An Overview of UAB’s Professional Writing Magazine
By Students, For Students
Two years ago UAB premiered their first issue of MEMORANDUM, a professional writing magazine (written and published by professional writing students) dedicated to helping students already enrolled or interested in professional writing as a major and as a career. “MEMORANDUM started as an idea,” laughed Jeffrey Bacha, Assistant Professor of Professional and Technical Communication at UAB and also the Faculty Advisor to MEMORANDUM. “I wanted students to have a place to publish their work, but also work on document design, which is a skill set a lot of professional writers need when they go into the job market.” Since MEMORANDUM is student-focused, much of the content relates directly to students’ questions, concerns, and interests.
Some topics of interest in the publication include the relevance of the major itself, the direction it’s headed, opportunities at UAB in the professional writing sphere, internships on campus and in the Greater Birmingham area, and tools and tips needed in the modern context of communication. For many students involved in the MEMORANDUM publication, this marks the inaugural presence of their voice in the public eye. Bacha feels the public nature of the magazine serves as a vital role in the students’ progress into technical communication. “I think [MEMORANDUM] is important for a number of reasons. What I see as the importance of the project deals with the public nature of the publication,” he continues. “Students are producing content that is publicly accessible so strangers, anyone, can stop by and see what they’ve made.” The publication serves as both an academic endeavor and a leap into the professional world.
The Career Preparation Publication
MEMORANDUM delves into careers that most students may not even have been aware were attainable with this degree. Majoring or minoring in Professional Writing can be immensely beneficial to any student. Whether someone is interested in freelancing, graphic design or something in-between; the possibilities are endless.
However, while the major provides multiple avenues for possible careers, the job hunt is still a concern for many students and recent graduates. For today’s communicator, writing is only one aspect of the professional writing field. Design now plays an even larger role in the job market. “In the document design class [for MEMORANDUM], it’s also beneficial because it’s a large publication so students can learn how to manage a large publication and it’s an experience they don’t really get anywhere else,” said Bacha. MEMORANDUM’s content offers a glimpse about careers outside the collegiate realm. The publication shows what tools, attitudes, and perspectives will make some of those dream jobs a reality. Some of these glimpses also come in the form of past internship stories, alumni spotlights, marketing and branding tool kits, professional software and app updates, and document design help – through CVs, cover letters, and résumés.
As an example, in issue two of MEMORANDUM an article entitled “Social Media: Personal Branding” informs that students can use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and even Snapchat to develop their “social media portfolio”. Haley Townsend, a former UAB student and current digital content producer at WIAT 42 News, understands the value in today’s digital world. “The concentration allowed me to hone my writing skills for digital context. I remember being in professional writing courses you’re in now talking about how we all everyday consume the massive amount of written content on smart phones. Well, now I’m one of many people who helps produce that digital content.” The article touches the subject of blogging and the different ways it can create a brand, market the journalistic and storytelling skill sets that an author possesses, and even build online profiles.
“On the digital side of [the publication] students get to write code and see how their code works in an actual public environment, which is incredibly useful,” said Bacha.
Building a Bridge
Closer to home, MEMORANDUM offers up to date coverage on the Professional Writing program at UAB, UAB writing and communication events, résumé-packing projects (including the magazine itself), internships, and career opportunities. MEMORANDUM explores the ever evolving technical communication discipline, introduces new concepts, embraces old ones, and reinvents itself with each subsequent volume.
Peyton Chandler, a current student at UAB and former digital editor for Good Grit magazine, is one of the many students whose career path has been touched by MEMORANDUM. “MEMORANDUM definitely prepared me for the very hectic reality working in a digital editorial position because in a classroom setting where you’re working with others and constantly trying to improve the digital space you learn the unpredictability of it all. MEMORANDUM made me less overwhelmed. There’s only so much familiarity you can get when working in a classroom a couple times a week, but in the time I worked on MEMORANDUM even just that little bit of experience has helped.”
In the end, the magazine works as a bridge between two different contexts: the academic and the professional. MEMORANDUM may be the publication for the Professional Writing program at UAB, but it transcends that confining label because of the students that work to design and produce it, and learn the techniques necessary to perform in the modern world of today’s professional communicator.