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Q & A with Alumni

We asked MATC alumni several questions about their experiences with the program and how it benefitted them after graduation. Here is what they had to say:

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How has your MATC degree helped you in your job or career?

I apply what I learned in the degree program on a daily basis. The MATC courses are the knowledge base that has allowed me to groom my experience in emergency management, a discipline once foreign to me, into a fast advancing and rewarding career. Confident in what I was hired to do (technical writing), I was able to leverage my education into new areas within my division and break away from the parameters set by the original position. - Lauren Allen

It really helped me better formulate my thoughts into writing. I find I use my degree every time I draft a contract.
- Melissa Boettcher

The program taught me how to think analytically as a communicator. Successfully developing information involves an awareness that the program cultivated. For instance, looking at various types of discourse through theoretical perspectives showed me how those discourses work socially, ethically, and culturally, and why they are or are not effective. I use the analytical tools that the program gave me to analyze other people’s work so that I can improve my own. - Bryce Dishongh

I am using my MATC degree to learn about new technology and about the way Information Technology enterprise solutions help companies set up and maintain their databases, storage facilities, and product dashboards. Working for a large corporation was intimidating at first, but it is not that much different from working in a smaller company. The people we work with every day are professional and caring. - Jo Jarl

The many years I spent managing both the MATC website and Blackboard (Gato), has helped immensely. I have created a systematic go-to site for some of our more complex projects so that installers, trainers and sales people can all have their questions answered quickly and correctly. - Jennifer R. Johnson

My MATC degree helped me feel more prepared to write and edit the many reports and technical documents that are completed in my area of the information technology division. - Carol Landry

One of the best things about going through the MATC program is that it gave me the opportunity to focus on what matters in communication. I had always heard that audience focus and brevity, for example, were important. But the time I spent reading about, researching, and discussing these and other tenets of technical communication helped me to develop the self confidence and focus to make sound decisions and to be willing and able to defend decisions based on communication theory when necessary. - Laura Lavergne

The MATC offered credibility as I re-entered the workforce after being on the “mommy-track” for 15+ years. Having the degree on my resume helped bridge the time-gap on my resume.  - Sue Leininger

A Master’s is required before a PhD, and it prepared me for a scholarly career. - Lonie McMichael

My MATC experience was an important credential for me in negotiations with and management of overseas operations. It was also essential for my admission into the PhD program at Texas Tech. - Cheri Mullins

Through MATC, I improved my writing and communication skills, especially in the technical and teaching fields. When you know how to create a document that teaches someone how to do something, this naturally helps you improve documents that have already been written by someone else. As a copyeditor, I not only correct grammatical errors—I also make suggestions to improve the reader's experience with the material. - Jennifer Thomas

I have been able to present on and apply concepts I learned in Document Design courses. Also, the real-world group projects we did in the MATC program prepared me for similar projects at work. - Brooke Wehrmann

I probably would not have been awarded [my] job without an advanced degree, since I did not have any previous technical writing experience. - Bradford Wible

During my time in the MATC program, I realized that I wanted to conduct research related to government discourse and intercultural communication. The MATC program was the impetus for continued studies in the field. - Miriam Williams

My MATC degree has provided me with a skill set that is different from the majority of my coworkers, who are former elementary and secondary teachers. I have been exposed to research methods, academic concepts, and publishing tools that help me fill a niche in my department. - Sarah Wilson

What was your favorite course or project in the MATC program and why?

Rhetorical Theory was my most memorable course in the MATC, mostly because it was my introduction to the program. I was a graduate student in the MA program at the time, but after intense, three-hour discussions on theory, I was hooked. Dr. Jackson and Alexis Cline were my inspiration for joining the MATC program. - Lauren Allen

My favorite was visual rhetoric. It linked my interests in nonverbal communication to writing. - Melissa Boettcher

I took the most from Document Design with Dr. Morton. We worked on a team to design a website. In every class, we had a workshop in which we could analyze work, brainstorm, and apply the theories we’d been learning about—all of which is useful on the job. No one works alone anymore, and it’s essential to get used to giving and receiving feedback and presenting your work. Also, technology increases the mutability of everything from information development processes to document design conventions. You have to pay attention to remain competitive and effective. This class taught me to be mindful of the new theories, ideas, information development processes, and communication conventions in the field. - Bryce Dishongh

My favorite course in the MATC was Technical Editing. I’m not sure whether the name of the course has changed, but we used Carolyn Rude’s book on editing plus many other resources provided in the course. - Jo Jarl

I have always been partial to the Software Documentation course, though I know that’s kind of weird. Besides the internship (which not everyone does) there is no other course in the MATC pantheon that allows you to use all of the principles of technical communication, especially if you create a HTML help system. I can say definitively that Software Documentation was instrumental in me getting my job, and securing my promotion and current position.
- Jennifer R. Johnson

I enjoyed the software documentation class, most likely because it was immediately applicable to my work environment. Also, I enjoyed the cultural awareness and gender differences topics and am able to draw from these perspectives daily. - Carol Landry

My favorite course was Literacy and Society. The readings and discussions provided a fascinating glimpse into how communication is part of every life every day. The course left me with meaningful insight into how communication and technology work together to make a difference in our world. - Laura Lavergne

I enjoyed all my classes with Dr. Allison and Dr. Jackson but I think my favorite class was ENG 5313 - “Ethics in Technical Communication." The class discussions and case studies really opened my eyes to the situations that technical communicators can face. I left knowing that I needed to have some core values in place that I could consciously bring with me into the work place. - Sue Leininger

I enjoyed Technology of the Book because it was just a lot of fun. Also, I found Rhetoric and Philosophy of Technology incredibly informational and I am using some of the research in my dissertation now. - Lonie McMichael

I had several favorites: Digital & Print Document Design, Rhetoric, and Website Design. Admittedly, these didn't directly impact my present occupation, but I do apply the theories I learned in these classes to my volunteer work as a webmaster for a number of not-for-profit websites. - Jennifer Thomas

Visual Design Theory - I think it’s very cool and more importantly very relevant to tech comm today. Also, although it was difficult, Rhetorical Theory was very interesting and relevant to all areas of tech comm. - Brooke Wehrmann

Dr. Pinfan Zhu’s Digital Media. Magic Duck, enough said. - Bradford Wible

The internship course was a favorite – I remember documenting the computer network at the MITC lab. The MITC lab is gone, but I still have the documentation in case anyone needs it. - Miriam Williams

I enjoyed taking Research Methods with Dr. Jackson and learning about the difference between quantitative and qualitative data. I also enjoyed some of the classic texts we read, like The Struggle and the Tools. I occasionally run across ideas or authors that we read about in the MATC program in the academic literature we read at work.
- Sarah Wilson

What was the most useful theory or application you learned in the MATC program?

Visual rhetoric, rhetorical theory, and qualitative and quantitative research methods. - Lauren Allen

Gestalt theory. - Melissa Boettcher

The most useful theory was perhaps the least academic: Robin Williams’ The Non-Designer’s Design Book. I use the four design principles in that book to guide everything I design, from technical documents to marketing materials.
- Bryce Dishongh

FrameMaker is undoubtedly the most useful application. I’ve used it for 8 years in my job. The most useful theory or concept is usability. A technical document is only as good as its function: a concise, clear, and complete explanation about how to perform tasks. - Jo Jarl

The principles of visual rhetoric (they apply across the board): visual messages are pervasive and have eclipsed the influence of the spoken/written word, visual messages are volatile, eliciting positive and negative responses simultaneously, and visual messages are efficient, emotional, and enthymematic in the way they puersuade.
(The Rhetorical Act: Thinking, Speaking and Writing Cricically, Campbell & Huxman, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009)

Or, more concisely, “the medium is the message.” - Marshall McLuhan
 - Jennifer R. Johnson

There were many – but I know that on a daily basis I am mentally going down the checklist of ‘do’s and don’ts related to page presentation, such as allowing sufficient white space, selecting the correct font for web vs print, etc.
- Carol Landry

Good communication is good communication. - Laura Lavergne

I do not recall the course name but Dr. Jackson taught the class and the text was “Foundations for Teaching Technical Communication.” One of our projects was to create our own syllabus for teaching an undergraduate tech comm class. I showed that exact same syllabus during my interview for the Concordia teaching position! - Sue Leininger

Actually, the most useful theory I learned was in Comm Studies rhetoric class: Bell Hooks’ ideology of domination which I am using as the basis for my dissertation. - Lonie McMichael

I had a strong technical communication background going into the MATC program, but I had little formal theory to back up my experience. As a result, I focused heavily on theory in my MATC studies. I don’t think I can single out any one course – everything was useful and I continue to utilize what I learned in the MATC program as I do my research for my dissertation and other research projects. - Cheri Mullins

I learned that a credible website needs to be neat, easy to navigate, free of grammatical problems, up to date, and most important, interactive. This was invaluable information for the websites I work on, and it has stuck with me to this day.
- Jennifer Thomas

CRAP—Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity (from visual design theory). I used this in creating worksheets, handouts, and tests when I was a teacher. I used this in creating flyers or email announcements for work and outside of work. I also used these concepts to present on simple visual design theories for this year’s NI Tech Comm conference.
- Brooke Wehrmann

For me, a webmaster on the side, learning web development and editing through Dr. Zhu’s course, Digital Media, and my internship with Dr. Busby and Dr. Heaberlin at The Center for the Study of the Southwest was the most useful application I learned while in the MATC program. Nobody wants to listen to my theories anyway. - Bradford Wible

All of the theories covered in the Foundations course prepared me for doctoral work. - Miriam Williams

I think the best thing I learned is that a research study does not necessarily have to lead to a conclusion. It can be valuable just to gather data and spur the investigative process. - Sarah Wilson

What is your favorite memory from your time in the MATC program?

Jennifer Johnson and I made a wild dash on foot in heavy rain to make our Computers and Writing course after a brief—but delicious—dinner at the Italian Garden, which was down the hill from campus. The classroom was freezing, and we were soaked. Jennifer and I decided to make the best of what few clothes we had managed to tuck away to keep dry, but we looked like Oliver and Oliver’s Taller Friend…or lil’ orphan Annie and her grumpy friend, Pepper. - Lauren Allen

When the computers and writing class had a party with Jason’s Deli. - Melissa Boettcher

My favorite memory is working on a video project for Dr. Zhu. We were exploring how visual media is manipulated to accentuate messages or to skew facts, for instance. We decided to use the principles we were learning about to see how we could convincingly communicate some serious stupidity. - Bryce Dishongh

My favorite MATC memory was sleeping on the floor of Dr. Allison’s office when she was out of the office. I was her assistant at the time and, like most graduate students, I was exhausted. - Jo Jarl

Ordering pizza and eating it in Libby’s office while I’m on her computer and she’s on her laptop during the “online” portion of her classes. A close second to that would be me working regular office hours with my kiddo playing on a laptop in the background. - Jennifer R. Johnson

I remember enjoying a class where the students were critiquing each other’s draft brochures. Everyone was engaged and was passionate about their projects. All students had a professional attitude, so the advice provided was presented in a helpful and useful manner. Students were applying knowledge on multiple levels – in preparation of their own document and in critiquing others’ documents. - Carol Landry

I showed my age when I had to explain to a much younger classmate what was meant by the term “cc” or “carbon copy.” I realized then that I was a lot older than a lot of people in the program but I never felt that my “seniority” would be held against me. - Sue Leininger

Hanging out at Grins after an afternoon class with other students and just talking. - Lonie McMichael

My favorite memories of my time in the MATC program center around discussions about rhetoric, academia, and life with Dr. Rebecca Jackson, who ultimately became my thesis director. - Cheri Mullins

I have two. One is the field trip to National Instruments (Dr. Zhu's International Tech Com class). I'm a sucker for field trips and I have always wanted to see what goes on behind the scenes at a technology company. The other was the presentation of my portfolio in Dr. Morton's Website Design class, because I finally learned how to make a CD auto-play. I've always considered the autorun feature one of the cleverest and most subtle conveniences, almost magical, so when I figured out how to make it work, I felt like I'd been let in on a big industry secret. It's actually quite simple to do, but it is a great professional finishing touch when you're burning a CD or DVD for a presentation. - Jennifer Thomas

While it’s not one specific memory, it has to be the professors—I enjoyed the discussions and conversations with the professors each semester. Each course relied on conversation to teach, build, and extract ideas and concepts. Each professor brought real-world experience and examples that made our course work relevant. Each professor was also very approachable, excited about the program, and genuinely interested in the success of each student.
- Brooke Wehrmann

Oh, I don’t know, perhaps the most memorable event was learning that I did not pass the comprehensive examination. I’ve had better days. - Bradford Wible

At graduation, I remember the announcer mentioning that Jo Ann Jarl and I were the first graduates of the MATC program. That was a special moment. - Miriam Williams

I enjoyed working with all the professors: Dr. Allison, Dr. Jackson, Dr. Ledbetter, and others. - Sarah Wilson

How have you experienced the power of networking within the MATC community and throughout your career?

Another graduate of the MATC program sent out an email to us about a job opening at her company. I told her I was interested, and it landed me an interview. That’s pretty much it. I don’t really take advantage of networking opportunities, though, honestly. - Bryce Dishongh

Like many people, I was totally immersed in my job when I started working as a technical communicator. My only contact with other writers was in the office. I guess you could consider the power of connections being the ones in the office. But, when I was laid off, I realized that the community of technical writers was much larger than just the information development group at my company. At that point I started reconnecting with the alumni of the MATC program, the STC, and former colleagues. The connections are not just for job searches. They are also for friendship, moral support, and sharing new ideas. Connections are powerful. After eight years as a technical writer, my realization about the importance of connections might be the biggest change in my career. - Jo Jarl

I can honestly say that I would not have my current job without the MATC community. I have called upon multiple colleagues to help answer questions I have had with programs (FrameMaker in particular) when I first got started.
- Jennifer R. Johnson

It has given me the opportunity to remain connected with activities at the university. - Carol Landry

It’s always helpful to know and interact with people who share your focus and can offer insight into real-world situations. Individual experiences shape how individuals see things, but hearing stories from colleagues in your profession can enhance your ability to make sound decisions based on a broader view of how theory translates into practice.
- Lauren Lavergne

Letters of recommendation from professors helped me get into a PhD Program. - Lonie McMichael

Networking is critical, especially if you're a freelancer. All of your work comes to you via word of mouth. While I was finishing up my degree, I went to work at a textbook company for a year so that I could make industry contacts and learn more about the publishing process. Then I went freelance, and so far, every single job I've gotten has been through the contacts I made at the textbook company. And of course, if I hear of a job that I'm not suited for, I pass it along to others who might be interested. - Jennifer Thomas

It’s been helpful to see what other graduates or doing now to see they myriad careers to which tech comm. applies. Networking online has brought opportunities to attend conferences, and even emails send important information about the latest in the tech comm. world. For example, it was cool to receive information about Apple’s new style guide!
- Brooke Wehrmann

Well, I wouldn’t say that I’ve experienced the power of networking within the MATC community yet. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that networking within the community doesn’t benefit one; it’s that I just haven’t networked within the community yet. Did I use too many words to express that thought? - Bradford Wible

Well, obviously, keeping in touch with Dr. Allison proved beneficial. - Miriam Williams

Since my move to Dallas I have associated mostly with education professionals. I enjoy my job and am grateful for it, but I have also considered moving back into the technical communication field. Earlier this year, I interviewed for a technical writing position. Dr. Allison was able to help me locate portfolio materials to use in the interview. Technical communicators are a small but talented group who look out for each other. - Sarah Wilson