New to the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, technical writer Meagan Madariaga-Hopkins oversees a facet in the field often evaded by students — the written word. Life as a technical writer consists of polishing proposals and essays, battling grammatical beasts, and helping students marry engineering and the art of writing.
Off hours, she’s dreaming of her next travel destination.
I’ve worked here in various capacities throughout the years and it feels like home to me. I received my master’s degree in education in curriculum and instruction at UNLV (in 2002), so coming back to work here is comfortable. It’s a great place.
What inspired you to get into your field?
Writing is a reflection of who you are. It’s how people will judge you, but once you take that ownership, you see a lot more focus and dedication to writing. It’s harder now than it has ever been. We’re used to short and sweet, so it can be hard for people to develop more thought and depth. For people who are analytical, that can be quite a challenge.
Biggest challenge in your field
Writing itself is a challenge. Writing isn’t just writing, that’s like saying sports is just sports. Every sport is different and every type of writing has different rules and ways of presenting information that can be overwhelming to people. Teaching that skill is something that slips through the cracks.
Working at a university compared to a “civilian” job
The best thing about working at a university is the collegiality. Everyone has a ton of things to do, but they always want to know what you’re doing and see how we can work together. At a university, everyone is always trying to support each other.
A time you have been daring
When I was 17, I studied abroad in Brazil. My family is from Spain, so I spoke some Spanish and thought, “I can do this!” I lived there for 11 months and came back a completely different person. I think it built my outlook on life, so I always try to see from other people’s perspectives. The way I see things and they see things can be completely different but everything is based on language, culture, and experience. Studying abroad was an invaluable time in my life and I’m so grateful I did it, even though it was scary.
Advice would you give your younger self
Don’t give up when you feel frustrated. When you’re told no, don’t let it knock you down. Explore other avenues. Find people who are positive, who will say yes, and support what you want to do.
If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to...
Be a travel writer. It makes me nervous, but when I see other people do it, I just think that I’d love to do it for real and take my dogs. That’s the hardest thing about traveling; I always miss my dogs.
Places you’d like to visit
I want to go back to Spain and France. I’d also like to visit Turkey, Hungary, Croatia, Eastern Europe, and Germany.
An object in your office that has a significance for you
My framed puzzle. When I was living in Austin, Texas, my mom sent me a puzzle of multiple Elvises parachuting from the sky into Las Vegas. My family and I spent one rainy winter putting that puzzle together because we missed the city and wanted to come home so badly. It’s significant to me because I love Vegas and when I wasn’t here, I was dreaming of coming back. There’s nothing like Nevada skies. Home is good.
We love Halloween. I always loved the holiday growing up because my dad’s hobby was acting and Halloween was his big thing. He performed in local theater so he would do his makeup, dress up, go out, and scare all the kids. This year my husband and I are going back to Austin for Halloween and going as Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. We usually plan a couple of months in advance.