A researcher and environmental lawyer, Helwig plans to use the tools she learned in the Persuasive Writing Credential Program to communicate with a broader audience.
Headshot of Mandy Helwig
Mandy Helwig

Mandy Helwig, a researcher and attorney based in Phoenix, Arizona, has worked as an environmental lawyer for many years and writes often for her job. However, she found that her legal writing expertise limited which audiences she could communicate with effectively. “I really feel that I’ve done a lot of top-down environmental work in my time. However, I believe that so much change comes from the bottom up, with people making decisions to change their behavior. Writing is a key component in translating information to broaden awareness.”

Helwig began searching for programs that could build on her expertise and strengthen her writing skills and said the Harris Persuasive Writing Credential program immediately stood out to her due to its alignment with her background. “A big thing that drew me to the program was that it works both for people who want to enter policy and those who have been in the policy realm and want to write,” she said.

At the beginning of the six-week course, Helwig looked forward to learning to approach writing in a new way. Knowing she wanted to effect bottom-up change, she was happy to take away techniques that “gave me a completely refined eye to go through my own writing and effectively tell stories that keep people hooked.” Helwig also enjoyed how enriching her classmates were. The variety of policy interests and collaborative nature of the class brought fresh perspectives to her own writing and reinforced her new revision skills.

The culminating project for the Persuasive Writing Credential is writing a solutions narrative, a long-form piece of writing highlighting a group of people who are working to solve a policy problem. While finding a topic seemed daunting at first, Helwig had already seen a perfect example in her research. She wrote about a group of farmers in Arizona that decided to lower their water usage by growing barley and partnered with local brewers to sell their crops, making their businesses drought-resistant while remaining profitable. She looks forward to writing about more of the farms and fisheries she has visited so that others can adopt more environmentally friendly practices.

“There is a missing link between public policy and what is communicated to the public,” Helwig says. She notes that the ability to clearly communicate with a wide audience is critical to the success of any given policy, and she plans to utilize her new skills to do just that. “I would encourage anybody to take this course—even if you have been writing for years, it adds a component of communicating to the broader public that is incredibly helpful.”