Eric Sonstroem

English 105--Case 2--Definitions

This assignment asks you to consider a fictional scenario, or "case."  This allows you to consider the way real, on-the-job situations can impact the decisions you will make about your writing.  Your writing assignments are listed at the bottom of the page.

Also, Case 2, 3, and 4 should all integrate smoothly into your final project.  Case 2 will form the basis for your final project's Glossary.

The Scenario:

 Thanks to your outstanding resume, you got a great job.  As a new hire at RDS, Inc., you have accepted the fact that your unofficial job title is "everybody's engineer." Ever since you graduated from UoP and moved to Sacramento to start the job, you have been, it seems, at the beck and call of every project team and engineering division that exists at RDS, and you have been assigned every sort of task, even running photocopies for a design group that was struggling to meet a deadline. Your immediate supervisor Robert Shupp understands the pressures you are working under; in fact, the two of you joked about it last week while you skipped yet another lunch to crunch numbers for a set of feasibility tests. Shupp has assured you, however, that your experience is typical among new engineers and that you can benefit from becoming familiar with the many dimensions of a large firm like RDS.

Your work at RDS has coincided with an unusual time of expansion and growth, particularly expansion into new markets in Eastern Europe, India, and Mexico. This growth makes a sudden and distinct impact on your work on Monday morning when you pick up email from Shupp:

I am calling a meeting with you, Mary Higgins, and Keith Jones for 2 P.M. I realize this is short notice and that you may already have another meeting scheduled. This is important, however, and I'd like you to cancel what you may already have going. We'll meet in the conference room at 2.

Clearly Shupp isn't planning for you to say no to the 2 o'clock meeting, so you begin canceling other meetings and rescheduling the day's tasks.

* * *

At 2, you arrive at the conference room and greet Mary and Keith. In addition you see three other new hires like you. Shupp certainly called in the reinforcements.

"Any idea what this is all about?" you ask. Mary shrugs as Shupp enters the room.

"Thanks for coming, folks. I know it was probably a hassle to reschedule your Monday, but we are in a bind." You consider agreeing, but think better of it as Shupp continues."This morning I received a letter from Paulo Colosio y Costilla, mayor of Nacozari, a city in central Mexico. As some of you may know, I have been working with a team at RDS that is implementing expansion plans in new markets. At this point, we have focused our energies on Mexico, and that work seems to be paying off. Last November in meetings with city officials from Nacozari, we proposed their visiting RDS in Sacramento, to see our operation, look at the structure of the company, and introduce several potential clients, including one engineer. Well, they have decided to take us up on this. There is only one catch. They want to visit us in the middle of March."

"In one month?" Keith asks. You pull out a pen and notepad and get ready to write.

"Yes. I understand this is short notice, but we need to move on the expansion before interest fades. If we can convince Nacozari to welcome us to their city, let us set up a branch, and then introduce us to clients, we can call our expansion plan a success."

Mary looks more enthusiastic.

"So I want you all to help me prepare for the visit. Do any of you speak Spanish?" Shupp asks. Everyone shakes their heads.

"Well, I do speak a little. The mayor assures me that they will translate for the one member of the group who doesn't speak any English. I am not convinced, however, that we can completely rely on that offer. After all, the person they wish to translate for is the engineer. I think we should hire a Spanish translator but I can't guarantee that we can find an engineer who can also serve as a translator. The basic problem I see is that we are accustomed to using technical jargon when we talk to each other--acronyms, slang, etc. And our jargon, which is understandable to us, may be confusing to non-native speakers of English, even those who are experts in our technical field."

Shupp continues, "Let's work on the assumption that we will need to present ideas and concepts clearly enough so they can be effectively translated. In particular, I want us to develop a handbook of engineering terms and corresponding definitions that can be used by both the visitors and the translators. Those definitions could help provide a foundation for our discussions. And, of course, that kind of clarity will also serve us well with the other visitors who speak and understand English at different levels. Okay, let's get to work."

Shupp assigns you to a team of other new hires and asks that your group start to work on a handbook of terms and concepts that are essential to your area of engineering. You suggest that your group spend the rest of the afternoon on the assignment.

The Writing Assignment:

Assignment 1:

In-Class Portion (we will be doing this in small groups in class):  Have your team brainstorm together to come up with a list of materials you think would be a good way to introduce the visitors to the RDS operation. You should consider not just what you will include in the visitor packet, but how it will be presented. Use your brainstorming list as the basis of class discussion. Also, is there anything potentially offensive in Shupp's attitude about this encounter? What would be the best attitude to have in this situation?

To do on your own (also in class): Come up with a list of seven terms and/or concepts that you believe are essential to a good understanding of your final project topic. These terms will serve as a short glossary for the non-native speakers and will be presented in the handbook Shupp asked you to complete. (Note: it will also be possible to use this as a glossary in your final project.)

Assignment 2:

Part One:

Complete the project by composing a concise, formal definition of each term, making sure that you use words precisely and clearly. Use the pattern "species = genus + differentia." Your audience is a professional non-expert. Submit the glossary with the terms in a format that you believe can be easily used by the visiting group.

Part Two:

Choose one of your seven terms and provide three additional definitions for this term: