Well, I think above anything else I am pleasantly surprised. Coming from the perspective of a student that is not an English major or a formal tech and prof communicator, I was intrigued walking into this concentration for the International Studies program. I, like many others, could not wrap my head around what technical and professional communication was and did not have the “proper” background to really research much into it in a scholarly environment. Until now of course =) But I have to say that it has been an eye opening experience, especially after reading this week’s materials.
So, here are my thoughts. Technical and professional communication is an integral piece of any student’s academic and professional success. I am not saying this because I’ve drank the koolaid (although I am sure that will happen sometime during the semester, haha), but rather because the traits aligned with a technical and professional communicator are applicable and desired among a variety of degree programs and fields. As Katz (1992) discussed the role of technical and professional communication in the Holocaust, I found myself 1) dumbfounded that the topic had anything to do with the Holocaust (I’m a polsci/criminal justice/security studies graduate so technical and professional communication wasn’t high on the list of factors) and 2) realizing that technical and professional communication is not just significant when it is done well, but also when it done unethically.
Miller (1979) argues a humanistic rationale for technical writing which I found to be quite unnecessary. This is largely due to the need for students, academics, and global citizens to be educate on how to write and do it well. Writing is a daily part of our lives and it is disheartening to hear that departments and in some cases, institutional leadership are not more supportive of more students taking technical writing courses, technical writing/technical and professional communication degree programs, and in some cases, technical/professional writing departments (sidenote: I feel silly for using technical/professional writing and technical and professional communication interchangeably, but hopefully I am doing so correctly).
The remainder of the articles assigned for this week discuss the placement of professional writing/technical and professional communication on collegiate campuses. (Porter & Sullivan, 2007) discuss the notion of remapping curricular geography and whether professional writing programs should belong or remain in the English department or Communication department/college or what exactly should be done with it. As a new student to technical and professional communication, I initially found myself asking why it was not part of the School of Communication at ECU. Interestingly, I think I would have felt differently if the program was called Professional Writing since I immediately affiliate writing with English.
Meanwhile, Rentz & et. al. (2010) advise on whether professional writing programs should in fact join English departments or not. Considering their three conditions of what it takes for professional writing to be happy at the English table, I would have to say they make a strong and valid point. The degree program itself will only do so much on its own, but adding a strong team to it will make it a strong force to be reckoned with and offer an advantage at the negotiator’s table. I am just concerned that with higher education budgets (particularly in NC) being slashed left and right that professors will be left with little time to do this “extra items” mentioned in condition #1 due to increasing workloads and pressure to complete and publish impactful research. Particularly since the inability to do so could have potentially serious repercussions.
Lastly, Harlow (2010) makes the argument for academic homelessness. While I see her perspective, I’m not totally sold on it. Having a home for an academic program provides structure and stability, which in my opinion, is a good thing. While technical and professional communication is and most likely never will confirm to academic hierarchies due to its interdisciplinary nature, the lack of structure and stability could possibly leave the program on the chopping block if funding were decreased. Overall, I think that depending on the program and college/university structures, that technical and professional communication programs should be housed either in the English department, Department/School/College of Communication, or in some rare cases, the Department/School/College of Business. While I could see these programs finding some success as their own department, there is significant need to recruit and advertise the program and its content since the “technical and professional communication” terminology is rarely used in high schools and therefore, will be unfamiliar to incoming students.