Cover Letter

Dear UWP instructors,

Welcome to my UWP 1 final portfolio!

I am Yanan Zhang, a sophomore in Statistics major. In this letter, I will focus on the two assignments, Literacy Narrative and Research Paper, and explain how they demonstrate what I have learned in UWP 1 this quarter.

The first assignment in my portfolio is Literacy Narrative. For this assignment, I was asked to tell a story about an experience and how I changed because of it. I decided to write how an assignment about an advertisement from WLD 57 changed my mind about our environment. I knew my audience is my classmates and instructor, and I had to let them understand my experience as well as my changes. As a result, I used vivid narrations, including specific details and thoughtful analysis. For example, I described the advertisement in details, such as the green and brown colors, and the slogan “Before it’s too late”. These encouraged me to explore the severe deforestation problem in the world and realize I did not care about the environment. I also demonstrate concrete details about what I did to protect the environment, such as the native plant nursery event. I used “propagating, potting up, seeding, weeding, trimming, organizing, watering, and otherwise caring” to show my experience vividly to my audience. I found the examples of basic writers and advanced writers are very helpful for me. I analyzed them thoroughly with my peers in class, and I realized the difference by comparing those examples. Basic writes always use some commonplace. However, advanced writer would use effective narrative techniques to persuade their audience. For example, if they say that an experience changed their attitude toward writing, they will focus on how it changed their attitude. Similarly, they won’t just say they learned a lot from their experience. However, although I revised based on what I learned in class, I still have some problem in my final draft. My professor gave me informative advice on it. She said my introduction and conclusion are unrelated with my body paragraphs. The introduction and conclusion focused on writing, while the body paragraphs focused on environmentalism. As a result, I revised my introduction and conclusion to discuss environmentalism. In this way, the idea is controlling and it is easy for my audience to follow my experience and how I changed because of it.

The second assignment in my portfolio is Research Paper. For this assignment, I was asked to answer a focused research question with a specific thesis. It is different from literacy narrative, because the audience is academic audience who is interested in my research question. At the beginning of the writing process, I had a hard time to develop a research question. As a statistics major, I know that it is hard for me to find a job after graduation. So, I wanted to focus on the difficulties for science and engineering majors. However, it was so hard for me to find evidence online. After searching for the unemployment rate of engineering majors and social science majors, I finally realized that it was much harder for social science majors to find jobs. Then, I changed my research question to the heavy course loads in college and work-related difficulty and gender inequality in career facing by engineering millennials. In order to persuade and convince my audience, I had to use academic sources as well as other sources in my research paper. I found “Finding and Evaluating Sources” was very helpful. After analyzing it with my peers in class, I had a strong sense about what sources were credible to my audience. Besides, “Using Evidence” was also impressive. We went over every sentence in some paragraphs. Through the process of analyzing, I knew how to use evidence efficiently to support the arguments, which was important to write my own research paper. For this assignment, my professor also gave my sufficient feedback. She reminded me that I lacked analysis of my evidence and suggested me that I could address potential solutions to the issue. Finally, I added some solutions at the end of each body paragraphs, such as taking advantage of school counseling services and help from peers, increasing physical activity, using social media, etc.

It is also worth to point out the Language Development Project. This brand-new project helped me to know my strengths and weaknesses in language use. I chose subject-verb agreement, write conciseness, and parallel structure, which were most challenging and important to me. First, I found some examples of the specific issue in my own writing. Then, I completed some online exercise. When I got wrong, I checked the answer and explanation. In this way, I improved my understanding of my errors, and could correct my errors. Thanks to this project, I got rid of many bad writing habits.

Thank you very much for reading this cover letter. Hope you enjoy my portfolio!


Yanan Zhang


Take Care of Our Environment Together

People always say I am a good student, but am I?

Before last spring quarter, I might say “Yes, I am.” I always got good grades in school. At the same time, I took part in many competitions and got prizes. As an international student, when I started to apply for colleges, I suffered a lot of pain and spared no effort to pull up my scores in TOEFL and SAT. After taking classes and practicing day after day, I advanced confidently in the direction of my dream and endeavored to get a better life. Expectedly, I met with success in both exams and was even enrolled in my dream school. I thought I was a successful student until I took WLD 57 last spring quarter. This class dramatically changed my opinion about our environment and motivated me to explore the severe problem of our environment. I realized I was not a responsible person for the society because I did not care about our environment at all.

At the beginning of the quarter, everything went smoothly. Professor assigned usual and unsurprising academic writing assignments to me, as what I got touch with and was familiar with before. However, for the very last assignment during the quarter, she asked us to find a piece of advertisement online and analyze it using the common techniques of advertisement mentioned in the workbook. I started to search advertisement on the internet and a little picture which looked like a lung and located at the right corner came to my sight and aroused my curiosity.

After searching on the internet, I knew that the “Lungs” was a piece of public service advertisement generated by the World Wildlife Fund, the largest worldwide nonprofit environmental organization. When I first looked at the advertisement, I easily told that the predominant color was green, which is generally regarded as the symbol of nature and health as well as vigor and vitality. At the same time, the missing part on the bottom right side also caught my attention. Unlike green, brown is considered as a lifeless color, which represented the land that was entirely covered by dirt because of deforestation. “Before it’s too late” was a short phrase in the bottom right corner of the advertisement. Although it was simple, without redundant and complicated words, it conveyed easily understanding yet powerful messages to me.

To my surprise, deforestation has already become a severe problem all over the world. According to the information online, more than 80 percent of the Earth’s natural forests have been destroyed. It reminded me of the importance that the forests around the world keep the earth healthy as my lung keep me healthy. After the poignant visual impact, I rethought what I did to the environment before and realized that I had not really concerned about serious environmental problems or contributed to the world at all. Serving as a call to action, it also gave us the fear that if we don’t act, what would happen is that we would eventually kill ourselves.

Realizing the grievous disadvantages deforestation brought, I raised awareness for the significance of environmental protection, which was the need of the hour, and took actions to make useful and beneficial contributions to stop deforestation rather than only pay lip service. I got access to the WWF official website listed at the bottom of the advertisement and donated money to the organization to support the future protection. At the same time, I sought every environmental protection event on Facebook as well as in the community service resource center at UC Davis. I took part in Aggie weekend of service last quarter and went to the Forestry and Fire Protection for native plant nursery event. At the nursery, we did a variety of tasks including: propagating, potting up, seeding, weeding, trimming, organizing, watering, and otherwise caring for native plants that would be used on habitat improvement projects. I also started to be a volunteer for central park gardens in Davis, which hold biweekly gardening sessions related to garden management and maintenance. So far, I have already completed four sessions and signed up for all the sessions during next quarter. After I appealed to my friends for this community service, they were willing to go with me and ready to contribute their share to the development of the better environment.

Eventually, through the process of advertisement analysis, I realized that I never cared about our environment before. As a college student, success is more than good grades. We should be responsible for the whole society. The severe environmental problem have already let us come to realize the truth and all the mistakes we made. As a result, what we have do now is to come up with effective solutions together to make the world we live in better, with unshrinkable responsibility.

Difficulty and Inequality: The Problems with Engineering Millennials

I. Background

In recent year, with technology advanced by leaps and bounds, engineering majors have become one of the most popular disciplines among millennials. In the annual report “Engineering by the Number” published on the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) official website, Dr. Brian L. Yoder (2015), the member of the American Evaluation Association and the Federal Evaluators, pointed out that for the United States in 2015, with 7.5 percent increasing rate, 106658 engineering students graduated with bachelor’s degrees, keeping a growing trend since 2007. Based on his data and analysis, similar trend can also be found in master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. With rapidly increasing rates, engineering millennials have attracted much attention from the public. The question of unemployment of millennials has been widely debated in social science and engineering majors. In the commentary “Millennials Have Major Problem” published on the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Inc. (WPRI) official website, Emily Jashinsky (2014), the commentary writer of the Washington Examiner, argues that “According to the National Science Foundation, in 2010 only 12% of recent psychology and economics graduates (those who had graduated within the past three years) were employed in a related occupation. … In contrast, for engineering majors that number is 62%”. At the same time, 2016-2017 PayScale college salary report indicates that 11 out of 15 top highest paying bachelor’s degrees are engineering majors. (“Highest Paying Bachelor Degrees by Salary Potential,” 2016). As a result, people would regard engineering millennials as graduates with high employment rate and salary inevitably. However, the public may neglect the problems faced by millennials in engineering majors.


II. Argument

Although there is a relatively low unemployment rate and relatively high salary for millennials in engineering majors compared with social-science-oriented millennials, engineering millennials suffer from heavy course loads in college as well as work-related difficulty and gender inequality in career. It is significantly important to the target audience, engineering millennials, because they can only act to avoid problems after recognizing potential problems they may face in both college and career.


III. Analysis

The most obvious problem engineering millennials face in college is heavy course loads. It’s scarily difficult and exhausted to be engineering majors. In the article “Study Reveals Engineering Majors Spend Significantly More Time Studying” published on USA Today College, Zach Helfand (2011), the staff writer of Los Angeles Times, reports that engineering majors spend 19 hours per week studying on average, which is five hours more than student in social science or business major, and 42 percent of them spent over 20 hours per week studying. Zach (2011) also uses specific example to demonstrate the hardship of engineering majors: Dan Kiefer, a 21-year-old senior majoring in aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, spent 25-30 hours per week on homework or projects and usually went to sleep at 1:00-3:00 a.m. Although college workloads are extremely heavy that they take painstaking effort to complete them, some engineering students believe that burning the midnight oil is worthwhile because the skills they learned during homework assignments and practical projects provide invaluable skills and advantages for the future, which is the job market, specifically. On the other hand, some other engineering students cannot suffer from the pain and end up with changing their majors to other disciplines because of heavy course loads and high pressure they bring about accordingly. What’s worse, although they spare no effort to pursue their degrees with more times and endeavors, engineering students have relatively low graduation rate compared with other college students, concluded by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA (“Bachelor’s Degree Completion Rates among Initial STEM Majors,” 2010). In the study, UCLA researchers reveals that “White and Asian American students who started as STEM majors have four-year STEM degree completion rates of 24.5% and 32.4% respectively. In comparison, Latino, Black, and Native American students who initially began college as a STEM major had four-year STEM degree completion rates of 15.9%, 13.2%, and 14.0%, respectively”. As a result, engineering students will spend extra one or even more years to complete their degree, which leads to higher cost for college than other students. It is worthy to point out that heavy course loads would also cause engineering students to suffer from depression. To deal with this problem, engineering students should take advantage of school counseling services as well as the help from their peers. Throughout their assistance, they may feel relieved and get a more positive attitude towards their study. As stated above, it is self-evident that engineering millennials not only suffer from heavy course loads in college but also face relatively low graduation rate and potential high tuition compared with students in other majors.

After suffering from several years’ high-intensity study, engineering students finally head out into the job market. Unfortunately, the pain also leave colleges and might be with them in their lifetime. In other words, although they might find desire jobs that are related to their majors, they still cannot get rid of the high pressure that comes along. Engineering courses are difficult, so does engineering work. In the research paper “Work difficulties and stress in young professional engineers” published in Journal of Occupational Psychology, after conducting an experiment about work-related difficulties on young professional engineers after three years (n=380) and four years (n=350) in work respectively, A. Keenan, researcher in Department of Business Organization, Heriot-Watt University, and T. J. Newton, researcher in Department of Business Studies, University of Edinburgh (1987), stated that “Four areas of difficulty were identified as a result of factor analysis—people difficulties; information difficulties; technical difficulties; and report-writing difficulties” (p. 133). At the beginning of the experiment, respondents were asked to reply to the question, “What is the most difficult aspect of your job to cope with?” (Keenan, A., & Newton, T. J., 1987, p. 135). Consequently, Keenan and Newton analyzed to identify several common categories of difficulty. If the respondents reported authentically, the result clearly implied that “the most frequent problems at the four-year stage were those “associated with senior managers and immediate superiors” (Keenan, A., & Newton, T. J., 1987, p. 136-137). Meanwhile, “problems related to dealing with people in other departments were also relatively common and the mean frequencies of self-reported technical difficulties were relatively low compared with the other sources of difficulty” (Keenan, A., & Newton, T. J., 1987, p. 137). Because of all these difficulties, young engineers are under extremely high pressure inevitably. However, there are many solutions to deal with this problem. Firstly, they can exercise more to relieve their stress. It is universally believed that physical activity can produce a positive feeling within the body, which serves as a remedy for pressure. Moreover, they can take advantage of technology. For example, using Facebook to chat with friends and checking recent posts from others on Instagram are good choices. It is self-evident that after graduating from college and getting into career, engineering millennials still suffer from difficulties such as people difficulties, information difficulties, technical difficulties, and report-writing difficulties their work brings about.

It is also worth pointing out that gender inequality is another predominant problem engineering millennials, to be more specific, engineering female, must have to face in their career. Women are underrepresented in engineering and encounter persistent inequality. As Wilson Peden (2015), former writer and editor of the Association of American Colleges & Universities, mentions in the article “The Myth of the Unemployment Humanities Major”, engineering graduates experience less gender equitable employment results than humanities graduates. Peden (2015) pointed out that “Women with graduate degrees in the humanities do experience slightly higher unemployment than their male colleagues—3.5 percent versus 3.4 percent. But those women still fare better than women with graduate degrees in engineering, who experience 3.6 percent unemployment, compared with 2.5 percent for men”. Moreover, Erin A. Cech (2013), former professor of Rice University also deepens our understanding of gender inequality in engineering in the research paper “Ideological Wage Inequalities? The Technical/Social Dualism and the Gender Wage Gap in Engineering” published on Social Forces. In Cech’s point of view, technical/social dualism, “an ideological distinction between technical and social engineering subfields and work activities” (p. 1147), is the main factor that undermines gender equality, which leads to sex segregation and gender wage inequality in engineering fields. She found among a nationally representative sample of engineers from National Science Foundation’s 2003 National Survey of College Graduates, “men and women are segregated into technical and social subdisciplines and work activities” and “women’s contributions to technical work activities (e.g., research and design) will be underpaid relative to men’s” (p. 1148). She also points out that “women make up only about 12 percent of the engineering workforce and as little as 7 percent in certain subfields such as mechanical engineering” (p. 1151). Moreover, she writes that “women face exclusion and marginalization from their male engineering peers” (p. 1151). If the data is precise, it clearly implies that women are underrepresented in engineering and encounter persistent inequality. All of which is to say, engineering women suffer from gender inequality in their career. To encourage engineering women to dedicate themselves to their jobs, governments should come up with more equal policies to change the current situation.


IV. Conclusion

Although there is a relatively low unemployment rate and relatively high salary for millennials in engineering majors compared with social-science-oriented millennials, engineering millennials suffer from heavy course loads in college as well as work-related difficulty and gender inequality in career. For college students, they should consider seriously if they are interested in engineering fields as well as if they can bear the heavy course loads. Besides, if engineering students feel depression, they should take advantage of others help. Moreover, when they face different kinds of difficulties in career, they can exercise and use social media to relieve their stress. Finally, government should pay attention to gender inequality problem and come up with more equal policies to promote equality in engineering fields. It is significant important to engineering millennials, because they would succeed with their own efforts as well as external help.




Yoder, B.L. (2015). Engineering by the Numbers. American Society for Engineering Association. Retrieved from

Jashinsky, E. (2014). Millennials Have Major Problem. Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Inc. Retrieved from

Highest Paying Bachelor Degrees by Salary Potential. (2016). PayScale. Retrieved from

Helfand, Z. (2011). Study Reveals Engineering Majors Spend Significantly More Time Studying. USA Today College. Retrieved from

Bachelor’s Degree Completion Rates among Initial STEM Majors. (2010). Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Retrieved from,%20Eagan,%20Chang%20-%20Degrees%20of%20Success.pdf

Keenan, A., & Newton, T. J. (1987). Stressful Events, Stressors and Psychological Strains in Young Professional Engineers. Journal of Occupational Behaviour, 60, 133-145.

Peden, W. (2015). The Myth of the Unemployment Humanities Major. Association of American Colleges & Universities. Retrieved from

Cech, E. A. (2013). Ideological Wage Inequalities? The Technical/Social Dualism and the Gender Wage Gap in Engineering. Social Forces, 91(4), 1147-1182.