Inver Hills English department offers two smart writing certificates that can help you succeed in any career field
Kristin Thoennes, English faculty at Inver Hills Community College, collaborated with her colleagues in the English department to create two writing certificates that allow students to discover writing as an essential way to leverage their intelligence, professionalism and competency.
Writing effectively has never been an ability reserved for novelists and journalists. The need for a solid writing skill set is even more important in today’s competitive workplace. Making headway on any professional career track requires proficiency in writing.
Communication skills in general are vital in the work-a-day world. A November 2015 study called “The Human Factor: The Hard Time Employers Have Finding Soft Skills” came to the following conclusion: “Writing, communication skills, and organizational skills are scarce everywhere. These skills are in demand across nearly every occupation—and in nearly every occupation they’re being requested far more than you’d expect based on standard job profiles. Even fields like IT and Engineering want people who can write.”
Writing certificates at Inver Hills are the answer
The Professional Writing Certificate, 14–16 credits, will enhance your professional portfolio and artistic development through instruction and practice in creative and technical writing processes. By focusing on the study of writing, you will get a handle on style and correctness. You’ll also be able to choose from research, creative, technical and literature course offerings.
“English 1118 is a required course for this certificate and the Workplace Writing Certificate,” Kristin Thoennes said. “This course is an in-depth study of punctuation, grammar and usage with an emphasis on what I like to call ‘TOOLS not RULES.’ We focus on the reasons behind the sentence-level choices writers are free to make—not ‘have to’ make.”
The Workplace Writing Certificate, 9 credits, gives you the chance to learn and improve strategies and skills for effective workplace writing. Kristin regularly teaches three courses offered by this certificate.
“I’m so pleased when students sign up for this certificate in particular because it will help them be stronger candidates when they are searching for a job,” she said. “Employers tell us over and over that they wish their employees had better writing skills.”
Snapshots of certificate writing courses
Kristin Thoennes on English 1116: Writing for the Web
This course is getting more popular because some of the younger students grew up writing on social media platforms and aren’t in any way intimidated. The favorite class assignment lets students come up with a blog theme. They craft and polish several posts during the semester using blog-writing conventions. Each student provides feedback to two other students for each post. You wouldn’t believe how much fun they have, both in writing their own blog post s and giving feedback to others.
Over the course of the semester, students slowly move away from what they know about academic writing to Web writing. The two are significantly different. It’s so much fun for me to observe their growth, both as writers and as peers who give serious and helpful feedback to one another. We all learn so much from the posts as well. The topics are far-reaching.
Kristin Thoennes on English 1118: Style and Correctness for Writers
This course was offered for the first time in spring semester 2016. All the students chose the class as an elective—and for me this was a really new experience compared to teaching required English courses. I felt like I was working with a genuine community of writers. None were reluctant or needed triage over past insults or injuries from earlier experiences with writing. They were all in!
I always tell my classes that you don’t HAVE to write—you GET to write. I’ll be honest; I see many eyes roll. But in elective classes like English 1118, I believe every student comes to believe good writing is not only valuable for career advancement, but also fun and empowering.
Ten students took English 1118 in spring 2016 and five earned one of the two certificates (see spotlights below). One of the five, Jennifer Rials, has an M.B.A. and several other titles and certificates. Three more students will earn one of the two certificates next year. One student is PSEO and is graduating this year and off to another college. The final student is heading for UW-River Falls to become a high school English teacher.
Kristin Thoennes on English 1130: Research and Writing for the Professions
This is a practical class that helps students prepare for the kind of writing they’ll do in the workforce. The class also meets Minnesota Transfer Curriculum requirements for a second-level composition course thanks to the research needed for report and proposal assignments.
The course’s last assignment, “The Biggie,” is the final proposal. This assignment leads to a professional document that helps solve a problem students have noticed at work or church or school or any organization in their lives. It works like this: the student notices some process that needs improving, or some missing item or faulty equipment or flawed procedure, etc. The student develops a plan for addressing the defect or deficit and then submits the written plan as a formal proposal to an actual decision maker.
The proposal is a genuine document addressed to a real person or group of real people, a proposal that hopefully implements a change for the better. The assignment teaches students that they can be proactive agents for change, not just passive observers of problems.
John Webb Sr.
High school and year graduated: GED in 1981
Hometown: Pensacola, Florida
Current city or town of residence: Burnsville, Minnesota
Program and degree area at Inver Hills: Earned his Associate of Science (A.S.) in Individualized Professional Studies with a Focus on Community Resource Advocacy in 2015; served in the U.S. Navy 1984–88 on the pre-commission crew that built USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier
Transfer plans: Going to the College of St. Scholastica fall 2016 to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human services
Career plans: Undecided, but is considering the helping profession working with men in recovery
What do you like best about Inver Hills? Faculty and staff
Why did you choose your career path? Experience in personal recovery
What has been your toughest challenge in life? “My alcholism; I’m six years sober.”
What do you most want to accomplish in life? “Security for my 10-year-old son’s future and happiness.” See John Lennon quote.
Three words that describe you as a college student: Dedicated. Passionate. Goal-oriented.
What do you like most about writing? “Writing helps me organize and interpret my thoughts, or I should say the writing process. It helps turn my thoughts inward, which helps me experience myself in writing.”
What do you like least about writing? “When the content or purpose for the writing does not interest me. Busywork.”
What are the most important things you’ve learned earning your Workplace Writing Certificate? “I’ve learned about the power of writing. By improving my writing skills, including creating a stronger resume, I now have better career choices.”
What would you tell a student who’s thinking about going for a Workplace Writing Certificate? “This certificate is invaluable for enhancing your career options.”
Rachael R. Johnson
High school and year graduated: Hudson Senior High School Class of 2013
Hometown: Hudson, Wisconsin
Current city or town of residence: Hudson, Wisconsin
Program and degree area at Inver Hills: Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) in Art and Professional Writing Certificate
Transfer plans: Possibly Utah State or Brigham Young in Utah, or the University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Career plans: Novelist, character designer for animated films; Rachael’s been writing since high school; she completed a novel, Son of Frost, and published online
What do you like best about Inver Hills? “The campus is beautiful!”
Why did you choose your career path? “I want to improve my skills as an artist.”
What has been your toughest challenge in life? “Finishing my degree because some classes are not offered year-round.”
What do you most want to accomplish in life? “I would like to be married in an LDS temple and write stories for publication.”
Three words that describe you as a college student: Creative. Enthusiastic. Grateful.
What do you like most about writing? “Above all else, I love being able to express myself.”
What do you like least about writing? “My own perfectionist nitpicking.”
What are the most important things you’ve learned while earning your Professional Writing Certificate? Concision and mastering those darn serial commas. 🙂
What would you tell a student who’s thinking about going for a Professional Writing Certificate? “It is SO worth it! You can easily fill out your prerequisites; they’re offered year-round. The certificate looks very good on your resume. Also, English 1118 is not another glorified grammar class; it improves and polishes your abilities as a writer like no other class I’ve ever taken.”
High school and year graduated: Trinity School at River Ridge Class of 2014
Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota
Current city or town of residence: Mendota Heights, Minnesota
Program and degree area at Inver Hills: Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Workplace Writing Certificate
Transfer plans: Looking at Minnesota State Mankato or the University of St. Thomas to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism
Career plans: Work as a journalist in the gaming industry, possibly for Game Informer
What do you like best about Inver Hills? The teachers
Why did you choose your career path? “I enjoy writing and talking to people.”
What has been your toughest challenge in life? “Getting used to my anxiety disorder.”
What do you most want to accomplish in life? “Near term: a better car.”
Three words that describe you as a college student: Sensible. Methodical. Easygoing.
What do you like most about writing? “Formulating and constructing a paper. I also like grammar.”
What do you like least about writing? “Writer’s block and failing to articulate when I can’t find the right word.”
What are the most important things you’ve learned while earning your Workplace Writing Certificate? “Learning how to edit and writing with concision.”
What would you tell a student who’s thinking about going for a Workplace Writing Certificate? “You will become a better writer. It’s important to make sure you’re understood.”
High school and year graduated: Mayo High School Class of 2007
Hometown: Rochester, Minnesota
Current city or town of residence: South St. Paul, Minnesota
Program and degree area at Inver Hills: Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Professional Writing Certificate; graduated spring 2016
Transfer plans: Heading for Augsburg College to earn a B.A. in creative writing
Career plans: “I would like to work in TRIO in a mentoring capacity and be a freelance writer.”
What do you like best about Inver Hills? “The instructors and staff are amazing. I also really enjoy the resources available.”
Why did you choose your career path? “I really enjoy the environment in TRIO; writing makes me feel good.”
What has been your toughest challenge in life? “Being my own empowerment to get through college and losing my mother.”
What do you most want to accomplish in life? “I wish to have my writing recognized by my peers.”
Three words that describe you as a college student: Determined. Overwhelmed. Scared.
What do you like most about writing? The endless possibilities
What do you like least about writing? Editing and spelling
What are the most important things you’ve learned while earning your Professional Writing Certificate? “Mostly about who I am as a writer and ways to become better at it.”
What would you tell a student who’s thinking about going for a Professional Writing Certificate? “It’s really important to learn the basics of writing and the certificate looks great on your resume. All the English faculty are amazing.”
Writing certificate advantages in a nutshell
Kristin enjoys watching her students grow as writers and translate their heightened knowledge and improved skills into professional development leading to career success.
“Writing well is such a powerful tool, such an advantage in personal and professional endeavors,” Kristin said. “Students who earn one or both of the certificates understand how enhanced writing abilities contribute to academic and career advancement. They know that anyone who adds to or alters their educational plan to complete a certificate will come out ahead.”
Earning a writing certificate can change the trajectory of a student’s life. Kristin’s seen that happen with the resume-writing assignment in English 1130.
“Students often tell me they’ve been job-searching with no luck, but once they work on their resumes, they get the interviews,” she said. “There isn’t much that makes me happier than realizing I’ve helped a student get closer to who that student wants to be.”
To learn more about the English department at Inver Hills, including how to earn writing certificates, contact:
English Department Coordinator
Office: Liberal Arts 221
Office: Business Building 128