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Mechanical Engineering Technical Communication Program

Director Kelly Scarff (right) works with a student.
Director Kelly Scarff (right) works with a student. Photo by Alex Parrish for Virginia Tech.

The Technical Communication Program (TCP) in Mechanical Engineering was established in 2020 with the mission to provide mechanical engineering students with the resources they need to become professional, effective communicators. 

Effective communication is important for every field, including engineering. Your communication skills—be it writing, public speaking, or otherwise—can determine what job you get, what funding you secure, what articles you publish, and how your research impacts both your field and the community. The Technical Communication Program (TCP) in Mechanical Engineering has two overarching goals to help students become more effective communicators:

  1. First, the TCP serves as a resource to help students learn how to learn. In other words, the program’s goal isn’t for students to memorize punctuation and grammar rules. Instead, consultants in the TCP teach students how to approach writing as a holistic, iterative process so students can adapt to the situation they’re in and know that they have a repository of lessons (and earned confidence) that they can revisit to make their communication more effective.
  2. Second, the TCP serves as a resource to help students identify and communicate the purpose of their ideas/arguments to various audiences through the most appropriate mode of communication.
Kelly Scarff

Kelly Scarff, PhD, is a Collegiate Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech where she teaches engineering communication courses and directs the Technical Communication Program in the department of Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Scarff has over a decade of experience in STEM communication. Prior to her role at Virginia Tech, she was a consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy where she worked as a technical editor and quality assurance technician on all energy-related deliverables, including technical reports, white papers, proposals, and literature reviews. She also taught professional development and research-writing courses to materials science and engineering students; provided technical editing and writing consultation for engineering faculty and graduate students; and taught various courses in Professional and Technical Writing, including Science Writing, Technical Writing, and Technical Editing & Style.

Dr. Scarff holds a PhD in Rhetoric & Writing from Virginia Tech, an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University, a BA in English from University of Pittsburgh, and a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate from the University of Toronto.