Course Rationale and Goals
Writing 405 is the final course in the sequence of Writing Studios at Syracuse University. The course is intended to prepare graduating students to understand and take up the kinds of writing and rhetorical tasks that will be expected in the professional workplace. In this class, we will continually attempt to balance the tension between the “academic” and the “professional,” between theory and practice. Therefore, you will find yourself writing the forms and contexts you have become accustomed to as students, as well as in ways you may be less familiar with but that are common in non-academic settings. In addition, you will investigate and theorize how both academic and professional writing function within their respective settings and within culture(s).
One way this class will attempt to balance professional writing within an academic setting is through service learning. This option provides students the opportunity to work with non-profit agencies within the local and university communities to develop real and usable texts. During the second week of classes, representatives from the University’s Center for Public and Community Service will come talk to our class about the various options available for the community service.
I encourage you to take the opportunity to engage in true professional writing by participating in service learning for this course. If you do, you will meet with representatives from the agency you are placed with and work with them to plan the best way to meet their needs, given your skills and the limitations imposed by the semester. Then you will produce the text(s) they need, with guidance and feedback from people at the agency, your classmates and me. Note that you will be working on texts that will be usable by the agencies, and good work by you could help ensure that your agency does in fact use the text you produce. Depending on the projects you pursue, it may be possible for you to work with a partner. In fact, many variables may arise as you pursue this option, and we will deal with them as they come up. One thing you will learn, more than likely, in a service learning placement, is that outside of the controlled environment of a class, unexpected things happen. Success in a service learning placement requires careful planning and the willingness to abandon the plan if it’s not working. Patience and flexibility also help: It may take a few phone calls to finally get through to your agency contact person; and you’ll need to accommodate the agency’s staff schedule, for example by making phone calls and appointments around regular business hours. These are just some of the ways, however, that doing service learning for your semester project will approximate a real- world work experience, and that is just one of the reasons that it could be a valuable experience for you. We will work in class on some of the strategies for achieving success and happiness by doing service learning for your semester project. Class will be cancelled for six consecutive Fridays in February and March to allow you release time for working with your agency and for attending required meetings with me about your semester projects. In addition, the people at CPCS will also be happy to talk to you at any time. As you venture off the hill and into the community, you may be apprehensive but you will not be unsupported in your efforts.
There is one required text and a reading packet required for this class. You will need to bring both to every class.
Available at Orange Student Bookstore, Marshall Square Mall: The Portable Business Writer, by Win. Murdick
Available at The Copy Center, also in Marshall Square Mall:A reading packet, No. 4103.
You will also need to obtain a resume writing handbook. A perusal of any good bookstore or library will reveal plenty, many geared to specific disciplines, jobs and fields of study. Choose one that will be the most useful to you.
Because this is a course in “business, professional and technical writing,” all the work you produce in this course must conform to professional standards. We will therefore begin the semester by looking at various forms of professional communication, including resumes and cover letters, as well as the other forms you will need to know to complete the work of this course.
We will then move onto analyzing the discourse and rhetoric of your field, and practice writing within your field and representing your field to outsiders. You will write two short formal papers for this unit — one explanatory and one analytic — and the papers will include appropriate covering documents.
One of your first tasks in the class will be to choose a path for your final project, the major work of the course. I hope most of you will choose to work with a community agency to produce texts usable by them in their regular operations. If you choose to do a non-service project, you must choose a field that you are interested in studying for the semester. Your field of interest can be broadly defined — your major, for example; or it may be more specific – the particular job you hope to have upon graduation. If you choose this option, be aware that the workload will be similar to that of the service learning project, but it will lack the context of a particular purpose, audience, etc. You will have to imagine and articulate the context for your work, and you will do that by independently researching the language and rhetoric of your field, and using your findings to propose and execute an appropriate sample text.
Whatever project path you choose, you will present your work in the final weeks of class. These presentations may take any number of forms. Some of you, because of the agency’s deadlines or your own engagement with a real- world writing task, may have a completed service learning project to share with the class. Others will be able to use the presentation as an opportunity to present work-in-progress and receive feedback and reader response. Presenting your work, either completed or in-progress, is an important aspect of writing in the workplace; providing feedback and response is just as important, however. Therefore, your attendance is required at all classes for which presentations are scheduled. Missing more than one class during this time will lower your own presentation grade by one letter grade for each absence (see the slim possibility for an exception below).
As the course concludes, you will write an analytic self-assessment in which you reflect on what you have learned about language and communication, and about your ability to take up the kinds of writing tasks that will be expected of you as you leave the university and enter your profession.
More specific criteria and instructions for these assignments will be discussed in class.
I expect, as your employers will and as Syracuse University does, that you attend regularly and punctually, that you are prepared to participate and contribute in a meaningful way, and that you complete your work on time. In this class, as in a workplace, your failure to attend or to contribute affects each of your classmates. Sometimes, however, an absence is unavoidable, as in the case of serious illness, family emergency or religious observance. If possible, let me and the appropriate classmates know if you will be out, and make arrangements to get the information you missed and/or to do your share of the work. More than three absences will affect your grade (directly in the case of unexcused absences, but be aware that missing class also affects the quality of work you produce for this class and therefore has an indirect effect as well). Work due but not turned in due to an absence will not be accepted with out an acceptable written excuse.
Such an excuse is also necessary to explain an absence from a scheduled appointment with me or from class presentations.
Work is due when class begins. If you are late to class, then your work is also late. Plan ahead and don’t wait until just before class to print out your papers.
You are required to check your e-mail for this class regularly. You will be held responsible for any information about this class or its work that is distributed via e-mail. If you don’t use e-mail already, see me for more information about how to get started.
In addition, there will be a folder for this class on the Writing Program Server. This folder will allow you to electronically pick up course documents you may have missed or misplaced, and to turn in work electronically. You will be able to access course materials from campus or home, using a Mac or Windows machine. I will discuss the folder, its access and it uses in more detail in class. Instructions are also available at wrt.syr.edu/wrt/tech/appleshareip5.html.
This syllabus is a draft of the course. I have tried to make the course both meaningful and useful.
Ultimately, however, both of those things depend in part on you as students. Therefore, this syllabus is subject to change, and you are responsible for all changes as they develop and are announced or negotiated in class.
Students who believe they need special consideration because of a disability, learning disability, or another reason must see me as soon as possible after the beginning of the semester.
Occasionally work produced by students in and for this class may be used for educational purposes after the class has ended. Generally, I obtain permission from the student to use the work. However, if you have any concerns about the use of your work after you have completed this class, please see me at the end of the semester to pick up your work and make your feelings known.
Finally, a reminder about academic honesty, from Syracuse University’s Rules and Regulations:
“Syracuse University students shall exhibit honesty in all academic endeavors” (Section 1.0). If you have any questions or concerns about what constitutes academic honesty, please refer to the rules, or see me.
Professor: M. Fitzsimmons
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