Writing with Purpose: Emily Dawson's Journey to UC

Profile picture of graduate student Emily Dawson.

Professional writing master’s student Emily Dawson started her career in pharma—without any experience in the industry. Inspired by her passion for learning, she transitioned into full-time graduate education two years into her career. Now working as a graduate assistant for the UC College of Law, Emily writes web content about law students and staff for UC News, and is fully embracing her role as both a Bearcat and an active student in her rhetoric and professional writing program. Emily spends her time focused on developing her writing skills, mastering her professional abilities, and making a point to learn something new every day.

Emily, however, didn’t always know she wanted to be a writer.

In high school, Emily had a friend whose dad was a general manager for a resort in Lexington, KY. “I remember one time,” Emily says, “I was staying at [my friend’s] house and the power went out because of a storm, so we got to stay at the resort for the night. We ordered room service and wore bath robes—talk about the best girls night ever. I thought it was the coolest perk to any job.” Emily spoke with her friend’s dad and learned that he had worked all over the world as a resort manager. It was at that moment she decided to pursue hospitality and tourism management. After researching top hospitality programs in the south, Emily attended College of Charleston for her first year of undergrad. After her freshman year, she landed an internship at a golf resort in Texas. Although she enjoyed her time in the Lone Star state, Emily realized something else was in store for her, and she finished her undergrad studies in professional writing.

In her writing courses, she was exposed to all of the things that a professional writer can do: marketing, legal writing, business writing, and design. “Basically,” she explains, “I learned that with the right set of skills, you can get a job in any almost industry. That's a great option for someone that likes to jump around.” Emily graduated from Miami University with degrees in professional writing and history.

Post-graduation, she started working in regulatory affairs and medical writing for a drug development company, an industry she had never touched before. The job was exciting and challenging, just the way Emily likes it, and she grew daily as both a writer and a professional. “Every day I faced something new, but that’s also what made it fun. I learned how to think creatively, project manage from the ground up, and I developed a knowledge of drug development that I would have never learned otherwise. I have a brother with a rare disease, and while I never thought I could help him from a medical standpoint, I was able to help companies develop pharmaceutical options that could eventually change his life and his disease.” 

"'There will never be a right time.'"

One of the medical writers Emily worked with graduated from the professional writing master’s program at UC. Emily was intrigued, as it paired two of her favorite things—learning and writing—and she further chased the idea. “We talked about the program and where it could take me. She strongly recommended I apply… I now realize that the alumni network for the program is strong and spread out across the city. They understand your skills and abilities, and are more than willing to help you get to where you want to be.”

But sometimes taking the leap from the professional world back to the academic world can be daunting. Although Emily was enticed by the professional writing program, there were parts of her that remained unsure. Balancing her full-time job plus going to grad school? It sounded like a lot to handle at once, and just as many other higher education students, Emily questioned whether grad school was the right choice. Her schedule would unquestionably get busier, her life would get more complicated, and she found herself feeling a little afraid of the unknown.

“I was hesitant to juggle a full-time day job and part-time graduate classes at night, but one of mentors told me, ‘There will never be a right time. It will only get harder to go back to school.’ If I waited a few years, who knows where life would have taken me, so I decided to enroll.

“It was tough, but since I was only a year out of undergrad, it was easier to transition back to being a student. I went in to work early and studied at nights and on the weekends, until I eventually decided to switch to full-time.” 

Emily credits her growth and development to those that encouraged her to pursue her graduate studies. “Finding the right mentors was everything for me,” explains Emily, “and I strongly believe I wouldn’t be here about to graduate with a master’s degree without them.” If she wanted to excel as far as she could, she would need to begin her journey in higher education. Emily not only wanted to set herself apart from the crowd, but strengthen her writing skills to the next level. 

"I've never considered myself a creative person, and the program was the perfect place to really explore my creative side."

It was a decision that was both appealing and tactile. Emily would graduate three years earlier if she switched to graduate school full-time, and she knew it was the right choice. With the support of her friends, family, and mentors, Emily decided to quit her full-time position and focus solely on graduate school. And making this change turned out to be the right decision, as Emily was quickly offered a graduate assistantship with the UC College of Law. Since then, her time working at UC has become one of her favorite jobs she’s ever had. Some of her articles have even been picked and retweeted by the official UC twitter account, and she enjoys every aspect of the writing process in earnest.

And while she’s loved the experience, it’s also taken her writing where she’s wanted it to go—as far as possible. She came to UC to deepen her professional skills and writing portfolio, and she’s done just that. As for her professional writing graduate program, Emily couldn’t be more grateful.

“My experience in the PW program has been amazing. I have learned so much and grown both professionally and personally over the last two years. As I'm approaching graduation, I feel like I've gained new skills as well as developed some I already had. The program aims to expose you to all the possibilities of a professional writer. I've never considered myself a creative person, and the program was the perfect place to really explore my creative side.

“My experience at Cincinnati Law has also taught me that I shouldn’t take my life for granted. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to pursue graduate education, develop my writing, and share people’s stories. There are people in our community who aren’t as fortunate, and I’ve learned to not take that for granted. No matter what I end up doing career-wise, I intend to make the most of it and find ways to continue telling stories of those who want to create change.”

Read some of Emily’s writing at the College of Law's News & Events page

Written by Danniah Daher, graduate assistant for the Graduate School