From the Flight Deck to the Classroom

Prior to finishing my doctorate at GSEP and going into academics, I spent 15 years in the aerospace industry working in computer centers and in technical writing.

In June 2013, I was selected to participate in the U.S. Navy’s Distinguished Visitors/Leaders to Sea Program aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), about 100 miles off the coast of San Diego. California.

During my two days on the navy carrier, I spoke with sailors on the importance of clear communication in their fields. Daily documentation is a standard for most divisions, and performance reviews specifically cover technical communication with subordinates, peers, and superiors.

I frequently utilize real-life anecdotes in the classroom because practical applications are essential in teaching the value of strong professional and technical writing skills. My conversations with the sailors helped to answer some critical questions that are often addressed in my classroom:

  • How important is an eye for detail in writing technical documents?
  • How can writing help in critical defense issues?
  • How is step-by-step instructional writing used every day in our country’s military environment?

Students often become complacent in the academic setting and fail to see how a homework assignment might have real-life application. When it comes to life-or-death situations, B, C, or D grade-level work is not acceptable. Anything less than an A could be fatal. I was grateful to be able to take several new experiences to show students the technical writing process from proposal to implementation.

Hibsman is an alumnus of the doctoral program in educational technology. He is currently an English professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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