

Lydia Welker began volunteering with the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP) when she arrived in Morgantown for graduate school. APBP is a nonprofit organization that sends free books to people incarcerated in county, state, and federal prisons in six states in the Appalachian region. As a professional writing and editing intern at the nonprofit, Lydia participated in a variety of projects designed to help further its mission. 

One such project involved editing and redesigning APBP’s documentation, which included everything from a volunteer handbook to form letters, to make them clear and rhetorically effective. 

To help board members and future volunteers remain consistent, Lydia also created a style guide to apply across the organization. The guide included color swatches, typeface choices, a logo, and key terms to ensure that all documentation from APBP matches. She also managed APBP’s email and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) accounts and documented her process for managing accounts so future 

In addition to documentation and management work, Lydia helped facilitate two book clubs—one in a men’s federal prison and one in a women’s prison—through which she challenged her perceptions of the prison industrial complex and gained prison pedagogical experience. 

Lydia hopes to work with nonprofit organizations in a professional writing and editing capacity. She hopes to continue volunteering with APBP long-distance after graduation as social media manager.