As a senior at the University of Michigan, I constantly feel the pressure to determine what the future holds upon graduation. My background in the liberal arts exposed me to a plethora of subjects that potentially translate to a variety of professional fields. While the criteria for appropriate candidates vary by profession, one specific qualification permeates all— “applicants should have strong communication skills.”
My experience as a student and as a young professional, clarified that communication skills function as the building blocks of society, and written correspondence is the cornerstone. I did not always hold these beliefs, and as a youth I absolutely loathed writing, and never saw the true value of composition. An explanation of my transformation from cynic to devotee is detailed within the portfolio in a reflective essay entitled “Auto-ethnographic Narrative About Writing.” While that paper details specific instances throughout my academic career that altered my views, I hope the portfolio on a holistic level also showcases my development, and passion for this subject.
I collected of a number of pieces from a variety of subjects, written to different audiences, and across differing mediums. The layout will help to demonstrate this visually by evolving in a dualistic, chronological manner. The menu progresses from left to right, from argumentative writing, to researched writing, to new media composition, and finally to reflective writing. The categories are arranged in the order by which I acquired the composition techniques. Also crucial, within each category, my work is listed chronologically from top to bottom. The former focuses on the breadth of my abilities, while the latter focuses more on depth, and the evolution of these skills.
I began with argumentative writing— a technique introduced during my freshman composition class. This category explains the evolution of my understanding of academic argumentation. During my years as an underclassman, I learned how to craft an argument beyond the generic five-paragraph essay (seen in my “DSP” essay), into other techniques that brought complexity, applicable across a wide variety of subjects. Initially I thought the majority of collegiate writing would fit into this category, mainly because of its applicability in other aspects of life. Whether writing a journalistic exposé, campaign speech, or a legislative proposal, similar to my essay entitled “Reducing the American Drinking Age,” presenting one’s thoughts in a logical manner that develop into an argument transcends much of the professional world.
As I took more courses at Michigan, I found another mode of composition that can directly relate to argumentation: researched writing. I enrolled in a Political Science Research Design course, which is a requirement for those pursuing an honors thesis. Thankfully this class introduced me to the vast resources within the University of Michigan’s library system, and the most effective methods to explore them. My methodologies transformed completely, from vague Googling, to intricate key word searches in different databases and academic journals. I began to understand how intense research can help to expand and further an argument, but also build an author’s ethos and logos. These strategies afforded success in my Research Design (“Politicization of the Supreme Court”), and have continued to help my argumentation in essays such as the “Concept of Self-Plagiarism.” I also discovered that the research process does not necessarily have to compliment an argument, but can be used as more of an explorative device. My term project for the capstone course for the Minor in Writing reflects this (“Students Role in the Liberal Arts Education”). I began with an issue of personal significance, and used research to allow the essay to evolve naturally. Thus my project became more of a presentation of knowledge, where I simply shared my findings, not necessarily establishing an overarching argument.
When I applied to the Minor in Writing during my junior year, I assumed that the majority of writing would directly pertain to the aforementioned two methods. I think the old quote about assumptions is applicable to this thought. New media writing was entirely foreign at this point, yet the stark applicability in today’s technologically savvy society became immediately apparent. My portfolio includes an example of visual argumentation (“A Woman President”), as well as my “Remediation Project,” where I converted a previous argument from alphabetic text, into a short video.
With this foundation established, I decided to apply to become a peer tutor for the Sweetland Writing Center. A decision that would have baffled and infuriated my former high-school self. Similar to parts of the Minor in Writing curriculum, the training course for peer tutors forced extensive introspective thought from all students. Reflective writing proved to be the most instrumental method for improvement. In some sense, reflection tied the tools I learned in previous courses, together with the various writing pedagogy that surround peer tutors. I read countless sources regarding aspects of the writing process, yet only through reflection on my specific experiences were these theories elucidated. The “Reflective Writing” category and this introductory essay are meant to function as bookends that collate this works within my portfolio.