New Faculty Member Bolsters Program in Professional Writing, Technical Communication at UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - James Collier has joined the University of Massachusetts English department as a specialist in the area of professional writing and technical communication. A graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a doctorate degree in science and technology studies, Collier is a specialist in understanding both the growing importance of technology for the humanities and the growing importance of the humanities to technology. The latter, he is quick to point out, is not as obvious as the former to either laymen or experts.

"With computers and the Internet entering nearly every facet of our lives, it is essential that we understand the impact technology is having on the way we work, interact, and conduct our daily affairs," says Collier. "In a similar vein, it is important to realize that despite all of these advances we are still a society based in language and human interaction, and that we will adapt our machines to our own personal uses despite the predictions of doomsayers to the contrary."

Collier says that the growing prevalence of technology in society has implications for the job market, the family, and the future of education. At the University, for instance, he points to the growing emphasis on interactive classes of all sorts, and he predicts that these changes will continue to pervade college life in general, with largely beneficial results for students and instructors.

One of Collier''s roles at the University is to encourage and ease the incorporation of technology into the educational process. As part of the highly successful program in professional writing and technical communication, he prepares students for writing careers in fields such as computer programming and corporate communications, both areas in which technology is increasingly important. "There are some who look at the intermingling of science and the humanities as regrettable and perhaps even worthy of contempt," says Collier. "But to my mind, we''re preparing students for the realities of the job market while also exposing them to the creative thinking often associated with the liberal arts."

Collier is very proud to be associated with the program in professional writing and technical communication, and he has nothing but praise for colleague John Nelson who first created the program back in 1990. As Collier points out, the program has had an astonishing success rate in placing its students, with a 100 percent job placement rate for graduating seniors. "It''s a new world and we want to be part of that," Collier says. "Of course, my job is to do so with a critical eye. I don''t simply embrace the sciences, I also study them. But I would be the first to say they have a great deal to offer the liberal arts."