Cindy Chamberlain

After I informed the members of the English, Technical Communication, and Media Arts Department (ETCMA) that I was writing my blog on

Cindy Chamberlain, the Winner of the Rainey Scholarship
Cindy Chamberlain, the Winner of the Rainey Scholarship

Cindy Chamberlain, a Technical Communication major and this year’s recipient of the Ken and Elaine Rainey Endowed Scholarship, one faculty member who taught Cindy in the past, emailed me and said, “She is my favorite undergrad student. I am having her cloned.” After interviewing Cindy, I understood that all of us should want her cloned.

Cindy, a soft-spoken woman with a bob of curly dark hair, is a non-traditional student at Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU). What it means to be a non-traditional student in Cindy’s case is bringing thirty years of experience as a commercial photographer to her studies as a technical communicator. Cindy’s wry sense of humor came through as she told me about the perfect job she had already held. Not only had she worked as a photographer doing freelance work with her business partner, but she also had worked an additional five years at Emergence Creative Labs studio.

The type of photography that Cindy prefers is large format, commercial photography in which her subjects “do not move.” She has shot advertising photographs for companies such as Bloomingdales and Macy’s, and she mourned when Rich’s and Macy’s merged since their doing so took away opportunities for her. She also enjoyed the travel opportunities that came her way, such as spending time during the winter in Florida shooting patio and spending three weeks in New Orleans for a photo shoot.

Cindy told me that she grieved at the end of her career and that she looked at several options for what to do next. She enjoyed hobbies such as gardening, but she didn’t want to make a living from them. Her husband Michael talked her into going back to school, and she began to take classes at Gwinnett Technology College. Luckily for SPSU Cindy took a technical writing class at Gwinnett Tech from an SPSU graduate by the name of Ellen White. White brought to her class her own experience with photography, design, and advertising. Cindy soon realized that she had found an option for her future career: becoming a technical writer.

Once Cindy learned from White about SPSU, she applied to the school and began to take classes on campus. This past year she received a letter from the ETCMA Department informing her of the Rainey Scholarship. She hadn’t heard of the scholarship before, but she thought, “What the heck, might as well go for it.” She was stunned when she found out that she had submitted the winning application. She told me that she asked Dr. Mark Stevens, “Was I the only one in your application pool?” He, of course, told that she was not the only applicant.

I was a bit curious about what Cindy had covered in her essay that won her the scholarship. She told me that she had written about a number of things: her photography, her decision to return to school, and her work with Gwinnett Technology College students who came to the Emergence Creative Labs studio to learn about photography.

Given that Dr. Rainey was both a scholar and someone committed to service, I wanted to hear more about her experience volunteering to work with the college students. She told me that she helped them at Emergence Creative Labs studio to learn about building studio style sets, creating backgrounds, using fake snow, setting up lights, and putting together trees. From Cindy I learned that stylists exist for almost every type of object being sold; thus, there are food stylists, bed stylists, and so on. She told me that people who end up disliking the pressure of taking the photographs for the shoot, may end up liking the job of a set stylist and will work in this occupation instead.

After we talked about the scholarship, we talked about what she liked best about the Technical Communication Program. Her answer was quite insightful. Not only does Cindy enjoy working with technology and learning the software used for technical communication, but she also likes taking documents and whittling them down to their bare necessities so they are concise. She said that for photographs it’s all about the composition and getting the perfect lighting. For a document it is all about finding the perfect way to represent something and to capture its essence.

Because I am someone who is so interested in oral and print stories, I asked Cindy if she were a reader and if so, what she likes to read. I found out that she and I have a lot in common. We both enjoy mysteries in our free time and we both enjoy audio books. Unlike me, Cindy has become a connoisseur of those who narrate the audio books. She is especially fond of narrators Lorelei King and Dick Hill, who she says has a voice like chocolate. Cindy has ended up reading books she otherwise wouldn’t have read because she is a fan of the audio book narrator. She finds that listening to audio books allows her to pay attention to how the words bring a character to life.

ETCMA Women: Student Facts and Faculty Information
For people who are wondering what programs at SPSU host a good number of women, data from the fall of 2012 shows that Cindy’s Technical Communication major has the third highest percentage of women per program with 62% women students according to data collected by SPSU. Only Fashion Design in the Apparel and Textile department and the Writing and New Media Program (formerly known as the English and Professional Writing Program), which is also housed in ETCMA have higher percentages of women: the first with 89% and the second with 67%. The largest number of women graduates comes from the School of Arts and Sciences (the School that houses ETCMA):  50% of its graduates in 2012 were female students.

ETCMA hires one of the largest pools of female faculty at SPSU as well.  Currently women make up six of the fifteen positions of full-time, tenured or tenured track positions, all four of the lecturer positions, all eleven of the one-year, full-time temporary positions, and seven of the ten part-time positions according to the ETCMA website.

Dr. Kim Haimes-Korn is one of the senior most faculty members on the ETCMA staff and she is the Coordinator for the Composition Program. Her strong background in Rhetoric and Communication informs her teaching not only in composition classes, but also in key major courses such as the Project Portfolio class, which is the culminating class for all three ETCMA programs: Technical Communication, Writing and New Media, and New Media Arts.

 Dr. Laura Palmer is one of two full-time tenured or tenure track faculty members teaching in the Information Design and Communication Graduate Program. Her interests lie in the areas of visual thinking, writing across media, and content strategy. Several of her publications explore issues of desirability. Other interests for Palmer are mobile instruction and information architecture.

Communication and public speaking courses are taught by a full-time staff of four women. Dr. Kami Anderson (featured in my last blog) and Dr. Laura Beth Daws bring strong backgrounds in International Communication and Media Studies among other things. Prof. Misty York has successfully coordinated the forensics program, helping students bring home state awards, and Prof. Kelsey Harr-Lagin, who has also supported the forensic team, teaches courses in Business Communication, and Organizational  Communication among others.

By far the largest number of women faculty members teaches core English classes, such as Composition One and Two as well as Survey of Literature courses. The remaining women teach professional writing, art, and graphics courses for both the core and the ETCMA programs. Women in this group bring a diverse group of skills and backgrounds to the department including fine arts, art education, ethnographic studies, digital humanities, Irish literature, reading education, literature of the American South, professional writing, Asian American literature, diasporic studies, drama, theater history, horn performance, and teaching English as a second language.

Many women who work in the department have also worked professionally or studied in some impressive locations. For example, Dr. Beth Stutzmann graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music. Prof. Charlotte Stephenson has both acted and directed stage performances. Prof. Rebecca Rule is the co-founder of the art gallery “2 Rules Fine Art” and she is the principal at design studio “Rule and Renco.”

Undergraduate Degrees in ETCMA
Currently all three undergraduate programs are being updated in order to foster an examination of new media’s role in art and writing, and to make the programs more appealing to students interested in graphics and new media. At heart is a growing interest in how technology interfaces with the humanities  and causes them to evolve in new ways. The term that applies to this interface is “Digital Humanities” and interest in the Digital Humanities is important to several of the new hires in ETCMA. Those interested in Digital Humanities examine the way digitizing content changes the ways in which we research (databases instead of library shelves) how we create course content, how we produce text, how we interact with text, and what we consider to be text.

ETCMA’s degree programs now examine how art, design, and language as well as the software programs created and used to access these items in digital formats are a means to providing information to an audience.   Multimedia digital productions such as the electronic portfolios created at the completion of the degree programs help all ETCMA graduates to enter the working world with strong theoretical and practical skills.

Graduate Degrees and Certificates in ETCMA
ETCMA also offers several options at the graduate and certificate levels. At the graduate level ETCMA offers master degrees in Information Design and Communication as well as in Information and Instructional Design. These graduate degree programs offer cutting-edge knowledge and skills concerning verbal and visual communication as well as on designing and executing learning experiences for adults at the office. According to the SPSU Factbook data (2011 is the most recent year on line for official data) female students are also the majority of the student graduate body for ETCMA. Of the 20 students taking part in the two degree programs, 13 of the students are women.

ETCMA offers a graduate certificate program in Technical Communication and advanced graduate certificates in Visual Communication, Content Strategy, Instructional Design, Communications Management, and User Experience,

Cindy Chamberlin’s background in photography and technical writing is perfect for a graduate from ETCMA. She will be able to use the combination of photography skills, design abilities, writing skills, and her knowledge of digital media to her benefit in the technical writing world. She, like the women who staff ETCMA, are well worth cloning.