Note: In June 2018, we interviewed Professor Stavish about Lawrence Technological University's Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication program. As LTU has suspended the program, we have archived this interview for historical purposes.
About Professor Corinne Stavish, MA: Corinne Stavish is the Director of the Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication at Lawrence Technological University. As Director, she guides the curriculum, hires and trains all faculty, admits and advises students, writes all progress reports, coordinates the Advisory Board, and teaches courses in the program. Her specialty courses are: Developing the Corporate Story, Advanced Interpersonal Communication, and Team Building and Problem Solving. As a professional storyteller, Professor Stavish brings strong creative and oral communication skills to the program, which she helped to develop 18 years ago. Professor Stavish earned her Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Theater from the University of Illinois, Urbana, and her Master of Arts in Speech and Performing Arts from Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Lawrence Technological University’s Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication (MSTPC) program, and how it is structured? What are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?
[Professor Stavish] The MSTPC program focuses on written, oral and digital communication skills for the technical professional, with an emphasis on working in teams. The curriculum exemplifies Lawrence Tech’s motto of Theory and Practice. The six core courses all demand written rigor, oral presentations, and strong rhetorical analysis. In Foundations of Technical Communication, students train for academic reading, writing and understanding of the field of technical communication. Research Methods and Applications furthers the development of academic skills as well as scrutiny of reliable sources in professional situations. Digital, visual, and oral rhetorical analysis are the focus of Rhetoric of Technical Communication. That rhetorical analysis is continued in Advanced Publication Design. All areas of interpersonal communication, including perception, listening, nonverbal, gender, and conflict management are explored in Advanced Interpersonal Communication. The capstone of the program is the sixth required course, an independent Practicum.
The four electives can be used to develop a concentration in one of the areas of the program while also earning one of the certificates. For example, a student who is interested in writing and digital communication can take as three electives Website Design, Developing the Corporate Story, and Writing for Social Media toward a Certificate in Writing for the Digital Age.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of the MSTPC program can choose between completing a thesis or a technical communication practicum. Could you elaborate on both of these options, and what they entail?
[Professor Stavish] The capstone of the program is the Practicum. It is a practical project and/or thesis that is supervised and evaluated by a professional, sometimes from industry, but usually by one of the instructors who teaches a related course. It is not an internship but rather a project that emerges from work the student is doing or wants to explore. For example, one student designed a website for an organization for which she volunteered; one student, who was in the National Guard, developed a protocol for lay leaders to help soldiers with PTSD to tell their stories as a start to healing; another student developed all new marketing materials for the MSTPC program at Lawrence Tech; another developed software for an accounting firm; one student created protocols for virtual teams at a major health care company.
The projects are as varied as the students’ interests and as diverse as the program itself. Before determining the validity of the project, the student meets with the program director, who guides the initial proposal for it and helps the student to find the best advisor to supervise the project. The student reviews the literature and available research, logs all of the meetings, and writes a formal report on the needs, goals, method, evaluation and recommendations of the project. If the student chooses to research a specific topic, the procedure is the same, but the result is a more formal academic thesis.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in Lawrence Technological University’s MSTPC program? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to students, and how can they make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Professor Stavish] Mentorship occurs in every class. Almost all of the instructors are not only working professionals in the field but also graduates of the MSTPC program. They know exactly what the students need to be successful and uphold the high standards of the program. Last semester, the instructor for Sports Writing and Analysis, himself a professional sports writer and broadcaster, had every major sports writer in the area visit his class; took the students to the CBS radio studios; and for the final exam got media passes for them to a Detroit Tigers game, where after the game they interviewed the pitcher and had to write a 500-word column within an hour deadline. The Tigers lost that game, but the students were winners. One of our instructors is a former president of the Southeast Michigan chapter of the Society for Technical Communication as well as its current webmaster. We coordinate at least one STC meeting a semester to take place on the Lawrence Tech campus giving students an opportunity to meet the members and participate in meetings. Additionally, all of Lawrence Tech’s career services offerings and academic support initiatives are available to our students. Because we are a small program where students really get to know one another, graduates of the program are always eager to help current students and frequently send job postings from their companies.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in Lawrence Technological University’s Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication program, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?
[Professor Stavish] The application materials include transcripts, a professional writing sample, three letters of recommendation, and a personal interview. The most important written document is the writing sample. Personal statements are neither required nor encouraged. The most important part of the process is the personal interview, and that is where the personal statements should be. Because one-third of the program focuses on oral communication (presentations in every class with PowerPoint discouraged), speaking with the Program Director is critical. The interview can be conducted by phone for those living far away, but candidates must show that they speak well, use grammar correctly and communicate effectively.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Lawrence Technological University’s Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Professor Stavish] This is a small program that celebrates professional face-to-face communication. Classes are small, usually no more than 10 students in a course. Students and instructors know one another well; (you can run, but you can’t hide).The strong emphasis on oral and interpersonal communication also distinguishes this program from most others, but all surveys of employers say that oral communication is a skill they seek. In the spring term, the Program Director hosts a Whine, Wine and Cheese gathering in her home with the students, faculty and Advisory Board members. The networking is invaluable. The Advisory Board has industry representatives in Human Resources, Marketing, Engineering, Accounting and other professional fields. The hallmark of this degree is its flexibility to be a professional communicator in many technical fields. Our students work as graphic designers; web designers; technical writers; publication directors; marketing directors; librarians; team leaders in health care, human resources, and engineering; admissions officers; teachers; and one is a Vice President of Advancement at a university.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of master’s in communication programs often must balance work, internships, coursework, and rigorous research projects. What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully navigating their graduate school experience, and making the most of the opportunities presented to them?
[Professor Stavish] Most of our students work full time and take only one course a semester, which helps with time management. We encourage students to relate as much of their course work to their jobs as possible, encouraging the Lawrence Tech Theory and Practice mantra. The classes meet one evening a week from 5:45-8:25, giving students time to get home at a decent hour. Because the program is small, and our students prefer to spend time with their families in the summer, we do not offer summer classes, which gives students an opportunity to recharge for the academic year. The students build connections with faculty and peers in our very informal, highly inter-connected classes. All of the instructors foster mentoring relationships with students, have group assignments, and many create assignments for the students to collaborate outside of the classroom doing fieldwork.
Thank you, Professor Stavish, for your excellent insight into Lawrence Technological University’s Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication program!