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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Technical Communication

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Alumnus Fer O’Neil takes product information job in Munich, Germany

Fer O’Neil has accepted a position as a technical writer with Semcon’s product information team in Munich, Germany.

Fer O’Neil graduated from Minnesota State, Mankato with an M.A. in technical communication in 2013 and is currently in Texas Tech's PhD program in Technical Communication & Rhetoric. In May 2013, he traveled with Dr. Tesdell’s International Technical Communication class to visit various industries in Germany and he blogged about his experiences in Germany. In Munich, a professor from HsKA received the Mankato students at Semcon where they learned about the product information and documentation department.

Additionally, Dr. Tesdell blogs about German universities as a destination for Minnesota State students that states Germany is the most supportive destination for international students.

Applications for T.A. and G.A. positions due February 1

At Minnesota State University, Mankato, one of the ways M.A. programs support their students is to offer teaching assistantships (T.A.) and graduate assistantships (G.A.) to the best qualified students. [PDF] T.A. positions (431 KiB) usually require the T.A. to teach a section of English 101. G.A. positions can involve a variety of tasks for departments across the university. Application are due February 1.

Students visit AGCO in Jackson, MN

On November 25 two technical communication majors at Minnesota State, Mankato traveled with several engineering students who are enrolled in English 271, Technical Communication, to visit the agricultural machinery manufacturing plant in Jackson, MN. AGCO is a global giant in agricultural machinery manufacturing with about 22,000 employees worldwide. At the Jackson plant they manufacture the Challenger farm tractors (both wheeled and tracked) and the Massey-Ferguson wheeled tractors. In addition they manufacture several models of fertilizer applicators and sprayers. We had a plant tour and then were hosted for lunch by members of the Technical Publications Department and Human Relations, Mark Dykema. There are about a dozen technical writers working at the Jackson plant documenting the equipment. One of the writers just graduated with his B.S. in English (Technical Communication) from our technical communication program.

Dr. Veltsos co-chairs Association for Business Communication national conference

Dr. Jennifer Veltsos was the program co-chair of the 78th Annual Association for Business Communication International Convention, held October 23-26, 2013, in New Orleans, Louisiana. More than 300 people presented on topics related to innovation and collaboration in business communication. The Association for Business Communication (ABC) is an international, interdisciplinary organization committed to advancing business communication research, education, and practice.

The 79th annual international conference will be held in Philadelphia on October 22-25, 2014, and several regional conferences are planned for early 2014 on a variety of themes. Graduate students are encouraged to submit proposals for any of the conferences, particularly the Midwest Regional Conference, which will be held on the University of St. Thomas campus in Minneapolis, MN on April 3-4, 2014.

Arts & Humanities College Celebration and Career Fair

The technical communication program stays active in college and university-wide events on campus. On October 17, two students, Ann Staton and Anders Rydholm, participated in the 2nd annual Arts and Humanities College Celebration held in the Centennial Student Union Ballroom. They were two of the eight students who travelled to visit our sister technical communication program at the University of Applied Science, Karlsruhe, Germany, in May 2013 as a part of their course in Technical Communication in Germany taught by Dr. Tesdell. At the celebration they presented information about the course and the trip to interested attendees including Dr. Richard Davenport, our university's president.

A second event, the October 24th Minnesota State Career Fair, found one of our soon-to-graduate students helping to staff the AGCO booth. Kevin Pockrus, a technical communication major, was hired earlier this year as a technical writer at the AGCO in Jackson, MN, where large agricultural machinery is manufactured. His company sent a total of five employees to recruit students for employment and internships. The career fair was organized by the Career Development Center at the university.

Levander speaks to Society for Technical Communication fall inaugural meeting

Deanne Levander, current director-at-large for the Society for Technical Communication (STC), spoke to the student chapter of STC on Monday, September 23 at 6:30 p.m. (CDT). This was an online event and was open to all technical communication students and other interested students and faculty at the university.

Levander spoke to a small but lively audience; she promoted the importance of networking and activity in professional associations such at STC. As she pointed out, technical writers benefit their professional communities and in turn may receive rewards for that involvement in the form of advice, employment information, and new trends in their fields.

Levander has nearly three decades of work experience in the field of technical communication and is now serving as editor of the Technical Communication Body of Knowledge (TCBOK). She is a graduate of Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, where she studied English, Linguistics, and Secondary Education. Levander is an active member of the Twin Cities STC Community (Minnesota).

Faculty stay busy over the summer and fall semester begins

The technical communication faculty are back on campus for fall semester where classes began on August 26. The technical communication faculty are offering 14 courses (and 8 sections of English 271W, our introduction to technical communication course) this semester. Faculty members remain active in their field during the summer, either teaching courses or engaging in research and professional development.

Dr. Perbix presented two papers in Indianapolis at the ACE (Association for Communication Excellence) conference from June 11-14. Her papers were titled "Cultivating Identification: Farmers, Their Customers, and Short-Form Social Media" and "Not Just 'Sustainable": Communicating Growing Practices in a Statewide Directory."

Dr. Tesdell co-presented a paper titled "Preparing Students to Participate in the Global Business Environment" at IEEE's PCS International Professional Communication Conference held on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from July 15-16.

Dr. Westerman focused on sustainability and environmental writing. She attended the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment from May 28-June 1 and made a presentation at the 98th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America from August 4-9.

Julie Stella has been focusing on the connection between neuroscience and education and the way that cognitive science can inform online writing pedagogy. She has been applying the Brain Targeted Teaching Model (Hardiman, 2012) in the course she teaches. Julie published a co-authored article "Teaching writing in online distance education: Supporting student success", in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration in June.

In June, Dr. Veltsos presented her paper "Meaningful Play: Using Elements of Game Design to Teach Business Communication" at the 2013 Computers and Writing Conference in Frostburg, MN. This paper is based on James Paul Gee's book which presents a list of 36 principles that may guide educators in creating engaging and effective instruction. Dr. Veltsos has assigned this book in her English 676 Instructional Design course and her research has been enhanced by the classroom discussions with her students. Dr. Veltsos has also been very busy organizing the 78th annual ABC international conference to be held in New Orleans in October. She and her co-chair Dr. Sandra French have introduced several new features to the proposal submission process and to the conference itself.

Fer O'Neil and Anne Mattarella presented their thesis research on July 23, 2013

Missed the presentations? You can view the meeting recording at 

Fer O'Neil: The Extent of Ethics Instruction in Technical and Professional Communication Graduate Programs

In this research, I performed a content analysis of the required courses in technical and professional communication (TPC) graduate course syllabi to investigate the prevalence of ethics-related materials included in course instruction. The content analysis for my research included collecting the syllabi of required courses from a sample of TPC graduate programs, and coding for the occurrence of journal articles and textbook chapters that included the word “ethics” in the title, summary, or keywords. My findings show that on average, TPC programs assign ethics content both from journal articles and from textbook chapters. However, I was surprised to find more assigned textbook chapters than journal articles, based on my expectations from the literature on this topic. Additionally, my data showed a disproportionate number of ethics references coming from courses I identify as research-focused. Research textbooks typically contain sections on the ethics of research and this can and should be distinguished from the topic of communication-ethics that I reviewed from the literature. The literature on this topic suggests the most effective instruction for ethics is to layer ethics content throughout a course. My research found that on average, programs assign ethics material infrequently. I found that while layering occurs within individual courses, it does not occur throughout the required courses of TPC programs as a whole. 

Please join us as Fer presents his thesis at 8:00 PM CST on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at

Anne Mattarella: The Readability of Health Websites and Recommendations for Writing Online Health Information

Each day, more than 8 million American adults search for health information on the Internet. More than half of these individuals have stated that what they found influenced their health decisions. However, several studies have shown that the information appearing on health websites is written at several levels above the average reading level, which, in the United States, is the ninth grade. If these websites are not understandable because they are not written at the appropriate level, they will not be of benefit to users. One of the principles of technical communication is that documents be written specifically for the intended audience and that websites meet the needs of users, not just in website design, but also in the usability of the content. Therefore, it is important to determine the readability of the information presented on these sites and to make recommendations for how to write content that will be more understandable and usable. To date, no studies have assessed the readability of the three most popular consumer health websites, Yahoo Health, the National Institutes of Health, and WebMD, using three well-known readability tests, Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, and SMOG (Simplified Measure of Gobbledygook). In this study, five documents from each of the three websites were analyzed using these readability tests. Results showed that the readability levels for all three websites were higher than the average reading level in the United States. To address this problem, recommendations for writing health-related content that is clear, easy to understand, and written in plain language are presented, as well as guidelines on writing for the web.

Please join us as Anne presents her thesis at 8:30 PM CST on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at

Dr. Tesdell and students blog their way to Karlsruhe

Lee TesdellDr. Lee Tesdell and students from the Topics: Technical Communication in Germany (Eng 4/572) course will be blogging about their adventures in Germany as they visit Hochschule Karlsruhe – Technik und Wirtschaft (HsKA) as well as various industries in the Karlsruhe area.  

Dr. Perbix new program director

Gretchen PerbixBeginning summer 2013, Dr. Gretchen Perbix will serve as program director for the technical communication program. Dr. Perbix began teaching at Minnesota State Mankato in 2005. Her teaching and research specialities include rhetorical theory, document design and usability, social media, and project management.

Roland NordNancy MacKenzieDr. Perbix will take over from Dr. Nancy MacKenzie, who served as director of the technical communication program for 16 years (for the academic years 1987-2002, 2004-2005, and 2012-2013), and Dr. Roland Nord, who served as program director for 9 years (the academic years 2002-2004 and 2005-2012). During that 25-year span, the technical communication program grew from one full-time faculty member to seven faculty members and expanded from a residential program to an international online program.

Graduate Student Competition

SIGDOC is sponsoring a competition for "Best Graduate Student" submission. The winner receives travel expenses (up to $1,000) and registration for the conference, at which the winner will present his or her paper.

SIGDOC 2013 will be held from September 30 to October 1 in Greenville, North Carolina.

Spring 2013 Techniques

The spring 2013 issue of [PDF] Techniques (984 KiB) is now available. The issue was edited and designed by students in Dr. Tesdell's Technical Documentation, Policies, and Procedures (ENG 4/577) class.

An editorial committee solicited proposals from all students in the technical communication courses, chose the proposals they thought were most relevant for their audience, communicated with the authors of the proposals, edited the articles, and designed and assembled the publication.

Alumni Roundtable

On Wednesday, May 1, Minnesota State University Mankato technical communication students and faculty participated in an alumni online roundtable. Three alumni talked about their current jobs, how they use technical communication in the workplace, information about the tools they use, and other observations of interest to current students.

Mike Goracke graduated with a major in technical communication and a minor in computer technology in 2006. Mike has worked for multiple software companies as a technical writer, project manager, and SEO specialist. He currently works in Shakopee, Minnesota, where he is beginning to take on additional web development and marketing related rolls.

Marina Kamenetskiy graduated with an M.A. in technical communication in 2010. She is currently working (remotely) as a technical writer for a medical software company in Mankato and also working as an online adjunct professor teaching professional writing courses at a major university. She lives in Atlanta and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in educational leadership & management.

Lance Schwartz earned an M.A. in English/technical communication in December 2010. He currently is the director of institutional communication at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. His primary responsibilities include oversight of the institution's website, writer and editor of the college magazine (Bethany Report), and writer and editor for a variety of publications involving the advancement, admissions, and marketing efforts of the institution.

STC logoEditing SIG offers scholarships

STC's Technical Editing SIG is offering two scholarships, each worth $1400. The SIG describes the scholarships as follows:

The first scholarship assists students who are pursuing an undergraduate degree in Technical Communication (or a related area, such as professional writing or digital media) and the second assists students who are pursuing a graduate degree in Technical Communication (or a related area, such as professional writing or digital media).

Students applying for one of these scholarships are expected to be able to demonstrate their focus on topics related to technical editing through their academic studies, current jobs, special projects, or undergraduate/graduate program. The winners will be announced in the Technical Editing SIG newsletter.

Additional scholarship information, including elgibility information, is provided on the STC Technical Editing website. The application deadline is June 23, 2013.

Roland NordRoland Nord receives teaching award

On April 17, Dr. Roland Nord received a 2013 Pedagogical Innovation Award presented by the Extended Learning Sub Meet and Confer. Awards recognized the innovative work that faculty are doing in relation to course and program design and teaching.

STC logoSaul Carliner speaks to the MSU STC chapter

On Wednesday, April 10, Dr. Saul Carliner spoke to the student chapter of the Society of Technical Communication at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Dr. Saul CarlinerIn Dr. Carliner's presentation, "Certification and Other Professional Development Opportunities for New Technical Communicators," he explored some key issues to consider including networking to get your first—and later—jobs, the brand new Certified Technical Communication Professional credential, maintenance of your knowledge and skills, and alternate paths you can take with your technical communication experience.

Dr. Carliner is the e-Learning Fellow at Concordia University in Montreal, as well as an Associate Professor and Director of the Education Doctoral Program. He is editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, serves on the boards of the STC Certification Commission and Agence Ometz (the social service agency), is a past board member of the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD), and is a fellow and past international president of STC.

Minnesota State University, Mankato's STC Student Chapter Announces 2013 Officers

Minnesota State Mankato's Society for Technical Communication Student Chapter, an organization dedicated to advancing the arts and sciences of technical communication, has announced this year's chapter officers.

John Maxwell, President: John is a junior pursuing a BS in Technical Communication. Since childhood, he has wondered who writes the manuals and other documentation that come in the botton of electronic and gadget boxes. Now he knows. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his three children, hockey, and reading.

Annemarie Chapdelaine, Vice President/Social Media Chair: Annemarie is in her final semester at Minnesota State Mankato in the Technical COmmunication program. Her focus areas are technical product support, technical marketing, project management, and web  design and usability.

Katrina Reed, Communications Officer/Secretary: Katrina is currently pursuing her MA in English: Technical Communication from Minnesota State Mankato. She works full-time for an engineering consulting firm where she serves as a grant and proposal writer/editor, and also serves as an editor for the Center for Excellence in Scholarship and Research (CESR) at MNSU. In her free time, she teaches English and literacy classes for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council.

Gere Hirsch, Speaker Coordinator: Gere is currently pursuing her MA in English: Technical Communication from Minnesota State Mankato. She has experience working as a technical communicator for a major mid-western university, as a proposal developer for a federal contractor, and as a contractor developing and writing the licensing documentation for an allied health sciences school. Gere's next venture is going to be working in the Decision Support System for the local Veteran's Administration region. In her free time, she enjoys woodturning, playing with various computer technologies, reading and spending time with her husband and daughter.

The Chapter also welcomes back co-advisors Dr. Lee Tesdell and Dr. Jennifer Veltsos to this year's committee.

For more information, including STC goals and ethical principles, visit the STC website.

Arricka Brouwer to Speak to the MSU STC

Arricka Brouwer will speak to the student chapter of the Society of Technical Communication at Minnesota State University, Mankato at 8:30 p.m. central standard time on Tuesday, February 12. We will meet in Adobe Connect. Please click here for the link to the meeting

Arricka has 15 years of industry experience as a technical writer. She has worked at Lowe's Corporate Headquarters and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. She graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in English and Political Science.

Arricka's topics will be (1) contract vs. permanent employment and (2) skill sets that are important to cultivate when entering the technical writing market.

APP Presentation

Robert Farrell delivered his APP presentation "An Exploration of Current Programs and Methods Used by Professional Translators" on Thursday, January 10. Dr. Lee Tesdell served as Robert's advisor.

Graduate assistantships

Graduate students who are seeking financial assistance are encouraged to apply for appropriate graduate assistantships, which provide full tuition (for 6-9 credits) plus a stipend ($4,800 per semester). All graduate assistantships are listed on the Human Resources website. Some of the assistantships may be available to 100% online learners. Review of applications typically continues until the positions are filled.

Technical writing as a career

The 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook now has a separate entry devoted to technical writers. According the 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for technical writers is expected to grow approximately 17% from 2010-2020, a rate which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Tech Comm online

Tech Comm logo: Connections

All coursework necessary for completing degrees or certificates in technical communication is offered online. The MA and the graduate and undergraduate certificate programs can be completed within one year.

Non-resident graduate students completing all of their coursework online are charged Minnesota resident online graduate tuition. Non-resident undergraduate students receive are charged the Minnesota resident online tuition if they complete the 100% online learner undergraduate form.

Check our tentative 2-year schedule of online courses for the upcoming 2013-14 academic year.

For more information about online courses, certificates, or degrees, contact Dr. Gretchen Perbix.