Conference Brings Together Communication Experts

The need for communication courses in higher education and ways to improve them were key topics at a recent UT Dallas conference that drew more than 50 representatives from universities, community colleges and high schools.

Dr. Shelley D. Lane

Dr. Shelley D. Lane, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas

“Although the rapid pace of modern life and the explosion of new communication technology have contributed to a decline in interpersonal skills, this conference illustrated that students still need to be taught the basics to be successful in their social and professional lives,” said Dr. Shelley D. Lane, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas. 

Dr. Lane gave a presentation that centered on initiatives the University has taken to strengthen the communication curriculum.

Lane said she has worked with Dr. Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, the UT Dallas dean of Undergraduate Education, to create the “Certificate in Critical Communication Skills,” also called the C3 certificate, which helps students enhance their written and oral communication skills.

“We’re committed to strengthening students’ oral communication skills as evidenced this year when the dean of undergraduate education and the undergraduate associate deans of all seven schools approved the inclusion of the basic oral communication course into the University’s core curriculum beginning in fall 2014,” Lane said.

Lori McLaughlin from Alcon Inc. in Fort Worth said Texas students should know how to use technology but should also know how to speak one-on-one and in front of audiences.

“Texas graduates know how to text and tweet but don’t know conflict resolution strategies or how to deal with clients in a face-to-face setting,” McLaughlin said.

Dr. Steven Beebe

Dr. Steven Beebe

Dr. Cheryl Hamilton, author of Communicating for Results: A Guide for Business and the Professions, presented findings of the most recent National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2013 survey.  Hamilton said employers cited the ability to “verbally communicate with persons inside and outside of the organization” as the most important skill or quality they look for in a job candidate.

Dr. Steven Beebe, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication at Texas State University and president of the National Communication Association, said a basic communication course should be required for all majors because the concepts and skills taught would improve students’ personal and professional lives.

“While we need to teach our students how to present with Web-X or Skype or in virtual environments, we must remember that media are just tools we use to extend our ability to communicate.  The centrality of human interaction is the focus of the basic course in communication,” said Beebe.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].