Outstanding Major Award
Caitlin Heikkila, 2009
What Could Be Better?
A year ago, Caitlin Heikkila was an SU senior spending most of her time attending class, writing papers, and applying for jobs. Now she lives in New York, works in marketing, and attributes much of her success to her experiences and opportunities as a Writing and Rhetoric major.
According to Caitlin, it's easy to spot a Writing major. In a piece she read—"The Top 5 Signs You Are a Writing Major"—upon receiving the Carol Lipson Award for Outstanding Major, Caitlin facetiously explained that Writing majors suffer from carpal tunnel as a result of spending excessive time at a keyboard, and struggle with the urge to "grammar-police" their friends.
Caitlin's humorous piece got a lot of laughs, but it also made it clear that students who declare the new Writing and Rhetoric major are part of a campus community in which they are challenged to think critically both inside and outside of the classroom.
The 68* Writing majors have a number of opportunities to work and learn in the community, and Caitlin took advantage of many of these when she was a student. Working with Eileen Schell, she did an internship at The Nottingham Senior Retirement Community, where she created a newsletter that showcased the residents' writing and put together resident profiles for a website. A Community Research Fellowship with Steve Parks put Caitlin in touch with unionized hotel workers for a book that will be published by Syracuse University, and she also worked with students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. elementary school through the "Roots and Wings" afterschool apprenticeship program, which encourages hands-on learning in science, journalism, government, photography, law and the arts.
On campus, Caitlin served as a marketing intern for SU Press and the marketing editor for Intertext, the Writing Program magazine that showcases students' work. As a peer consultant in the Writing Center, Caitlin worked one-on-one with writers from different disciplines. She also majored in Communication & Rhetorical Studies. There were challenges, but Caitlin is thankful that the experiences offered her new perspectives, ideologies, and relationships.
These experiences prepared her for the job search, and Caitlin says that her writing background was instrumental in landing her current job doing marketing for Besen & Associates, a real estate firm in New York City. Caitlin noted on her resume that she had written a piece for NPR's "This I Believe" public dialogue as part of her work in Eileen Schell's WRT 255 course. Her future boss looked it up, loved it, and wanted to put Caitlin's creativity to work. Caitlin's job responsibilities include creating marketing documents using Photoshop and InDesign, communicating with different store owners to see if they are interested in the company's properties, and assisting with lease signings and brokerage.
Caitlin created the blog Blogging with Besen Retail, and it has been so successful that serving as its editor has become part of her everyday job. She writes about retail trends and neighborhood happenings in New York—everything from Fashion's Night Out to trends such as juice bars, coffee stencils, and invisible dog walkers. And she loves it: "I am so happy that I get to come into work every day and be creative. What could be better?"
* as of October 22, 2009