Learning how to put communication into action
Lecturer Lydia Ferguson’s class objective is to get her students to step up their game as soon-to-be professionals and potential volunteer/community activists. An interesting goal for business and technical writing classes, but effective nonetheless.
“It has definitely made me take a step back and improve myself and my relationships with others,” said senior Brandy Moss.
All fall semester, the 80 students in Ferguson’s four classes came up with project ideas that would improve Clemson and the surrounding area. Groups split off and focused on the more manageable and creative projects, and it was up to them to contact local working professionals to garner financial support, create partnerships, plan seminars and the like. Each group worked as if they were a team hired to do work for a client.
Every step of the way, Ferguson reviewed and edited their e-mails, discussions, proposals, brochures and anything else they created. Through a combination of lectures and hands-on teaching, students learned how to work within an internal audience (teammates) as well as the obvious external audience.
“I’m teaching them how to enter the business world and take on all the communication channels they will encounter,” Ferguson said.
For Moss, these lessons were invaluable as she contacted local public school officials about their interest in a bullying-prevention seminar her group was planning to host at Clemson for local school districts. Because of unexpected cost, they had to postpone it until this spring.
“A lot of people pass bullying off as kids being kids and don’t realize the severity of these actions,” said Moss, who works for Clemson’s Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life and wants to be a certified therapeutic recreation therapist.
Melissa Willis and her group partnered with Helping Hands of Clemson, an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. Every week, group members drove to the house and tutored the kids, played with them, brought needed supplies and helped any way they could. The big event for them was a Thanks Giving Dinner.
“We had mac and cheese, ham, mashed potatoes, rolls, brownies, pumpkin pie,” she said. “The kids were so excited. I don’t know if they’ve ever had a meal like that. Not only were we helping out the children, we were helping the staff. The staff cook didn’t know what to do with herself. She just kept saying, ‘Thank you,’ every minute.”
For the Clemson cheerleader and health sciences major, these experiences were valuable pieces of what she’s going to need to know when she hopefully opens her own physical therapy practice.
“I learned how to communicate in the business world with managers, subordinates, partners and anyone else I might come into contact with owning my own business,” Willis said.
These are exactly the learning points Ferguson wanted to drive home to these students, and again in her classes this semester. Although she hoped students would also take away a sense of service, she was amazed at their enthusiasm and drive.
“They went way above and beyond anything I expected of them,” she said. “They were looking around and seeing needs and passion and ideas and were driving each other to do better.”
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