Featured Certificate Student: Cal U’Ren

Headshot of Cal U'Ren

Why did you choose the Department of Writing Studies at the University of Minnesota?

I wanted a robust program that could augment my past work experience in medicine and science. The program provided a variety of different classes in different realms and I felt that would really benefit me long term.

Where are you from (hometown)?

I’m originally from Milwaukee, WI, but grew up in a suburb of Madison.

Where did you previously attend school? What is your degree in?

 I attended the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse for undergrad and majored in communication studies (digital media emphasis) with minors in literature and marketing.

What are the most important things you've learned from this program?

Eliminate abstractions in my writing! Far too often I would use ambiguous language for my subjects. I’ve become much better at creating succinct syntax with active participants in the subject line.

Also, basic HTML and CSS coding. I should’ve learned these a long time ago but never had the opportunity to do so. Now, I can help out with minor web edits and at least understand what’s going on in the back end of a website.

What has been your favorite WRIT course?

WRIT 5112: Information Design Theory and Practice. I love artwork even though I wouldn’t consider myself a phenomenal artist or graphic designer. It’s been great to apply different rhetorical frameworks to the design process and to learn more about design pitfalls that could harm my work. 

Would you tell us about a project or course that was particularly meaningful to your professional development?

Recently, I completed an “information redesign” using guidelines from our class readings. I realized after submitting my project that there were still aspects I wanted to tweak and improve. This demonstrated to me that I was spending time analyzing and critiquing my work in new, profound ways. My graphic design skills—especially for charts and graphs—have greatly improved in the past year.

What are your career goals?

I’m looking at two completely different pathways. I either hope to start my own business—likely a digital communications agency—or to pursue a PhD and teach at a university. The business option would be a simple LLC where I build a portfolio of clients. I have enough digital skills to take on comprehensive brand marketing and digital communications on my own without being tied to an annual salary. It will likely start as a part time gig while I continue to work full time. If that doesn’t pan out, I will likely explore advancing my education. I’m a former tutor in public speaking and I love academia and teaching in general. Being a professor is a dream job for me that’s actually feasible. I’m confident that I will make it happen later in life! One step at a time.

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing their MS/certificate with Writing Studies?

I always tried to get ahead on my readings on Sunday and Monday just in case my work schedule became crazy during the week. Planning ahead is key! In addition, don't be afraid to ask your professors for help. They're all more than happy to provide you with insight. Online coursework provides tons of opportunity for quick feedback and the professors in this program are great at responding in a timely manner. 

What are your interests / hobbies outside of academia?

In the winter I snowboard and play video games. I try to take advantage of the warmth whenever possible by hiking, kayaking or boating. I also love to read and always have a book in my hand. Some of the best books I’ve read in the past year include: 

  • The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles 
  • The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan
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