Your Views: Letters to the Editor

Technical communication

Thank you and the Editorial Board for highlighting ECE’s in-house technical writing program in the Oct. 10 Opinions piece [“Writing Woes”].

We have worked very hard over the past eight years and have taken a proactive approach to teaching communication skills to our engineering students. ECE is proud of its Undergraduate Professional Communications Program and its communication faculty.

These faculty are employed by and are part of the School of ECE, and this program has been developed and operated by these ECE personnel independent of the School of LCC.

The article states that “Tech’s writing curriculum is failing to prepare [engineering] students” to communicate effectively and to compete on an international level, which is misleading. The College of Engineering has made a concerted effort for almost two decades.

The School of Mechanical Engineering, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering all have well-developed, in-house technical communication programs, and the communications faculty who coordinate these programs are all hired by their respective Schools and are not affiliated with LCC.

An informative article would go a long way in raising awareness of the successful writing programs at Tech.

Douglas Williams

Professor and Associate Chair, School of ECE

I am writing in response to the “Writing Woes” editorial in the Oct. 10 edition. Your focus on technical communication skills at Tech is much appreciated.

The engineering societies have long recognized this need and have actively promoted communications instruction within engineering programs. In fact, most of the larger schools in the College of Engineering have successful, long-standing in-house technical communications programs directed by a full-time faculty member housed within the school.

In particular, the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CHBE) has had an in-house communications program for both undergraduate and graduate students since January 1994; I have directed the program since 2002. It was the first such program on the Tech campus, and arguably among the first ones in the country.

We first decided to implement this program because we recognized the growing need for technical communication skills, both at Tech and in the workplace, and because of the encouragement and feedback we received from our external advisory board, alumni, students and employers.

Several years after we started our program, the engineering and technology accreditation board (ABET) adopted communication skills as one of the ABET 2000 criteria, and the Tech campus began discussions on how to address this issue. After a series of meetings, our in-house approach came to be called the CHBE (or CHE) model and was eventually the approach that was adopted.

Having an in-house communications program allows a greater focus on CHBE-specific communication practices and standards. One key aspect of the program is its integration of communication instruction into the core curriculum. Rather than simply teaching a stand-alone course, I collaborate with other CHBE faculty to incorporate instruction on written and oral communication into required courses such as the Unit Operations Lab.

I also co-teach, with tenured CHBE faculty, elective courses on effective communication for professional engineering at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Our communications program has consistently been ranked as effective or very effective in surveys of graduating seniors and alumni.

I’ll end with an anecdote that speaks to the success of the program. Last week, one of our research groups met with sponsors from American Pacific; at the end of the meeting one of the company leaders, Dan Clough (yes, brother of), made an unsolicited comment: “I always enjoy these meetings because the students are so good at making presentations.”

Jacqueline Mohalley Snedeker

Academic Professional

Director, Technical Communications Program

School of CHBE

Election time brings party loyalty, discord

Until that fateful [Election] Day, citizens, flattered by the candidates’ attention, respond with intense party loyalty and create a “nation divided.” Friend decries friend, family turns upon family.

Indeed, when you look at each candidate’s primary views, there is little difference in their opinions. Both McCain and Obama claim they are against abortion; both claim the economy is in shambles. Yet, this election is the most partisan of recent years.

If we are going to live up to the ideal of being politically knowledgeable and active citizens, we must concede that most of the reasons—the candidate’s background, sex, and personal history—that we have used to create our partisan views are moot.

If we are to vote intelligently, we must base our views on the candidates’ views and voting histories. And in this election, following this principle makes us realize that it does not make a significant difference who we vote for.

Rather, if we are to fully respect our rights and responsibilities as American citizens, we should focus not only on electing our favored nominee, but also on engaging with all of our elected representatives, including our president, throughout their terms to ensure that our views are being fairly represented in our democracy.

What is more vital is that we improve our level of civic commitment throughout the terms of our elected officials. Save for a few dedicated citizens, where are the people lobbying at the grassroots level for less government corruption, better attention to health care [or] more U.S. aid in crises like Darfur?

More important than our representatives’ party affiliations is the fact that they are our elected officials. Without us, the citizens of America, they would be without a job, so we must hold them accountable for our needs and desires.

Swetha Krishnakumar

Second-year IE and INTA

Two weeks ago I turned in my absentee ballot for the upcoming election. I voted for Ralph Nader, an independent, for President.

When I tell someone I voted for a third party candidate, they elicit a puzzled, jeering, or even hostile reaction. “Way to throw your vote away!” “A vote for Nader is a vote for McCain.” Only one person left it at “cool.”

How can such an attitude be adopted in the U.S., where we claim to bleed and breathe democracy? What kind of a “free country” do I live in when I am verbally abused for my choice in any election?

People are unable to see the whole picture or relate the ideals of our country, and even their own beliefs, to a more relativistic, free and truly choice-based electoral system. Even the question “Are you voting for McCain or Obama?” reinforces the false notion that there is only a binary choice to be made.

Nader is derided by Democrats for “winning the election for Bush” in Florida. Why is Nader the bad guy? It is because he is the easiest person to target as the most prominent third-party candidate. As true party loyalists, those Democrats were and still are unable to put responsibility on Gore.

They are representative of a huge, loud swath of voters (and non-voters!) who cannot or will not escape the two-party paradigm. Because people do not understand the third party candidates, it is their propensity to fear them.

A more representative voting system like range voting is the key to breaking the illiberal monopoly held on power in this country. Until such progress can be made in our systems, I call on all Americans to vote the way their heart tells them, not according to Party lines.

Meanwhile, respect your fellow citizens’ right to choose their leaders for themselves. Freedom begins with you.

Preston Rhea

Fifth-year CMPE