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The student as author

March 26, 2019
portrait of Vlad Cazacu.Vlad Cazacu ’20 knew he wanted to make the most of his time at Rochester, but was unsure how. Now as the founder of Rochester Creators, he is helping himself and his fellow students gain confidence and credibility by writing and publishing books. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

An ambitious student, Vlad Cazacu ’20 was determined to make his mark when he arrived at the University in 2016.

“How will I stand out?” the Bucharest, Romania, native wondered. “How will I make the most of my time here?”

Those questions were answered last June, when the business and psychology dual major attended the Next Gen Summit in New York City. One of the speakers was Eric Koester, a Georgetown University entrepreneurship professor and founder of the Creator Institute, which has guided hundreds of students through the process of authoring a book on a topic they’re passionate about.

“Eric’s speech was about building credibility,” Cazacu says. “Are resumes, cover letters, and even graduate degrees enough to build credibility in the workplace? Eric said, ‘maybe not—but authoring a book is’. That got me excited.”

Cazacu pitched the idea of starting a similar program at Rochester to Barbara J. Burger iZone director Julia Maddox and Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. They were on board, and Rochester Creators was born. The inaugural 21-person cohort includes students from every current class year.

“The skills you learn, from interviewing to researching, writing, and editing are what makes this journey formidable.”

“Since Classical times, libraries have been centers of idea exploration, innovation, and knowledge creation,” Mavrinac says. “Rochester Creators is a 21st century expression of this.”

Rochester Creators is a collaboration between the iZone, River Campus Libraries, and the Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Education and Connections. The cohort meets weekly to watch videos, listen to lectures from Koester, and take part in writing exercises. Each student works virtually with an assigned developmental editor at the Creator Institute who has some expertise in the topic the student is pursuing. The students will craft a manuscript (minimum 20,000 words) by June, followed by months of revisions and designing book covers, with New Degree Press—a partner of Creator Institute—publishing the books in November.

Cazacu says the true reward is the confidence and network students build as they gain knowledge from experts while researching a topic that interests them. “The book writing is 110 percent about the process,” he says. “The skills you learn, from interviewing to researching, writing, and editing are what makes this journey formidable.”

Cazacu’s says he “quadrupled” his network while researching his book, When They Win, You Win: A More Human Approach to Supporting Entrepreneurship, which will be published in June.

“Over the course of six months, I talked with 65 experts,” he says. “It’s incredible to gain the confidence that you can reach out to very important people, and the takeaway is that you’re always learning and developing your knowledge base.”

Cazacu oversees Rochester Creators with iZone community manager Grant Dever ’16, ’17 (T5), who is writing a book on blockchain technology.

“Rochester Creators is meant to accelerate students’ careers by helping them to create credibility through authorship,” says Dever, a former Students’ Association president at the College. “They leverage interviews of esteemed experts, like our faculty, to establish their own credibility in the field. The skillset of networking, interviewing, and writing stories increases students’ confidence and provides advantages regardless of their future plans.”

The students come from seven nations and major in 17 different subjects. Their book topics are just as varied. Dax Emerson ‘’21 is writing about the sociopolitical issues the Sentinelese tribe faces in relation to the Indian government. Edgar Jing Kok Yau ’20 is researching how young men learn the language of hate through social media. Dominique Dorvil ’21 chose self help and motivation as her topic “because I need the advice and thought others would, too.”

“Everyone is passionate about something,” Cazacu says. “This is just the beginning of the learning endeavor.”

Dever said iZone plans to run this program every spring semester, with hopes of it eventually becoming a full-credit course.

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