Students graduating from York University’s Professional Writing programs gathered with faculty and alumni in Founders College on April 24 to celebrate their work with the program’s inaugural Professional Writing Capstone Showcase.
The event brought together students from various areas of specialization: Book Making & Publishing, Digital Authoring, Periodical Writing & Publishing, and Corporate & Organizational Writing. Students in the program choose two of these specialties and undertake a two-term practicum that applies their classroom knowledge and culminates in a meaningful experiential project for clients from the greater York community and beyond. Their work and endeavours demonstrated that each of the practicum groups had a strong desire to make a positive contribution to their community or the larger world.
At the event, students from the Periodical Writing & Publishing Practicum treated the audience to compelling excerpts from their work, reading from in-depth feature articles on a variety of topics, some of which included Canada’s endangered wetlands, the struggle of independent clothiers against companies copying their designs and an eye-witness account and critical reflection on the van attack in North York, Ont. The feature articles are now available on The Scribbler, a website created by the students to share their work.
Students in the Corporate & Organizational Writing Practicum were tasked with creating a startup communications consulting agency and their efforts demonstrated that giving to their community matters. As well as forming In-Com, an agency that worked successfully with university-based clients, students partnered with the York-TD Community Engagement Centre to run a writing clinic for local residents of the Jane-Finch community.
The clinic provided “outreach among various community organizations,” said Lorna Schwartzentruber, associate director of community engagement at York University, and it “meets one-on-one with community members to assist with individual writing projects.”
The students’ presentation not only demonstrated their professionalism, but also entertained the audience as they showed a tongue-in-cheek video of themselves keeping company with a dinosaur. The contrasting but complementary notes displayed to all present at the event the pleasure that comes when a classroom becomes a community.
The desire to have positive impact was also evident in the Digital Authoring Practicum. Students not only created websites and video productions for clients interested in promoting their businesses, they also committed to devising social media campaigns to raise awareness about not-for-profit organizations such as Black Creek Community Farms and Refugee Aid Toronto.
Alexandra Prochshenko, one of the program’s graduating students, said the practicum offered the students a wonderful opportunity. “I work in digital writing and marketing, and this course helped me build my portfolio from scratch,” Prochshenko said. “I got a chance to have real clients outside of York University and help their projects grow, and this experience became the gem of my resume.”
Every year since the creation of the Professional Writing Program, students in the Book Publishing Practicum have seen a book through all the stages manuscript into a finished product. This year, students worked with Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Emeritus Arthur Haberman on publishing his most recent murder mystery, Social Justice, which is set in Toronto.
“It’s a great feeling,” said graduating student Madelaine Pries, “to actually see your hard work manifest, to turn a document on a computer into a physical book that we could then market to the Toronto community. I’ve never been so proud to hold the final assignment of a class in my hands.”
Other highlights of the event included readings by student writers publishing in Inventio, an online publication created by the Professional Writing Student Association, and a humorous musical performance by Danie Friesen of Opera Revue, an appreciative client of the Digital Authoring Practicum. Poetry, Puccini and periodic banter intermingled with project presentations, generating a celebratory tone throughout the afternoon.
The capstone showcase offered a meaningful way to recognize and support the students’ endeavours.
Victoria Silman, one of the graduating students, said her course director “provided us with the necessary knowledge to be successful as independent writers” and noted that “having an outlet where students can showcase the hard work they’ve done throughout the year is another essential opportunity for learning.”
Students learning from each other’s work, faculty appreciating the exciting projects that unfold in their colleagues’ classrooms and applauding the students’ outstanding accomplishments was a deeply rewarding note on which to end the academic year.
Story by Kerry Doyle, assistant lecturer and undergraduate program director, Professional Writing program