Professional Writing Student’s Project Helped Feed Our Campus

Erik Alfaro received the Outstanding Achievement in Professional Writing award for engaging both the program’s creative and technical aspects. From poetry and fiction through creative nonfiction to technical writing, Erik has demonstrated a care and writing acuity few students can match. Erik’s advisor and mentor, Dr. Rich Matzen, said Erik “consistently impressed me with his willingness to engage writing and reading and accept constructive criticism to the point of shaping a text for an audience. Moreover, Erik is outstanding for embracing both technical and creative writing courses, while looking to connect each of his writing projects to the real world. In short, Erik succeeded in marrying genres to audiences and has grown to become a professional writer.”

It was Erik’s senior thesis project that most demonstrated this ability to create real world impact. In fall 2021, during the pandemic, he became interested in applying research methodologies to track and understand how first-generation college students were experiencing financial hardship. As part of the project, he wrote the “Woodbury University Student Financial Assistance Survey.” One-third of Woodbury students, a remarkable 33% response rate, responded to the survey to communicate their financial needs related to technology, transportation, and food insecurity. Erik’s work was particularly important in bringing this latter issue to the attention of Dr. Matzen and other faculty and staff members on campus. 309 students took the survey, and 70% indicated they struggled with hunger. This equaled about 1/3 of Woodbury’s student population. This became the basis for establishing Woodbury University’s Food for Thought Program, which provides meals to students experiencing food insecurity.

The Food for Thought program subsequently received $30,000 in grant funds and fed the university’s food-insecure students for several years. The professors in the Professional Writing Department thank Erik, consequently, for making the promise of the degree program into a reality that suggests a better, more balanced world is part of our future.

Read more about Erik and CLAS’s role in the Food for Thought Program in our May 2022 article

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