Now that it’s Back-to-School time at many universities and colleges, it’s time to think about tech comm academics. Not the studies of technical communications topics themselves, but rather the people who are learning these skills—the students. Students are an untapped resource, because they are looking at technical communication with open minds and hearts.
About a month ago, I was brought into a conversation about this very topic by one of my social media acquaintances on the Academic SIG forum. The group was discussing whether opportunities were available for students to publish their work as a means of self-promotion. I was asked to add my “two cents” into the conversation, as my blog, TechCommGeekMom, had originally started as a student project. Part of what has lead me to blogging here for STC’s Notebook was due to the exposure of my blog.
I do need to clarify that I didn’t really get involved with STC until I had almost graduated from grad school. I did start my blog—which caught the attention of both Adobe and STC—during my last semester in grad school, shortly after I had joined up. I was aware of STC through my MSPTC mentor, Dr. Nancy Coppola, as she would have us use STC publications to do research for projects. Since my local chapter area isn’t close to me, the first STC meeting I attended was a chapter holiday party hosted at the home of an associate member who happened to live twenty minutes away from me. I’ve only attended one other meeting, which was an end-of-the-year banquet this past June. Even so, this past year I was enticed into participating more with my chapter by contributing a few articles to their newsletter, and presenting at their annual conference. That provided me with some more exposure and also allowed me to meet some of the STC hierarchy and veterans, who have been nothing but supportive.
The question is, how do we get students to participate more in STC activities? One easy and productive start would be encouraging students to contribute to the STC’s Notebook or to Intercom, or to local chapter newsletters. My initial foray into writing for STC publications during this past year started because TechCommGeekMom was considered a “fresh perspective.” Many students also have that same “fresh perspective,” and need to find an outlet for it. If given the opportunity to publish an article, a student author can get valuable feedback—provided that the topic is good and the post is well written. Promoting the publication of the posting on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and on one’s e-portfolio is also important. From my experience, blog writing in and of itself is good practice, but promoting one’s writing is good practice as well. It not only allows one to get involved with social media, but it’s an excellent promotional tool to show one’s competence in a particular topic. I’ve generally talked about content strategy, editing, and e-learning topics on my blog. Students may have other interests that need to be explored more in our tech comm community.
The great thing about writing as a student is that perspective changes over time. The wide-eyed, open-minded new ideas of a student give way to the more enlightened ideas of someone in the field, even as a newbie. I consider myself a beginner rather than a newbie, now that I have some experience under my belt. Even so, the exposure that has come by way of STC—getting my name out through my writing—has been immeasurable, and it can be for current students in the field, too.
In the end, having the STC exposure helped me immensely, especially when I connected with others at the STC Summit, as it made me feel like part of the community. Several senior members of the STC Board introduced themselves to me because they had read my writing. How exciting is that? I’ve been able to extend those introductions into social media and networking connections, and I continue to learn so much from those connections. My blog initially caught the eye of Adobe, who helped open the doors to STC as well—while I was still a student. Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if TechCommGeekMom had come around earlier in my academic career. Exposure within STC is opening doors for me now—and again, I’m just one year out from getting my Master’s degree. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, because the community truly is a resource, and that’s what students need to understand—they are a contributing resource, even as a newbie. Providing publishing opportunities for students allows us to tap into new ideas from which we can all benefit.
Danielle M. Villegas writes the blog TechCommGeekMom.com. She graduated with her MSPTC degree from NJIT in 2012, and is currently a Web publishing consultant for BASF North America and an instructor for World Learning teaching business and technical writing.