SMC’s New Professional Writing Certificate
By Lucy Bikahi
American Journalism Student
As of Fall semester, 2023, Saint Mary’s College is now offering students the opportunity to further prepare themselves for the career world with their newly established Professional Writing Certificate. Within this program, students will, as stated on the SMC Website, “have the chance to explore writing in multiple contexts- professional, scientific, and technical- for a wide range of audiences.” In short, this program provides students across majors and disciplines with an opportunity to gain experience writing in numerous styles, which will set them up for success in future career endeavors.
The program itself is easy to complete- it is made up of three courses. As outlined on the SMC website, the certificate requires two technical writing courses (WRIT 300 and 400) and an elective course selected from a pre-approved list. The initial technical course, WRIT 300, verses students in writing practices such as policy memos, resumes, analysis, and UX (user experience) writing. The last style of writing mentioned, UX writing, is particularly interesting, as it is a newer type of writing and there is a high demand for UX writers on the job market. UX or user experience writing is described by the UX Content Collective as, “writing UI (user interface) text, plus any other text needed to support the user as they interact with, or experience, a product.” As quite a lot of the English classes within Saint Mary’s focus on academic writing, it is refreshing to see a class that is teaching the skills to write in mediums so far outside of that realm.
According to Professor Meghan Sweeney, in its first year, there are currently 11 students who are in the professional writing certification program. I am one of those students, and have so far had a positive and informative experience, even if I have found these styles of writing to be confusing at times. I interviewed some of the other students taking this program with me, in order to get additional perspectives on this topic. Most of them had similar interests and intentions when taking up the certificate, such as expanding their skills and getting ready to enter the job market. In taking these courses, students are expanding on already existing writing skills and experiencing writing in ways they may have never done so before. When responding to her experience in this program so far, senior Jenna Thibodeau described it as, “Uncomfortable. I feel like I’m running into more questions and confusion than a regular English class but I feel like professors have been helpful in clarifying things for me. It’s out of my comfort zone but I think it’s healthy.”
Though the experiences of students participating in the program this year have been largely positive, it is not without critique; it has kinks to work out just as any other new program. SMC senior Ingrid Alkire expressed a desire for more courses to be added to the certificate, such as classes in writing for HR, management, or copyediting, as she feels there are currently some gaps within the program. Chloe Ourada, also an SMC senior, expressed “that the program still has to continue refining some aspects, but thinks that will come as it continues and grows.”
Meghan Sweeney, who is director of Writing Studies and the professor for WRIT 300 this semester shared some intentions and hopes for the program both this year and going forward. “The professional writing certificate is designed to allow students from any major, so we’re hoping that it’s interdisciplinary of students in business, science, liberal arts, could take these classes and get a certificate,” she says. Currently, SOLA (School of Liberal Arts) students make up the majority of people within the program, but as it continues to grow, it is hoped students across majors will take advantage of this opportunity to refine and advance their writing skills.
Madison Sciba '24,