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Communicating for success

Student and Teacher Talking In Front Of Whiteboard In An Office

If you want to lead, contribute to your team, influence people or sell your idea, you must communicate effectively.

And for more than two decades, UNC Kenan-Flagler has been honing students’ business and professional communication skills through the work of the management and corporate communication faculty and the Business Communication Center (BCC).

The School laid the foundation in 1997, when Jeff Cannon, then Undergraduate Business Program director, asked Heidi Schultz, now clinical professor of management and corporate communication, to develop a business-centric writing center and a business communication curriculum,

Today, UNC Kenan-Flagler offers communication courses in every program – Undergraduate Business, Master of Accounting, MBA Programs, PhD Program and Executive Development – and every degree program has a required course, says Judy Jones Tisdale, clinical professor of management and corporate communication and area chair.

Courses develop and refine students’ skills in business writing, spoken communication, intercultural communication, workplace communication, diversity/inclusion, improvisation, public relations, media relations and crisis communication. Faculty use a variety of teaching methods, including project learning and simulations.

“These are not basic classes,” Tisdale says. “The coursework is rigorous and reaches students at all levels – from confident communicators who want to refine their writing and speaking skills to those who are terrified of public speaking but who want to present more confidently or speak up more effectively during meetings.

Most communication class section sizes are limited so students receive personalized actionable feedback, says Tisdale. “In our custom-designed curriculum, our faculty provide students with intensive and individualized feedback.”

Coaching, competing and honing

The Business Communication Center is a School-wide resource that offers workshops, writing tips and interview preparation. Courtney Wright, BCC director, leads a staff of second-year MBA student consultants who facilitate individual and group consultations as well as workshops for students in all UNC Kenan-Flagler programs.

“We are here as a value add and can be a resource for students, in addition to the support they receive from Program staff,” says Wright. “We are an extension of the UNC Kenan-Flagler core values and demonstrate them every day with our students.”

Individual meetings and direct, actionable feedback are among the biggest assets, says Wright. “The bread and butter of the BCC is one-on-one meetings with students and diving deep into whatever they might need extra help with at that time, whether related to their job search or a class assignment.”

Students often come to the BCC during the recruiting process for help with resumes, cover letters and networking skills. Consultants provide tips about making small talk, personal pitches and asking strong questions during networking sessions. They also work closely with students to help them prepare for job applications and interviews. A consultant might coach students on tailoring resumes for a particular industry or on telling  their professional stories in a compelling manner, says Wright.

BCC consultants also meet with teams preparing for case competitions. They offer a hand to teams working on assignments or consulting projects, such as semester-long STAR (Student Teams Achieving Results) projects.

Often the BCC is a guiding light for international students who speak English as a second language and aren’t as familiar with the U.S. recruiting process. They can stop by for dedicated drop-in hours or schedule one-on-one appointments. Also, the center offers specialized workshops around networking, an American tradition that can be a source of culture shock. Consultants might teach them about American sports and pop culture to make them more conversational in social settings with potential employers and classmates. Etiquette is often a topic of discussion.

Career ready

Over the last two decades, UNC Kenan-Flagler has innovated in developing aspiring leaders’ essential communication skills and preparing them for successful careers.

Along the way, they have met the needs of the companies who want to hire UNC Kenan-Flagler graduates.

Communication is one of the top skills employers look for in business school graduates, according to the  GMAC corporate recruiters survey. Of the five top-rated skills, four were in the broad category of communication: oral communication, listening, written communication and making presentations, all of which are skills our students can develop at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Thanks to management and corporate communication faculty, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s students have a serious edge on the competition in the job hunt – and throughout their careers.