This spring Alyse Peak completed the requirements for a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing and Communication from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She is the Social Media Manager for STC New England.
I spent six years as an English student at UMass Dartmouth, but my last two years in the Master in Professional Writing and Communication program were a transformative, defining moment for me. After obtaining my B.A in 2014, I entered the “real world” unsure of my long-term plans. I knew that I wanted to write, but didn’t know in what capacity or how to market myself as a writer. In the time between my B.A and my M.A I held a couple of non-writing jobs in Engineering and HVAC, and found that although I didn’t get to use my writing abilities the way I wanted to, I enjoyed learning about these technical fields and seeing the kinds of career opportunities they presented. I wondered if there was a way for me to combine my interest in these fields with my passion for writing. That’s when I was invited into the MPWC program, and everything started to come together.
In my first semester of the MPWC program, I took a usability course that introduced me to the field of technical writing and the idea of user advocacy. The next semester, I took a thesis research course that pushed me to consider my professional identity. I realized that this was the root of the problem I encountered when I left UMass Dartmouth the first time around – I had no clear picture of my writing identity, and no defined path to take. The usability course led me to a path while the thesis research course helped me find my identity, and my other coursework only further cemented this identity.
As someone who isn’t naturally tech savvy, I know what it’s like to have a frustrating user experience that prevents me from accomplishing tasks efficiently. Through my work in the MPWC program, I learned the skills necessary to solve many of these problems or prevent them from happening in the first place. In this sense, I became a user advocate – someone who looks at technology and processes from a user’s perspective – but also a self-advocate, someone who isn’t afraid to learn new things, make mistakes, and solve my own problems. The support and experience I received in grad school gave me a sense of agency that I’d been missing, and that will be invaluable as I create my own path and determine my long-term plans.
My experience in the master’s program gave me a chance to find myself as a writer and the confidence that I can adapt to any writing situation. Whether it’s social media, usability, document design, or web design, I know that I have the theoretical knowledge and the practical experience to produce a thoughtful body of work.
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