Engineers need to be effective communicators –not only with peers and employers, but also with the public at large. Yet speaking and writing well is not enough, as leaders must be broadly educated so that what they communicate is backed up with data, experiments and experience.
RCEL provides students with a wealth of opportunities for honing their reading, writing and presentation skills. Full-time RCEL faculty members Dr. Jan Hewitt (writing) and Dr. Tracy Volz (presentations) regularly advise students throughout the School of Engineering.
Dr. Hewitt’s focus is written communication, especially for graduate students, though she is also available to consult with faculty. Each semester she offers two non-credit thesis-writing seminars open to graduate students ready to write an extended Ph.D. proposal, a master’s thesis, or a Ph.D. dissertation. Each class is limited to 15 students, who take the class only with permission of the instructor. She has also co-taught a required class in thesis writing for the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics. Workshops she offers include “How to recognize and avoid plagiarism” and “How to write a paper for publication.” Workshops can be tailored for a specific department.
Dr. Volz, whose focus is oral communication, coaches undergraduates and helps faculty incorporate written, oral and visual communication into a syllabus. She has worked with departments to develop sequential assignments in core courses for undergraduates. She and student coaches give feedback to students in practice sessions as they prepare for presentations. As time allows, Dr. Volz offers workshops to students on topics such as research presentations and technical poster design.
How can I develop my communication skills?
- Read good writers and observe effective communicators.
- Attend a course with Dr. Hewitt or Dr. Volz.
- Become one of Dr. Volz's presentation coaches.
- Practice by taking writing intensive courses, and by thoughtfully preparing your class presentations.
- If English is not your first language, actively work on perfecting your speaking and reading skills. If English is your first language, study a foreign language to increase your appreciation for the complexities of cross-cultural communications.