Writing with Clarity is the Bridge to a Career
“I would pay money to come back here and take [Professor Mary Shuster’s editing class] again at the graduate level if I could,” laughs alumna Austyn Rask (BS ’16). And while she may miss enjoying bubble tea and pizza at Mesa in Dinkytown, Rask is firmly looking forward.
An innovative leader, researcher, and writer, Rask holds a bachelor of science degree in technical writing and communication (TWC) with an emphasis in health and biological sciences. Now the director of content and research at BridgeWorks, she is thankful for the unique degree that prepared her to rapidly excel after graduation.
Searching for the Right Fit
Growing up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, the University of Minnesota was not a foreign concept to Rask. When it was time to decide on a college, she quickly honed in on the U as it was close to home and affordable. After being accepted, she began pursuing a biomedical engineering degree because it felt like “the right way to go,” even though the classes didn’t exactly excite her. Little did she know, she would soon stumble upon a major that combined all of her interests and opened doors to an innovative, successful career.
When it was eventually time to declare her major, Rask searched through the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) degrees and noticed technical writing and communication, which was then called scientific and technical communication. She realized she could study science while also writing—a perfect combination of everything she liked.
Rask declared her TWC degree with an emphasis on health and biological sciences and entered the college hopeful to learn skills that would help her in finding work. “It was honestly the best thing for me to do,” she says.
The Department of Writing Studies not only taught Rask fundamental skills for her future but also gave her a sense of community that she was not expecting. In a smaller department, Rask quickly got to know fellow students and professors within the program. Her favorite class was an editing course taught by Professor Mary Schuster. Rask loved to get into the “nitty-gritty” of writing. “I would take it over and over again—if I could afford it,” she says.
Her TWC degree also aided Rask in her position as a web writer and editor at the Office for Institutional Advancement. It was here that she applied her classroom learning in a professional environment. This was her first chance to work with real clients, hone her people skills and technical writing, and tailor options to specific needs. As a web editor, Rask saw a glimpse of how her degree could unfold into a future career.
Equipped for Life After College
At the Twin Cities Job and Internship Fair her senior year, Rask discovered BridgeWorks—a small company that conducts generational research and equips corporations to bridge age gaps. Interested in their work and how her skills might fit, Rask landed an internship with BridgeWorks during her last undergraduate semester at UMN. It became evident that this was the perfect fit for her—a place where she could combine research and technical writing in everything she did.
After her internship, Rask was thrilled to be offered a full-time position with BridgeWorks, and she has been with them now for three years. She has worked in a few different roles—all connected to communication and research—and was recently promoted to director of content and research. In this position, she ensures consistency and clarity across all content and data, whether that be in keynotes, consulting reports, or research deliverables. She is there every step of the way to ensure BridgeWorks is giving individualized help to each client.
Rask’s TWC degree prepared her to discover what an audience wants and how to write for that audience in the most straightforward and understandable way possible. Put simply, it comes down to writing with clarity, a skill that Rask believes is often lacking in the workforce today.
Looking back at her journey, Rask is grateful for her time in the Department of Writing Studies. There is no other degree that could have meshed her interests so perfectly and helped her find the innovative company that she has “grown up” alongside. “[Companies] need people with the skills that I used to think [weren't cool], and now that’s what employers are saying they need from people they are hiring.” There is a huge need for effective communication and technical writing in corporations everywhere, which is what the TWC degree prepares students to do.
What’s next for Rask? She sees herself with BridgeWorks for the long-haul and is excited to help companies discover how much they can benefit from this unique organization’s generational expertise. She cannot speak more highly of the writing studies department and is incredibly thankful for the education that led her to success after college.
This story was written by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.