The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Winter 2015 MLDP Recap: “Writing in the Workplace” with Professor Jennifer Sargent

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This ongoing series explores sessions of the Management and Leadership Development Program (MLDP) through participant narratives. MLDP is a one-term program designed to develop citizen leaders among sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Dartmouth College. Led by expert guest speakers each week, sessions employ experiential teaching techniques to engage students through hands-on learning of core management and leadership skills.

From a very young age, we are taught that writing is a fundamental, life-long skill. As we increasingly take on leadership positions and apply for internships and jobs, being able to communicate with professional and appropriate writing is imperative. This week in MLDP, Professor Jennifer Sargent, a Visiting Professor of Writing and former New Hampshire District Court Special Justice, brought her years of professional and teaching experience to guide us through the intricacies of writing in the workplace.

Professor Jennifer Sargent. Photo by Sally Kim '16.

In Professor Sargent's engaging manner, unsurprising given her status on campus as a Zumba instructor, she walked us through booby-trapped potential workplace writing assignments designed to challenge our thinking. From when to hit reply all, to how to address an email, to thinking about the appropriate tone, we learned to plan and think through every kind of writing assignment, be it sticky note, email or formal brief.

The most important lesson was simple: writing directly to the point. We need less of the long, looping, big-word jargon that we can be used to sound more fanciful and more direct address to an assignment’s question. We learnt the necessity of clarifying the ambiguities of the assignment, making sure to ascertain "Who is this being written for? What will it be used for? And what kind of detail is necessary?" Discussion on guidelines for writing such as context, audience and format made me realize how much impact a little more thoughtfulness can have on my writing.

I found this session extremely rewarding in that not only did it present me with many practical skills on how to tackle writing assignments of all varieties, but, on a grander scale, I learned valuable skills of professionalism, particularly the respect and politeness that is expected in a working environment. These lessons of thoughtfulness in interactions with others and clear communication overall are lessons I know I will apply to my involvements on campus and beyond.

-Written by Elaine Chiu '17, Winter 2015 MLDP Participant

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