To Whom It May Concern:
This year I have had the opportunity to engage in service learning through my ENGL 306: Professional Writing course. The class is offered every other year at St. Norbert College where I am an undergraduate student in my third year of study. ENGL 306 varied from any other course that I have taken in that it allowed me to make a direct impact in the greater Green Bay and De Pere communities that surround my campus. Myself, along with my classmates, were guided by our professor, Dr. Drew Scheler, to spearhead a fundraising effort for local community gardens. These gardens act as resources for people of all backgrounds, although, mostly those from low-to-moderate income households. Being able to grow a portion of their own produce has proven beneficial in many ways by alleviating economic and emotional stress, creating unity in the community, and encouraging a healthy lifestyle. I became aware of all of these positive aspects through research that I conducted with Dr. Scheler this summer. Ultimately, the project culminated in the production of a white paper that could inform political decision making in regards to the Brown County UW-Extension Community Gardens program (BCCG). With this research in tow, I felt very empowered to spend my semester helping to support, protect, and grow community gardens with my classmates.
In order to be most efficient, our class was broken down into several groups, each to focus on a specific area of the fundraiser. My personal role within the fundraiser was as a part of the Advertising and Social Media Relations team. This translated to myself, and the two other members of my group, working on documents such as a press release, professional letters, and a social media campaign. Each of these served the purpose of getting our message of Growing Better Together out into the community. While each of these documents were different in nature, they helped us to increase our audience and make a difference within the community. I worked most closely on both the press release and social media campaign. Throughout the course of this portfolio, I will demonstrate the professional writing skills and techniques that I utilized within these documents in order to make them most successful for our project.
The documents were not the only materials that informed my professional writing experience though; my experiences were equally as important for shaping my growth as a writer. Early on in the class, I became aware that each group would need to create a structure of the class to follow in order to be successful. At this point, I took it upon myself to become a leader within my group. Planning and forming objectives is an integral element to success in any project, and by taking on a leadership roll, I knew that these would be met. For myself, I have found that the ability to step up and take charge goes a long way to resolve uneasiness and promote confidence in a group setting, both of which I highly revere. I also received a lot of direction from other individuals as well. Within the Advertising and Social Media Relations Team, we all worked with one another to ensure that our responsibilities were being addressed and carried out to the best of our abilities. Also, I worked closely with my professor and a community organizer when crafting and revising documents. Their advice helped me to refine my writing and to appear cohesive with the other groups’ work.
Within the documents themselves, it was also necessary for me to work on my concision. In both the press release and social media campaign, being concise was of utmost importance. For the press release, I had to find a way to effectively portray the message and purpose of our fundraiser in a limited space, much shorter than I am used to. This challenged my writing abilities and helped me to see where excess existed. The social media campaign presented a challenge of concision all its own. Not only did I have to keep the posts very short, but also take on a completely different tone. I first needed to acknowledge how people interact on Facebook: through short catchy snippets. I then used this to guide each and every one of my posts. Overall, as I worked throughout the semester, I saw my ability to write eloquently and concisely improve which I think will be a valuable professional skill moving forward.
Aside from being informed through my own experiences, I also relied on academic text throughout the semester that justified the work I was doing. Ultimately, the social media campaign was a success, and we were able to create a lot of awareness for the community gardens programs. However, this would not have been possible without the professional guidance of my professor who presented to us on topics of clarity, concision, problem framing etc., and the action research textbook that we all read early on in the class. Both of these came at our project from a different angle, and helped to provide reasoning as to why the actions that we were taking were valid and would grant success.
As a whole, this class has been a very informative experience for me. Not only have I been able to strengthen my professional writing skills, but I’ve been able to see community engaged service at work. On top of my concrete work, I was able to attend events and meetings with actual community members that gave my work meaning. Of course, I appreciate my growth as an academic, but these experiences stunted my personal growth and were essential in giving value to the project that I spent so much time on these past months.