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Dear Dr. Horton – my UNFUCD thank you letter to a teacher

(EDITORIAL) In a world that seems to be too focused on the negative, violent, sad things in life, the UNFUCD movement couldn’t come at a better time.

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Getting UNFUCD

Lately, I’ve been shying away from my Facebook Newsfeed because there is simply too much violence, too much hate, and too much political opposition to navigate. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s that I care too much and it’s hard to bleed for the world daily, but I do. I need to limit my exposure. So, when I came across this assignment, I knew it was the answer I needed. A new movement if you will, one dubbed: UNFUCD.

UNFUCD, you say?

What is UNFUCD? Much like the Pay It Forward movement, UNFUCD aims to “create happiness one day at a time.” Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive. Create positivity by sharing things to highlight the good in the world, instead of the bad. There is also an UNFUCD community sharing goals and projects you can complete in your own neighborhoods to help foster that same sense of “let’s make things less f—ed up, and more connected, more positive, more neighborly.” You can read more about the UNFUCD project here.

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One of these UNFUCD projects, or missions is to write a letter to someone who has encouraged you, more specifically; we want to focus on teachers that have made a difference. As our legions of young people trudge back to school, we can’t forget the teachers who are shaping our young minds. I encourage you to follow the UNFUCD movement and thank someone who’s made a difference in your life. Here’s mine:

Dear Dr. Horton,

I’m not sure where to start this letter. Just thinking of you, makes me smile and tear up. You see, when I enrolled in your class at the University of Oklahoma, I was beaten down. I was terrified. I felt like I wasn’t any good as a human being, as a student, and especially as an academic writer.

I had a bad experience with another professor at another institution who told me I didn’t belong in the program and I essentially (in his eyes) wasn’t smart enough to finish. Even though I was a straight A student, I believed that professor. I believed him so much, I dropped out of the college. I was a little lost soul for a while. I’d given up on my dream because someone told me I wasn’t good enough. After a month or two, I decided to look into other options, and found the MA program at OU. I found you. I found your class. I found my salvation.

You fueled my passion, you believed in me

You took me in. You embraced my passion for film. You showed me your passion for film, which in turn, fueled my passion for film further. You believed in my academic goals. You believed in my writing. You believed in me and you made me believe in myself for the first time in a long time. You pushed me to attend conferences, to submit my work to publications, to believe what we were working on together had value and that I was indeed in the right place. I was smart enough. You were not just a professor, you were a mentor. You saved my dreams. You helped me become the writer I am today. Without your support, I would’ve given up again.

Every time I came to your office, I was met with pure warmth, acceptance, and a smile. I always felt like my opinions were valued and respected. You: an author, a screenwriter, and my professor and for someone so highly regarded to find worth in my work gave me hope that I could finish what I wanted to do: a Master’s degree in film and literature.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you, thank God for putting your warm, gentle, compassionate spirit on this Earth, and fervently wish that I could tell you how much you’ve meant to me without sounding like a total sentimental fool. My spirit was damaged when I started my new path, but I was healed because you took the time to be more than a professor. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for everything you did for me.

You are the reason I finished my degree

I still have your books on my shelf. I reread them now and again and smile. I can feel your passion for film through the words on the page. I remember everything you told me about film, about theory, about research, and about telling the story. You are the reason I finished my degree. You are the reason I still love to write. You are the reason I am an academic scholar.

You are the reason I believed in myself again and you are the reason the teaching profession should be admired and respected. You changed my life and I thank you, from the bottom of my (now healed) heart, thank you. I will always pray that every student finds someone to be their Dr. Horton, because Lord knows, the world needs more souls like yours.

#UNFUCD

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Danny Brown

    August 15, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Hi there Jennifer,

    Thanks so much for this letter, and supporting our goals over at UNFUCD. Dr Horton sounds like a wonderful teacher, and I can only imagine how many kids he’s been such a wise man for.

    Here’s to him, and you for recognizing him.

  2. Pingback: Dear Dr. Baldwin - my thank you letter to a teacher as part of the UNFUCD movement - The American Genius

  3. Pingback: An inspiring thank you letter all women in tech should read - The American Genius

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Opinion Editorials

Job listings are popping up left and right, so what exactly *is* UX writing?

(EDITORIAL) While UX writing is not technically new, it is seemingly becoming more and more prevalent. The job titles are everywhere, so what is it?

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UX writing

The work of a UX writer is something you come across every day. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints these writers work on are interface copy, emails, and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find these writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must-have. Excellent communication skills are a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post. But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater user experience design team. In larger companies, some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of the writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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Opinion Editorials

Have an in-person job interview? 7 tips to crush the competition

EDITORIAL) While we all know the usual interview schtick, take some time to really study for your next face-to-face job interview.

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Job interview between two women.

So, you’re all scheduled for an in-person interview for a job you’d kill for. It’s exciting that you’ve made it to this step, but the question is, are you ready? Especially with remote interviews being the new norm, your nerves may feel shaken up a bit to interview in person – but you’ve got this! And many of these tips can be applied no matter the interview setting.

We all know the basics of a job interview: dress nice, get there early, come prepared, firm handshake, yada, yada, yada… However, it’s good to really sit and think about all of the requirements of a successful interview.

There are seven steps for crushing a face-to-face interview. Do your homework upside down and inside out in order to walk into that room.

Which brings us to the first step: know everything you need to know backwards and forwards.

This can be done in two steps: getting to know the company and getting to know yourself. By doing website, social media, and LinkedIn research, you can get a feel of the company culture as well as the position you’re interviewing for.

By getting to know yourself, have a friend ask you some interview questions so you can practice. Also, take a look at your resume through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure everything is clear and can compete with other candidates.

The next step is to anticipate solving future problems. Have some insight on the department that you are interviewing for and come prepared with ideas of how to better this department. (i.e. if it’s marketing, give examples of campaigns you’ve done in the past that have proven to have been successful.)

Step number three requires you to go back to the research board and get some information on the employer. Find out who you’re meeting with (head of HR, head of the department, etc.) and make your self-presentation appropriate for the given person.

Next, work on making the interview conversation a meaningful one. This can be done by asking questions as people like to see you take an interest in them. Also, be sure to never answer the questions as if it’s your regular spiel. Treat each job interview as if this is the first time you’re presenting your employability information.

With this, your next step is to have stories prepared for the job interview. Anecdotes and examples of previous jobs or volunteer/organization experiences can help bring life to an otherwise run-of-the-mill resume.

After this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re showing enthusiasm for the position you’re interviewing for. Don’t jump on the couch in the lobby like you’re Tom Cruise on Oprah, but definitely portray that you’re excited and up for the challenge.

Lastly, make a good impression by being impressive. Be professional and in control of your body language. Put yourself in the mindset of whatever position you’re interviewing for and show them that you have what it takes.

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Opinion Editorials

The benefits of remote work are just too good to overlook

(EDITORIAL) Employees scream it from the rooftops and businesses don’t want to admit it: Remote work is just too beneficial to pass up- and here’s why.

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Work from home written with scrabble letters.

Remote work has been rising in popularity in the past several years. Especially following the COVID-19 global pandemic, more companies saw significant benefits for both their business and their staff that went beyond the realm of finances by allowing remote labor.

Less happily, many people lost their job during the pandemic, but they ended up having more time to put toward their passions or were compelled to get creative with their remote business ideas to ensure a consistent stream of income.

If you remain on the fence about allowing your employees to work remotely, or are considering a career shift yourself, take a look at the top four benefits of working remotely, which may sway your decision.

Better Overall Quality of Life

Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they work from home full time. There are benefits to having your employees work in an office part of the time – say, two or three days – and working from home, in more familiar surroundings, the rest of the week.

In this way, your workers enjoy some freedom and independence while retaining the ability to interact face-to-face with their peers. That provides human interaction, which can play a substantial role in terms of improved mental health for your staff.

Happy employees means healthier employees, which can save your outfit money in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. But we will get further into the cost-saving benefits a little further on.

If you’re a remote worker, you should see yourself becoming significantly more productive. But why would this be the case if you don’t have a manager over your shoulder watching your every move?

It’s true that when employees have a greater sense of independence, they also experience a significant sense of trust on the part of their employers and managers. This is one of the huge benefits of working remotely because it has a trickle-down effect on the quality and overall production of people’s work.

Can Work Anywhere with Internet

Whether you are a small business owner or have crafted your work to tailor toward a life of remote labor, this is an opportunity for someone who has dreamed of being a digital nomad. You have the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet. If you love to travel, this is a chance to spend time in various places around the globe while continuing to meet your deadlines.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it.

Set Your Own Hours

In some cases with remote businesses, you have the freedom to set your own hours. Content writers, for instance, tend to enjoy more flexibility with regard to when they work because a lot of what they produce is project-based rather than tied to a nine-to-five schedule.

When you’re a business owner, this can be incredibly useful when you outsource tasks to save money. You can find a higher quality of performance by searching for contractors anywhere in the world and it doesn’t limit you to workers who live near to your office.

Saves Everyone Time and Money

 In the end, remote work typically saves money for every person and entity involved. Businesses save costs in terms of not having to pay for a physical space, utilities, Internet, and other expenses. This allows you, as the owner, to spend more of your income on providing quality software and benefits for your employees so your operation runs more smoothly and efficiently.

According to FlexJobs, employees or remote business owners may save around $4,000 on average every year for expenses such as car maintenance, transportation, professional clothing in the office, or even money spent dining out for lunch with coworkers. Eventually, the costs add up, which means extra money in your pocket to take that much-needed vacation or save up for a down payment on your first home.

These benefits of working remotely only skim the surface. There are also sustainability factors such as removing cars from the roads and streets, because people don’t have to travel to and from an office; or employees missing fewer workdays since they have the ability and freedom to clock in from home.

Weigh the pros and cons as to whether remote work is right for you as a business owner or online professional. You might be surprised to find that working from home for more than the duration of the pandemic is worthwhile and could have long-lasting benefits.

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