July 3, 2012
A new workshop at Illinois State will encourage students to develop writing abilities for the academic and business worlds. The Business Writing Workshop, running from Wednesday, July 11, to Friday, July 13, is a joint effort by the College of Business, the Department of English and the Illinois State Writing Program.
“Writing is so critical to thinking,” said Dean Scott Johnson of the College of Business. “And there is a link between thinking clearly and writing clearly.” Effective writing has always been a demand of graduates from employers, added Johnson, who encourages writing additions to the business curriculum.
The three-day workshop for 40 students, half of them incoming freshmen, is supported by the English department’s grant from Caterpillar, Inc. Sessions will be geared toward assessing and responding to writing situations. “You might have a template for how to write a PowerPoint presentation, or how to write an email,” said Department of English Chair Joan Mullin, “but templates have limited use for actual writing tasks in the business world. Students need to understand the expectations, audience and the disciplinary or institutional activities that produced the reason for composing any writing response.”
Teaching students to write is a difficult task. The goal of the workshop is not to produce 40 perfect writers, but to charge students to open their minds when it comes to writing. “It's impossible to teach students how to write in one way for every situation,” said Director of the Writing Program Joyce Walker. “You have to teach them how to adapt writing to different circumstances and create a culture that continually investigates writing.”
The workshop will give students the chance to gain an informed approach to writing for different areas of business. Four COB faculty members from accounting, management, finance and marketing will join four Writing Program facilitators to lead the workshop session.
The variety of business expertise is no accident, noted Walker. “A finance person may be able to translate information from numbers. But those same numbers might mean something completely different to a person in marketing. A boilerplate method of writing would never work when there is such a difference in need and approaches in a business-writing setting.”
An added benefit of the workshop is to answer the call by the General Education Task Force for increased attention to writing across campus. “We cannot teach courses in an isolated atmosphere,” said Mullin, who noted the meetings between English instructors and business faculty provide an environment in which instructors can exchange strategies.
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