Alumni Spotlights

Ethan Palm

Ethan Palm graduated in 2014 with a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a minor in professional writing. From 2014–2015, he was part of the in-house public relations team for the Wonderful Company. Afterwards, he started freelance writing (PR and marketing pieces like case studies, blog posts, web content) while exploring nonprofit opportunities. He completed a year of AmeriCorps VISTA service at an educational nonprofit and then did program management at another nonprofit organization while continuing to freelance.

Ethan eventually started working for a privacy and security client while also writing a lot of user-facing web content for one of his full-time jobs. This experience helped him decide to return to graduate school to get a master's in professional writing at Carnegie Mellon University. He is in his second semester of the program and focusing on user experience (UX) writing. After he graduates, he plans to work in UX writing full-time.

How has your professional writing minor benefited you?

My minor has played a bigger role in my education and career than anything else I did at UC Davis. It got me my first writing internship at a strategic communications firm in Sacramento. It helped me get my first writing job at the Wonderful Company. It gave me a strong foundation of writing skills to stand above other candidates for jobs. It also made me a better communicator, which has value for any position.

Why were you interested in pursuing the professional writing minor?

I couldn't identify a major at UC Davis that aligned with my interests. I was interested in becoming a better writer, and the professional writing minor offered the focused writing instruction that I wanted. I explain my educational background as my major providing my world view and my minor providing the skills.

What advice do you have for current UC Davis students considering or currently completing the minor?

Do it. No matter your major or career goals, you will benefit from the professional writing minor. Every field benefits from skilled writers. It is a way to distinguish yourself and open up new paths for applying your interests.


Sofie Bates

sofie-bates.JPGSofie Bates graduated from UC Davis in 2018 with a BS in genetics and genomics. She continued her internship with the UC Davis Strategic Communications department the summer after graduation. Afterwards, she went to the master's program in science communication at UC Santa Cruz in 2019 and then did several science journalism and videography internships. She is now a video intern with the Landsat team at NASA Goddard.

How has your professional writing minor benefited you?

The minor totally switched my career trajectory. I didn't realize that there were so many types of science writing and various ways to make it my career. Science Journalism (UWP 111C) was when I was first exposed to the subject, and I fell in love with it immediately. It's also where I heard about a fellowship with the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). I applied and was selected to cover the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference as a journalist, and that experience solidified my passion for science journalism. All of that never would have happened without the professional writing minor and the wonderful mentors I met from it.

Why were you interested in pursuing the professional writing minor?

Initially, I wanted to improve my ability to write about complicated science because I was planning to pursue a career in lab research. But I fell in love with science journalism while taking UWP 111C with Katie Rodger, and that class switched my entire career trajectory!  

What advice do you have for current UC Davis students considering or currently completing the minor?

My advice to current professional writing minors is to choose some diverse classes to test it out and see if you like it. At first, I focused exclusively on technical science writing classes. But my favorite courses that I took for the minor were Science Journalism (UWP 111C) and Introduction to Professional Editing (UWP 112A), and now I use those skills on a daily basis.


Mariana Huben

Mariana Huben graduated from UC Davis in June 2018 with BAs in English (literature, criticism, and theory emphasis) and linguistics. She is a technical editor for a quality assurance consulting firm in Los Angeles. On the job, she reviews and edits internal reports for pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer care, and aerospace companies according to each client’s specific requirements (e.g., formatting and content). She didn’t expect to work in a scientific field, but it’s a really interesting way to apply her editing skills and learn more as she continues to work.

How have the classes in the professional writing minor benefited you? 

The professional writing classes were incredibly beneficial to me! Not only did I learn how to write outside of the typical critical English essay, but I also got the chance to learn about careers that are related to writing. Before taking any UWP classes, I held on-campus and off-campus internship positions that focused on writing for creative and marketing purposes. After taking Journalism (UWP 104C), I took a summer internship at The Davis Enterprise as a copyeditor, where I learned how to apply Associated Press (AP) style, and the internship led to a part-time position during my senior year. This position gave me fantastic real-world editing experience, and everyone on the staff of the newspaper was so eager to help me learn. They taught me so much and encouraged all of my questions, and I think taking the journalism class really helped me to branch out from the types of writing that I had previously done.

After taking Introduction to Professional Editing (UWP 112A), I felt a lot more confident in my editing skills. I felt like I could work with documents in a more comprehensive way, and I also learned how to work more effectively with specific tools such as style sheets and the Track Changes function in Word. This was definitely the class that helped me to solidify my career goals after graduation; I knew I wanted a position that focused almost exclusively on editing instead of a combination writing/editing job. I met with Professor Rebekka Andersen after I graduated and she very kindly went over my resume with me. She used her career experience and helped me to organize my courses and past work experience in a cohesive way. I thank her for all of her advice—I got my current job just two months after graduating! In addition, the actual exams in UWP 112A prepared me for the interview that I had for this current job, which involved a 90-minute edit test. I felt as prepared as I could for that part of the interview and knew that I could approach it like a UWP exam. The tools that I use at work (we call them "Report Review Notes") are similar to the style sheets that we worked with in that class; they're full of client-specific notes related to formatting and rules for key terms in the reports. This familiarity with technical editing really helped me feel prepared for the interview and gave me a great foundation to build upon as I started to work full time.

Why were you interested in these classes?

Mostly, I was interested in learning more about writing and editing in professional environments. I knew that I wanted to have some sort of writing-adjacent career, whether that was in journalism, publishing, entertainment, non-profit, or academic settings. I didn’t actually want to be a writer, but I loved editing and working with documents, so many of the UWP classes seemed to be a good fit. I originally took Journalism (UWP 104C) just to fulfill my upper division requirement, but I was looking through the UWP website and course offerings and realized that Introduction to Professional Editing (UWP 112A) was exactly the topic I was hoping to learn more about. I wish I had had time to take even more UWP classes, but unfortunately I couldn’t fit them into my schedule by the time I was a senior.

What advice do you have for current UC Davis students considering or currently completing the minor?

The UWP courses are really well organized, and the professors are willing to help you inside and outside the classroom. Their experience is invaluable. In addition, connecting with your peers who are interested in the same topics as you can be really useful for networking—they might know about a job or internship that could be great work experience for you!


 

Andrew Testa

Andrew Testa graduated in 2014 with BAs in English and psychology and a minor in professional writing. Since then, his post-graduation path has been in academia. He earned a master’s degree in rhetoric and writing studies from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2018. At SDSU, he taught first-year writing and was nominated as a “Favorite Faculty” member in his first year of teaching. Currently, he is applying to PhD programs in English, education, and rhetoric.

How has your professional writing minor benefited you? 

The professional writing minor has benefited me in a number of ways. I pursued rhetoric and composition because of my UWP classes, where I also first became interested in the teaching of writing. Along with showing me how to write across a variety of disciplines and professions, the minor also demonstrated excellent teaching and writing instruction, which I have modeled in my own classes.

Why were you interested in pursuing the professional writing minor?

I was interested in pursuing the professional writing minor because of the positive experiences I had in UWP 1 and UWP 18. Aside from the superior quality of instruction in both classes, I really appreciated being able to write on seemingly trite topics that interested me as a teenager, such as sports, shoes, and video games. Perhaps most importantly, though, and what was really unique about writing as an undergraduate at UC Davis, was the looming appeal of submitting essays to Prized Writing. When I was a freshman in UWP 18, Professor Boe told us that he wanted us to write just one thing that we didn't want to throw away after we got it back. He said that throughout his time at UC Berkeley, he would throw away papers immediately after he received his grade, which was the same experience I had in my life with high school essays. So, it really appealed to me to be able to possibly write something that could be put into a physical book, something that wouldn't just become eventually lost online.

What advice do you have for current UC Davis students considering or currently completing the minor?

My advice would be to set up the internship early and to try to intern in a field that you are passionate about.


 

Jasbir Kaur

Jasbir Kaur graduated in 2014 with a BS in human development and a minor in professional writing. Immediately upon graduation, she was offered a full-time job as a technical writer at an enterprise software company in Silicon Valley. She worked there for about a year before moving out-of-state to pursue a two-year master's program to gain a rigorous understanding of user experience (UX). After earning her MS in human-computer interaction, she began her first full-time position as a UX researcher at an education management software company. She is currently back in Silicon Valley working as a UX researcher contractor at Google.

How has your professional writing minor benefited you? 

The skills that I've gained from the professional writing minor have consistently served me extremely well through my entire post-undergrad academic and professional journey. Moreover, I continue to utilize the writing abilities I gained through the minor in not only my full-time technical jobs, freelance gigs I decide to take on, but endeavors related to my personal life as well (blog, social media, etc.). The written word is how I communicate and connect—to some degree, that's something, as humans, we all do. From composing emails, to drafting research plans and scripts to run a study, to delivering clear and succinct presentations to leadership that help inform product decisions, these are all just a few ways that I continually apply my professional writing skills. 

Why were you interested in pursuing the professional writing minor?

I believe what drew me to pursue the professional writing minor in the first place is because I've always enjoyed writing and had a knack for it. Being able to write “professionally” though, definitely requires a different skillset, and that is something that I acquired by pursuing the minor. And to be honest, it is hands down one of the best decisions I've ever made during my undergraduate career.

What advice do you have for current UC Davis students considering or currently completing the minor?

The advice I'd give to current UC Davis students completing or considering the minor is this: you can't deny the fact that we all have to communicate through the written word. And as we all get more and more technically savvy, we're writing out something, if not several times a day, at least daily. You might as well learn how to communicate professionally and set yourself apart by mastering the skills required to become a true professional. At the end of the day, whether you utilize these skills for your job or your side hustles and hobbies, you will largely use the written word to communicate, so do yourself a favor and start now in honing your skills to stand out as an excellent communicator. After all, clear communication allows the chance for people to resonate with your message, which oftentimes creates delightful moments of human connection.


 

Maxine Mulvey

Maxine Mulvey graduated in 2018 with a BA in English and a minor in professional writing. Her first job post-grad was in journalism, editing mostly news columns and comic strips. She is currently working in tech marketing where she copyedits blog posts, infographics, reports, and video scripts.

How has your professional writing minor benefited you? 

In pursuing the professional writing minor, I took classes closely related to what I wanted to pursue professionally. The upper division journalism and editing classes in particular gave me hands-on experience with writing different types of pieces—with different audiences and therefore different voices. I’m especially thankful to teachers Greg Miller and Andy Jones, who insisted that I push my limits as a writer. In working as a full-time editor, I fondly remember the self-discovery I experienced in their classes. That and their insistence on consistent participation—which they met with refreshingly honest feedback—helped me build the confidence to apply to jobs that imposter syndrome told me I wasn’t qualified for.

Why were you interested in pursuing the professional writing minor?

I pursued the professional writing minor because I wanted to work as an editor. The UWP offered classes focused on editing and nonfiction writing and journalism and grammar— subjects not covered in as much depth in other departments. I loved my English classes, but they didn’t delve into the nitty-gritty ugliness of multiple rough drafts and interview-hunting and journalistic ethics and dangling modifiers. Pursuing the professional writing minor put me in the trenches and made me a better soldier in the war of life.

What advice do you have for current UC Davis students considering or currently completing the minor?

Participate in class. Push yourself in your writing. Get out of your comfort zone. Go to office hours more than once, and not just when you’re struggling. Ask your teachers their favorite books. Write what you know. As much as possible, use your class assignments to your advantage: working with your teachers, try to fit the prompts to your personal and professional goals.

 

* Thank you to Oliver Tseng, intern for the Professional Writing Program, for spearheading the Alumni Spotlights project and for his excellent editing work! And thank you to these wonderful alumni for participating in this project and for their post-graduation successes!

** More spotlights are coming soon!