Author: aljames10

From Then To Now

Over the past 6 weeks I have been able to gain a large start on my project. Coming into the summer I was sure of one thing: My project would have something to do with the connection between communications and nonprofits in the field of global health.

I’ve spent the summer so far researching sustainability, how nonprofits in this field typically work and the research questions I would like to pose. It has been an interested summer figuring out each of those, but I didn’t realize how many times I would change my mind about the direction of my project and the questions I wanted to ask. So far this summer, I have interviewed well-educated professors who have studied education and cultural anthropology, information systems, and nonprofit communications. Through these interviews while also conducting independent research and connecting with international nonprofits, I have been able to realize the direction I want to take beginning this fall semester.

I will look at the connection between communications and nonprofits by asking:

  1. What means and methods of communications do nonprofits use to educate the public about sustainability (or how they at least define it) by analyzing the layout and rhetoric of their websites? I will explore their use of logos, pathos, and ethos as well.
  2. What is the connection between communication methods/strategies and financial gains? How have they developed over time? Audience analysis and social media will also be assessed.
  3. What communication networks are involved in the sustainability of global health projects? This will explore intercultural communications and communications between nonprofits that work together on global health projects.
  4. Understanding communications resilience when nonprofits lose funding.

Of course these questions might change later on, but they’re the questions I currently want to answer with my thesis.

While trying to compose these questions, I not only learned so much about the preliminary process of research, but I also learned so much about myself. My ideas, methods, and direction of my project changed to the point where they looked nothing like I originally planned them to be. I also learned that I love to work on my own research topic. I can answer questions I have about the world and my interests instead of questions others want me to answer. This freedom of my intellectual curiosity makes me more passionate about the research I am doing. I can only hope that I have the opportunity to do something like this in the future.

Learn more about my project.

Halfway through the summer, but not halfway done

I’ve hit the 4 week mark. Somehow in 4 weeks I’ve managed to almost completely change my project outline. It feels surreal how much my project has evolved in the preliminary stage. Now, this change is not that drastic; I can still keep the title. I haven’t changed what my project is about, but rather how I am going about it.

Originally, I was going to mainly focus on the evolution of sustainability in nonprofits and see how their technical communications has enhanced their sustainability. I would talk about a large group of nonprofits, not going into too much depth.

Now, I am going to profile about three nonprofits (maybe only two if I don’t have enough time). I will case study these nonprofits in-depth to understand their technical communication skills. This involves studying their websites, rhetoric, figuring out their target audiences, looking at their financial reports, and social media pages like Facebook and Twitter. Their will now be an introductory like chapter (longer than most introductions, but not larger than the nonprofits section) on the evolution of sustainability and sustainable development. This will include a working definition, excerpts from the nonprofits being researched, as well as cultural aspects of sustainable development.

The outline of my project has evolved into the following: A preface of my time abroad, an introduction to sustainability/ sustainable development, aspects of technical communications, nonprofit case studies, and concluding remarks.

Even though I have much work ahead of me I am excited with how much research the fellowship has allowed me to accomplish.

Learn more about my project.

Technical Communications meets Public Health: A Tale of Two Disciplines

(This post was originally written on July 3.)

Well I’m halfway through my first week! I’ve been reading tons of papers on Sustainability in the field of Public Health, Technical Communications, and how the two connect. So far I’ve been trying to set up a working definition of Sustainability and Technical Communications to make it easy for a general audience to understand. I have been fortunate to have found great research papers that have answered this question for me and then some. I plan to continue to look for more research papers to build upon the definitions and criteria of what I have.

I’ve realized the connection between the two are stronger than I originally thought. Website development and grant writing are very important parts of nonprofit organizations that communicate their work to others and how they communicate this information can be the difference between having funding and continuing their foundation or not. I will continue to look into this large network of communications and figure out a way technical writers can enhance the reach of nonprofits to make their cause sustainable.

I also will be incorporating a small narrative portion into my book. I have been abroad many times working in public health and I think others will be able to understand the importance of sustainability in under-served countries if they knew more about the people and way of life in these areas. I hope the addition of the narrative will make the book more lively and give a personal touch to something that seems so technical.

Learn more about my project.


Pittsburgh Meets Guatemala

image1[1]It’s raining. Then again it rains everyday at this time (6 pm). I’m writing to you from Antigua, Guatemala during the rainy season! I’ve been here about three weeks and I have one more to go. I won the Jennings Brave Companion Fund, which is a scholarship to study abroad during the summer. With this, I choose to volunteer in a free clinic in Antigua, Guatemala for 4 weeks. Antigua Guatemala is such an exciting place to be. The cobble stone streets, the daily views of the active volcanoes, and the merchants selling their goods in the street never get old. I have rode in a chicken bus (a colorful loud bus packed beyond capacity) to work everyday, I hiked an active volcano, and I have had great conversations with people in my clinic.

This scholarship has given me the funds to come to the area I am researching for my honors thesis (Central America). I have learned so much about the culture and how the water system works here in Antigua. It’s been very valuable being here in person and not learning from behind a computer screen. I’ve been to Honduras and Nicaragua over the years for one-week volunteer trips building water systems, but these four weeks has deeply widened my global perspective.image2[1]

For my project I will be looking at how technical communications plays a role in sustainability in public health projects in Central America. I intend to mainly look at water systems when discussing the scope of public health projects (surprise, surprise). I’ve decided to start my journey by reaching out to nonprofits that operate in Central America and see how they work towards making there projects sustainable. It seems that everyone has a system they use that has changed over the years to make these projects last longer. Hopefully I will be able to find image3a trend between the organizations use of technical communications and the degree of sustainability.

I am very excited to be working on a project that lets me take a step beyond the United States. I’ve been interested in the field of sustainability in public health for a while, but I haven’t been able to look into it until now. Combine that with my favorite part of the world, and you have an unforgettable research project.

Learn more about my project at Carnegie Mellon University.