by Parker Bowles
Like many first time college students, I struggled to decide on a major going into UCF. I knew I wanted to write as a career, but I was unsure which major in college would get me there. I considered multiple options, from anthropology to sociology to English, but none of them seemed to have relevant courses for what I wanted to study while I was in college. After browsing UCF’s majors, I finally decided on writing and rhetoric.
However, I was very unsure about this decision, as I could not find much about this degree. I later learned that UCF is one of the first schools in the state to offer a writing and rhetoric program. Going into a degree program with little information on it was daunting, but I took the leap and started my first semester as a writing and rhetoric major. Despite a rocky start, the community I found within the major’s department ended up making me more confident in my major and gave me a better experience at UCF overall.
The first class I took within the Department of Writing and Rhetoric (DWR) was Careers and Professional Practices in Writing and Rhetoric. The course itself helped me to feel more comfortable about my job prospects and taught me ways to market myself for getting a writing job, but more important than that was the community I met through this class. The class took place over Zoom, but the professor, Stephanie Wheeler, always made sure class was interesting and engaging. Even with the virtual learning method, I felt that I got to know more people within DWR than I did through my in-person classes. This class also got me involved with the department’s student ambassadors program. My first semester helped me get my foot in the door, but when I got involved with student ambassadors in my second semester, I truly found my place at UCF.
The Department of Writing and Rhetoric Student Ambassadors program allows students to get more involved by giving promotional classroom presentations, volunteering at department events, and other activities throughout the DWR. When I signed up in the fall, I was apprehensive about becoming an ambassador, as I was unsure about the major myself. How could I advocate for something that I wasn’t even sure I believed in? However, before I was ever asked to give a classroom presentation, I was able to attend several other events that gave me a better idea about what DWR did and how people in the major go on to succeed.
Being a writing and rhetoric major is about more than education. It’s about having a community of like-minded students who can lift each other up and support each other in our writing.
The department is small compared to UCF’s other majors, meaning that many faces and names become familiar quickly. Before I knew it, I recognized many of the students and professors in DWR and began to establish connections with them. One of the easiest ways to establish a connection with anyone is with common ground. In a place like the DWR, everyone has at least two common interests: writing and rhetoric. Connecting with so many others over writing helped me realize that being a writing and rhetoric major is about more than education. It’s about having a community of like-minded students who can lift each other up and support each other in our writing.
The first event I attended that helped me realize this was a ghost story open mic night hosted by the University Writing Center, where writers were invited to share their ghost stories in front of other students in the major. I am more of a quiet type, so presenting in front of a room full of people is generally something I would avoid. However, seeing how supportive and engaged the audience was made me feel as though I could present in front of them, something I never thought I’d feel.
While I did not present at the open mic, I began to feel more comfortable attending and speaking up at other events, including tabling for the writing center and giving classroom presentations. Being a student ambassador has helped me get through more fears as well. I have rarely used social media, but I was asked to take over the DWR Instagram account for a day. Even though I was hesitant, given my lack of social media experience, my fellow ambassadors encouraged and supported me throughout the day, making it a great experience and giving me more confidence in posting on my personal social media pages.
My experiences in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric helped me find my community at UCF in a way I did not expect going into college. My major helped me find my community, and my community helped me find confidence in my major. Starting college is a time of change and new beginnings, but even if you’re unsure about the future, there are ways to make meaningful connections with those around you that can help you chart your path. The Department of Writing and Rhetoric helped me realize that college is not just about getting a degree. It’s about forging bonds that will help you grow and last a lifetime.