Southern Polytechnic State University


April 2000

Southern Polytechnic State University

CIDMIconNewsletter Sarah Flenar, Cedarville College

Domestically or globally, Southern Polytechnic State University’s (SPSU) Technical Communication program covers all the bases. SPSU offers a BS and an MS in Technical and Professional Communication and a BA in International Technical Communication. Approximately 4,000 students with diverse backgrounds attend SPSU in Marietta, GA, only 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta.


In the last five years, SPSU has made its Technical Communication program more technology driven and added courses on graphics, electronic media, and the Web. Along with its curriculum changes, the number of SPSU’s technical communication students has increased. Twelve years ago, 30 students graduated with SPSU’s first Masters degree in Technical Communication. This year more than 200 students will take Technical Communication courses from ten faculty members in the program.


All undergraduate Technical Communication students complete courses in grammar and editing, graphics, small group communication, rhetoric, and portfolio. In addition, students take 21 elective hours of technical communication courses. Professors encourage all students pursuing a bachelors degree to fulfill part of their elective hours by completing an internship. The school’s Internship Coordinator helps students obtain their positions.

Students working toward a BS in Technical Communication choose between two options to fulfill their technical concentrations. They can take a series of classes that give them a broad overview of various sciences or they can choose to study one engineering, management, or scientific area in depth. Students who achieve a BA in International Technical Communication earn a minor in Foreign Language and International Studies.

Graduate students can tailor their education to fit their needs. In addition to completing 30 hours of classroom work, graduate students choose among completing an internship, completing a master’s thesis, or taking six additional hours of classroom work. Graduate students also choose to follow one of three tracks: Technical, Graphics, or Professional.

Program Benefits

Students benefit from courses at SPSU, but they have other opportunities that also contribute to their education. At SPSU, students learn by applying their knowledge to projects. They complete their projects with technology that rivals equipment at many companies. Students work in fully equipped labs where they access up-to-date software for authoring, graphics, and desktop publishing. They also have unique opportunities to use a multimedia lab and a usability lab developed with a grant from IBM.

Dr. Herb J. Smith, Director of Programs, attributes the success of the Technical Communication program to the institution, the graduates, and the faculty. First, SPSU accommodates students by offering night and weekend classes and by its location near metro Atlanta. SPSU also helps students by offering distance learning courses for the Savannah River site in Savannah, GA. Second, graduates contribute to the success of the program by recommending it to their peers and, as managers, hiring recent graduates. Third, faculty help the program succeed by continually revising curricula to meet the needs of technical communication employers.

Opportunities for Professional Interaction

Students and faculty alike gain professional experience through organizations like the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the Association of Teachers in Technical Writing, and the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication. Faculty members hold influential positions in each of these organizations.

Two professors are recognized as STC Fellows, and two professors have been honored by STC with the Jay Gould Award for Distinguished Teaching of Technical Communication.

In the past, students have collaborated with professors to write books and make professional presentations. Students also work with each other on similar projects.

Post Graduate Opportunities

Because students leave SPSU with a solid education and professional experience tucked under their belts, few struggle to find satisfying employment when they graduate. Students find positions at a wide range of companies including World Span, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Centers for Disease Control, BellSouth, AT&T, Delta, Scientific Atlanta, and Home Depot. They pursue positions through the Atlanta Chapter of STC, by networking with graduates, through assistance from SPSU’s Career Services, and through online job boards.

If your department can offer an internship, or if it has information, college hiring, or other needs, please write or call Dr. Smith. CIDMIconNewsletter