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Alumni impart wisdom at writing symposium

Mira Braneck

This weekend, Grinnellians will have the opportunity to flex their creative writing muscles during a two-day symposium starting Friday afternoon and ending Saturday evening. “So You Think You Can Write: A Symposium of Written Communication,” will feature panels, dinners and networking opportunities with a variety of alumni and professional fields, all pertaining to written communication.

Ten different alumni will be returning to campus to sit on panels and discuss their professional lives after Grinnell. Young adult authors, radio journalists, editors, freelancers and reporters are only some of the positions held by the returning alumni. 

“We have a great lineup coming back to campus,” wrote Nate Dobbels, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations for Career Programs, in an email to The S&B. “It was challenging to narrow down our list.”

Each year, Dobbels organizes a different career-oriented symposium. This year, he saw careers in writing as a good fit for campus. 

“We looked at areas we wanted to help students and writing seemed to be a good fit,” he wrote. “It’s an area that we hadn’t had a symposium or reunion for in the past and reaches many majors (all majors) on campus. We have alumni doing great things in this area and we hoped, through talking with many campus partners, that it would drum up a lot of student interest.”

One alum, Courtney Sherwood ’00, who will be speaking on the panel of freelancers, had her start writing for The S&B. 

“I’ll be talking about my own path from four years on the staff of The S&B, through more than a decade of reporting and editing jobs in the struggling newspaper industry, to my current life as an independent news reporter who works for multiple outlets from my home base in Portland, Oregon,” she wrote in an email to The S&B. “I’m excited about connecting to students, and I hope I can be helpful to anyone interested in a journalism career.”

The symposium and student involvement is one new development Sherwood sees in the generation of college students learning to navigate the professional workforce. 

“My time at The S&B put me on this path and taught me a lot about how to work as a journalist, but I graduated from Grinnell with strong reporting and writing skills and a weak professional network—as well as a poor understanding of how a journalism career is built,” she wrote. “I have the impression that today’s students are much better at navigating both sides of the professional equation, but I’m still eager to do anything I can to assist the next generation of news junkies to find their place in a changing media world.”

In addition to information and professional networking opportunities, Dobbels hopes that students will find the symposium productive and helpful. 

“I hope [students] gain a new perspective into the career of writing and find inspiration to reach their goals,” he wrote. “Some will gain more than others, but those who come into the weekend with an open mind and a willingness to network with alumni will have a wonderful symposium.”

The symposium will be very interactive with a lot of opportunities to network, talk to alumni and hear about their experiences in the field of written communication.

On Friday and Saturday, the following events will be open to Grinnell students and the community:

• Lunch with guest panelists in the Dining Hall on Friday  at 12:30 p.m. 

• The “Freelance Writing Panel” in ARH 302 on Friday at 4 p.m. 

• Dinner with guest panelists on Friday at 7 p.m. RSVP to Nate Dobbels. 

• Student writing competition at 10 a.m. Saturday in JRC 101. Guest alumni will award prizes to the winning team.

• Lunch with guest panelists in the Dining Hall on Saturday  at 12:30 p.m. 

• “Writing Careers: Years in the Making” Panel in JRC 101on Saturday at 2 p.m.

• Internship and information fair in the Bucksbaum Rotunda on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

• Networking hour with the alumni on the second floor of the JRC at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

• Dinner with guest panelists on Saturday at 7 p.m. RSVP to Nate Dobbels. 

Writing Symposium Graphic

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