CIDM

October 2000


Texas Tech University


CIDMIconNewsletter Sarah Flenar

Breaking news: graduates of the Technical Communication (TC) program at Texas Tech University have more wrinkles on their foreheads than graduates of any other TC program. Given, scientists have not yet published their findings on this matter, but evidence greatly supports the claim.

“What evidence?” you may ask.

Many will testify that graduates of the TC program at Texas Tech are thinkers. With furrowed brow they work, sleep, and play. They train in thinking. They practice thinking in their spare time.

Background

Don’t get me wrong, TC graduates aren’t necessarily the brooding type, but they certainly celebrate their thinking skills. For 73 years, the Department of English at Texas Tech has been honing analytical and creative minds. Today the department has replaced the service program established in the 1970s with an undergraduate specialization for English majors and masters’ and doctoral degrees.

Located in Lubbock, Texas, between Dallas and Albuquerque, Texas Tech hosts over 21,000 students. Eighty of these students are studying TC, and about 20 will graduate this year. With a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio in the TC program, students have the opportunity to interact frequently with their professors through tutorial and individual assistance.

Coursework

According to the Director of Technical Communication, Carolyn Rude, the TC program produces graduates with a broad range of mental skills. TC students take courses that teach them to

  • think analytically to solve problems
  • inquire in varying ways
  • plan and manage complex projects
  • work as a team
  • behave ethically
  • communicate well

Undergraduates in the program earn a BA in English and specialize in TC. They fulfill requirements in technical and oral communication. And, they are encouraged to take courses in visual communication, technical subjects, and computer programming. Many TC students elect to complement their communication skills by learning C++ outside the Department of English.

Students learn other computer skills through their TC classes. All TC graduates use MS Word, and most use RoboHelp, FrameMaker, FrontPage, AuthorWare, and Photoshop.

The faculty strongly urge students to complete internships. Most students use one of the following resources to obtain an internship:

  • contacting companies who have previously offered internships
  • posting on the TC intranet
  • working with campus recruiters

Texas Tech also offers an MA in TC through distance learning. Some students take individual classes without pursuing a degree. Most MA students take courses while they are employed as technical communicators.

Post Graduate Opportunities

Graduates typically find full-time employment in the same ways they found internships as students. In the past, graduates have secured positions at companies including National Instruments, IBM, MetaSolv, BMC, InterVoice, Compaq, Trilogy, and Idea Integration. Graduates generally stay close to their alma mater, working in the urban areas of Texas: Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston.

Courses prepare them well, so employers perceive graduates of Texas Tech as capable and productive employees.

Program Benefits

Inside and outside the classroom, Texas Tech uniquely develops the intellect of TC students in four ways. First, Texas Tech continually updates the TC program. Last year, the Department of English added courses in Web Publishing, Information Design, and Usability Testing to give TC students the skills that companies seek.

Second, students learn more than technology. They also learn cutting edge theory. In keeping with the humanist tradition of the Department of English, students develop a professional demeanor and responsible character.

Third, faculty teach together and from experience. Faculty have written numerous publications including prominent text books. They have received national honors and held leadership positions in international TC organizations. The TC faculty at Texas Tech is a cohesive group. Collectively, the faculty is excited about the future of their program.

Fourth, technology enables students. Most TC classes are scheduled in the four computer classrooms operated by the Department of English. Faculty have contributed to the national reputation of technology at Texas Tech by writing educational software to facilitate instruction and student achievement.

Opportunities for Professional Interaction

Students and faculty actively participate in several professional organizations: STC, ATTW, CPSTC, ACM-SigDoc, and National Council of Teachers of English.

Texas Tech has a strong student STC chapter. The student chapter has received numerous honors. In 1999, one quarter of the students elected to Sigma Tau Chi, the STC honor society, were Texas Tech students.

Future Focus

In the future, TC students will have new opportunities to stretch their minds. Technology will become increasingly important to the TC program. Faculty are now considering how to better prepare students for positions in Web-based and e-commerce companies. Texas Tech will also expand interdisciplinary programs to link with engineering, business, and information technology departments. And, Texas Tech will expand the distance courses it offers through cooperative relationships with other universities.

If your department has any needs relating to college hiring, internships, or other areas, please write or call Dr. Carolyn Rude, Director of Technical Communication.