Student & Alumni Voices

PPW Internship Testimonials

“[The internship class] will provide you with necessary skills that will not be developed in other classes. …An understanding of the professional world (both corporate and nonprofit) equips you to move forward in your academic and professional career with the assurance that you will be able to handle any situation you may encounter. In addition to these benefits, I appreciated having a space dedicated to the discussion of potential issues with my internship. The environment of this class is laid back and supportive; take advantage of the other interns’ experiences and advice, because you will be each other’s support system.” Taia M. Pandolfi, The Bulletin

“The internship features your real-world work experiences, networking opportunities, and the ability to show employers that you can balance a full workload and class schedule. On the flip side, your internship class acts as your area to learn where you can improve as an intern and polish all of the most vital skills that employers expect you to have once you enter the working world.” Graham Nagy, LarsonO’Brien Marketing

“You’ll be introduced to insightful readings that make you reflect on your own goals and soon you’ll find yourself planning out your dreams to become realities. Don’t sell yourself short….What you do in the classroom should also reflect that work ethic you display at your internship site.” John J. Gonoude, Pittsburgh Penguins

“My biggest piece of advice for you as an intern is to establish yourself among your superiors as a reliable and credible worker. Show your supervisors that you are proactive, that you can be creative, but maintain the voice of your company, and especially that you can be flexible in any environment, with any project. Ask plenty of questions, learn as much as you can about your company, and make yourself known." Natalie Generalovich, Pitt Athletics Media Relations Department

“Class is very helpful for learning how to navigate the professional writing world both before and after you get hired. After attending class, reading the course materials, and completing assignments, I now have a cover letter, traditional and scannable resume, curriculum vitae (fancy teacher resume), internship journal and employment portfolio. Having these in hand will save you a lot of hysterics on graduation day….By the end of class, you will have clear answers to all of your questions about interviews, resumes, cover letters and office etiquette. If you make it to the last class, you will also have cookies.” Jennifer Swanson, The Young Turks

“As an intern, you have a great opportunity to not only learn new employable skills but also to assess what work environment best suits (or doesn’t suit) your personality.” Eliza Shearer, Global Studies Center

“The experience you gain at this internship will open doors to more internships. Build strong relationships at your current internship and maintain your network as you grow. Stay in touch because some day you might need help from one of the people you’re meeting now. Finally, learn as much as you can.” Kate Miltenberger, Pitt’s Office of Institutional Advancement

“I found communication to be the most important aspect of work. Otherwise, no one finished anything. I struggled my first month because I feared asking others if they needed help; however, I soon grew bored and stepped out of my comfort zone to find out that everyone needed help.” John Moorhead, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation

“The internship class provides some of the most valuable information you will receive in college….the class serves as a great platform for all internship and job-related questions….This experience gave me just what I needed to start into the field of science writing upon graduation, merging my neuroscience major with my writing certificate.” Kylie Wolfe, Pitt Med Magazine

“Interning is one of the greatest decisions I ever made in my college career. Not only did I gain experience in the professional writing field, but also I learned about myself as a writer and as a prospective employee…In my most recent interviews at home, I took our professor’s advice and typed a list of questions to bring along. Not only did I feel more prepared, but I looked it too….So often we portray the job search as something out of our control, but I no longer view it that way. I feel more confident reaching out to employers and [marketing] my skills with effectiveness.” Sarah Petsis, Make-A-Wish

“Don’t be afraid to ask for more work, to write something you feel passionate about, for more guidance, or networking opportunities. Asking questions shows that you care….[The] class and the course packet should give you the confidence you need to enter the professional world. From advice, personality tests, and resume and cover letter examples, to interviewing tips, the course packet will be your bible.” Rebecca Nagy, Harvey Klinger Inc. Publishing

“The internship I had was about learning what goes on in a public relations firm but, like any internship, it was also about learning what I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about a workplace environment.” Cara Calwell, WordWrite Communications

“Whether you decide to make a hard-copy or online [employment] portfolio, take this opportunity to really create a piece of yourself and your talents to share with future employers. Rarely do you get the opportunity in class to create a project that will continue to be useful years after graduation.” Lauren Bauschard, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

“During class, you will voice your concerns and issues. You will figure out your ideal workplace and career goals. The readings offer advice on everything from cover letters to the job hunt to the interview. This course offers everything you need to confidently enter the professional world.” Sarah Meyers, Maniac Magazine

“Do not just wait around for them to tell you what you should do, but show them everything you can do. Do not just do what you have been assigned, but think of ways in which you could help the company or your coworkers overall. Think big and be creative. Take on every task that is given to you and complete it with pride. Try to make connections with everyone you come in contact with. Willingness, dedication and a positive attitude will get you a lot farther and might even help your chances of getting hired with the company full-time.” Samantha Hietsch, Active Cities


Independent Study Portfolios

Eliza Shearer: A Student's Guide to Technical Writing (Spring 2016)

Alissa Persichetti: A Guide to Working in Sports Writing (Fall 2015)

Julie Hallinan: Social Media for Social Good: A Case Study Analysis (Spring 2013)

Matthew Schreiber: The Changing Role of Social Media in the Job Search and on the Job (Fall 2012)

Lauren Elias: So You Want to Work in Television: A Beginner's Guide to Pre-Production (Spring 2012)

Mark Wanczak: Social Media Marketing (Spring 2009)

Niki Kalemnous: Professional Meeting Management (Spring 2009)

Becca Lehner: The Event Guide (Spring 2009)

Stephanie Selah: A Guide to the Contemporary Publishing Industry (Spring 2007)


Examples of Undergraduate Research

Below are project descriptions from undergraduates who won support for research in the areas of pedagogy and composition studies:

Fall 2016: Edyn HerbertHunter HaafSarah Scholze, and Emma Solak presented at the International Writing Centers Association. Their panel title was "How Collaboration Helps Introduce Higher Level Concepts with Students of Any Language."

Fall 2015: Rikki LiShannon Pender, and Casey Talay presented on “Theories of Compositional Pedagogy and their Influence on Writing Center Practices” at the National Conference for Peer Tutoring in Writing. Their presentation explored how an understanding of the different theories behind composition tutoring can benefit different kinds of students “if the theories are treated as a network of interconnecting ideas, where one theory’s weakness can be covered by another theory’s strength. By analyzing expressivist, cognitive, and social-constructivist theories of composition pedagogy, we can understand the importance of utilizing each of these different methods wherever they are appropriate, rather than prescribing to one “best” philosophy of compositional pedagogy. In that way, tutors can work towards developing more effective tutoring practices.”

Fall 2015: Kari Andersen and Kim Clay presented at the National Conference for Peer Tutoring in Writing on the topic of “Contextualized Tutoring: Personalized Tutoring for the Individual Student." “Traditional tutoring styles encourage tutors to act and then adjust their actions if a method is unsuccessful with a particular student. In contrast, current research suggests that contextualized tutoring strategies can more effectively guide tutors’ actions throughout tutorials. Therefore, it is essential that tutors consider the emotional, cultural, and linguistic contexts within the tutorial relationship, to personalize tutorials for the individual student and achieve the highest level of learning and productivity.”

Fall 2014: Steven Boyd, Elizabeth Rakow, Sarah Bixby, and Jerome Dopkin presented their research at the International Writing Centers Association conference in Orlando. Steven, Elizabeth, and Jerome were awarded grants from Dietrich School's Office of Undergraduate Research to support their trip to the conference. Similarly, Sarah Bixby won an Academic Achievement Scholarship from the College of General Studies to support her trip. Here is their abstract: "Undergraduate peer tutors face a unique challenge in the writing center to redefine their new collegiate academic experiences and integrate them creatively into the tutorial setting. This research reimagines essential (and strikingly broad) textbook definitions of English pedagogy terms like 'teaching efficacy' that are introduced to many undergrads fresh to education, finding inventive and structured ways to contextualize and apply them to many one-on-one tutoring situations – even for special tutorials involving students with learning disabilities." All four students are planning to graduate in April 2015. Steven is an English Literature major with a minor in Applied Mathematics. Elizabeth is majoring in English Literature and Nonfiction Writing. Sarah is majoring in Public and Nonprofit Management and is earning the Public and Professional Writing certificate. Jerome is majoring in Mathematics. All four students are peer tutors in the Writing Center.

Spring 2013: Zaneta Franklin won an OUR Undergraduate Research Award to study high school writing centers. Her faculty mentor was Barbara Edelman. "My research investigates the role that the writing center plays within a high school and explores whether coming to the writing center should be mandatory or voluntary for students. I will be investigating the implications of compelling students to go to the writing center and evaluate whether the arguments for not requiring students to go to the writing center (in college) apply for high school students and high school writing centers. In addition, I will be investigating various writing center models that high schools have implemented and examine how they impacted students: For instance, if students continued going to the writing center after being initially required to go, what was it that they liked? Is a firm no-mandatory sessions policy and focusing instead on making the writing center inviting for students through fun outreach events enough to make sure that the maximum range of students take advantage of the writing center and benefit from it? I will be working with articles to discuss the importance of the writing center experience for high school students and evaluate whether students would seek out and benefit from this experience on their own. Based on my research, I will discuss how integrating writing center sessions with the curriculum could benefit a wider range of students by providing them with invaluable one-on-one guided instruction during a critical period in their academic development. In addition, integrating the writing center with curriculum could help avoid the negative stigma that may come with mandatory writing center sessions." Zaneta presented her research at the International Writing Centers Association conference in Fall 2014.

Summer 2012: Olivia Enders won an OUR Undergraduate Research Award for her project on "Summerbridge Pittsburgh": "This past summer, I had the opportunity to combine my love of English and my love of education into a research project, made possible by the Office of Undergraduate Research's Arts & Sciences Research Award. In my project, I studied how writing assignments promoted middle school student learning in a Religious Studies course that I taught at Summerbridge Pittsburgh. With Marylou Gramm, a lecturer in the English department, I researched and designed different types of writing assignments, and explored how they could stimulate the thinking of my students. These writing assignments varied from creative stories, to thought experiments, to responses to religious videos, to journal entries. I carefully documented the classroom atmosphere, student verbal responses, and student writing responses, and evaluated the successes and failures of my lesson plans after the course ended. Not only will the project help me in my future endeavors as an educator, but it also allowed me to see the importance of writing, not merely test-taking, as a way to deepen student understanding."

Summer 2011: Matt Diabes won an OUR Undergraduate Research Award to explore an aspect of gender and writing instruction: "Do male and female undergraduate students write differently, and if so does this difference correlate with performance in writing intensive classes? This study investigates hedge word usage in a sample of 195 student papers for an undergraduate Critical Writing course at the University of Pittsburgh.  Correlations were found between certain hedge terms and gender, gender and performance, and gendered hedge terms and performance, suggesting differences in gendered language actually affect scores given to the papers. This study builds on a foundation of controversial, sometimes contradictory findings in different contexts, and makes an attempt to sort out this ambiguity in the context of persuasive writing in an undergraduate course. It is recommended, based on the body of research analyzed for background research in this article, that the approach of only analyzing gender-language relationships in very specific contexts taken in this study should be widely adopted, since context has shown to affect gender-language study results dramatically." Matt's faculty mentor was Jean Grace.


Alumni Voices

“I am a proud graduate of the PPW program. I know the 'real-world' skills from the program allowed me to obtain the role I'm in today. I hope that future students take full advantage of the classes and the great professors the PPW program has to offer. Hail to Pitt!” Kristen Swinehart, 2011, Marketing Executive, Aberdeen Asset Management

“The PPW program produced some of my favorite classroom memories...for all those currently in the program, rest assured that 1) there are jobs out there, and 2) you will be using these skills on a daily basis once you leave.” Chris Salera, 2010, Associate, Cohen & Grigsby

“Completing the challenging PPW program provided me with invaluable skills that I apply to my job every day. My favorite memories of the program were during the courses where we were able to mix design and writing to create our own original pieces. Special thanks to Pam O’Brien and Jean Grace for making class fun!” Christina Colalillo, 2009, Corporate Communication Coordinator, Range Resources

“Pursuing a PPW Certificate was the best academic decision I made as an undergrad. The different types of writing I was exposed to helped make me a better writer overall and made me a more valuable asset within the Navy. I encourage anyone wishing to go into the public relations, marketing or communications industry to join the PPW program. It will be your biggest asset upon graduation.” Alison Maruca, 2007, Public Affairs Officer, US Navy Reserve;  Director of Outreach at United Way of South Hampton Roads

"Enrolling in the Public and Professional Writing program was the best decision I made at Pitt. The program helped me acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for my career and allowed me to get started in a real-world setting through an internship. I’m proud to have been one of the first students to earn this certificate. I don’t know where I’d be without it." Jon Ebel, 2005, Communications Manager, Asbury Heights

“Choosing to pursue the PPW Certificate was the best decision I made for my education and for my own professional development. The program enhanced multiple facets of my writing and my life. Each course contributed to developing my own perspective on communication and design for the nonprofit, public, and private sectors. If I had to do it all over again, I would still choose the PPW program as part of my college career.” Rebecca Lehner, 2009, Senior Organizational Change Management Consultant, The MITRE Corporation

"As an attorney, I truly believe that my PPW certificate has enhanced, and will continue to enhance, my career. To date, some three years later, I still hear the words of my professors in my ears each time that I write. Many people in today's world lack the fundamental etiquette of writing in a professional setting. The skills gained from this program come into play on a daily basis and have allowed me to distinguish myself from my peers. The PPW program affords a very transferable, versatile skill set that is invaluable, and will help anyone stand out in their career! It is by far the most practical thing that I did during my educational career." Marissa M. Hill, Esq., 2012, Associate Attorney, Randy S. Margullis & Associates

“As a fiction writing major, the PPW program helped to diversify my writing skills and prepare me for work in the ‘real world.’” Elizabeth Petoniak, 2013, Senior Editor, Palm Beach Illustrated

“I found PPW a very challenging but rewarding experience. I learned not only how to refine my writing skills, but also how to use programs like Adobe InDesign. I best remember Pam's Professional Writing in Global Contexts, where we learned to write for non-English speaking audiences.” Christopher Saunders, 2007, Customer Service Representative, UPMC, and freelance writer

"I remember talking about the “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” ad in Corporate Storytelling taught by Professor Julie Pal-Agrawal, and that discussion really stuck with me. Coke had been my dream advertising client since I was 15 years old, and Professor Julie Pal-Agrawal’s analysis of why that ad was so great showed me the ins and outs of a quality campaign. Starting tomorrow that discussion will come full circle for me as I will be starting my position as an Art Director at VMLY&R – for Coke’s Advertising Agency. I would not feel as prepared as I do for this position if it weren’t for that class, and I will be looking over my old notes tonight to brush up!" Joseph Barreto, 2022, Art Director, VMLY&R