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  • 1. What employers want and what students need: Integrating business communication into undergraduate and graduate business courses Mary Y. Bowers, Marcia A. Metcalf Northern Arizona University Introduction In response to employer needs, many college business programs have undergone significant curriculum change to integrate functional areas and provide increased emphasis on soft skills such as communication. This paper first briefly reviews the literature on the importance of functional integration and soft skills and then describes an undergraduate class and graduate program that teaches business communication using an applied and interdisciplinary approach. The Importance of Integration Business schools and colleges are often criticized for not creating and delivering curriculum that responds to the needs of its students, graduates, and the business community. In addition, current research implies the traditional approach to business education used by most universities and colleges does not prepare students to be successful or at least effective in business environments (Bailey, Sass, Swiercz, Seal, & Kayes, 2005; Bovinet, 2000; Jauch et al., 2000; Olian et al., 2002; Porter & McKibben, 1988). Business practitioners have indicated that new graduates are not adept at dealing with the uncertainty and complexities that are primary components of today‘s decentralized organizations (Corsini, Crittenden, Keeley, Trompeter, & Viechnicki, 2000; Hamilton, McFarland, & Mirchandani, 2000; Hartenian, Schelienger, & Frederickson, 2001; Markulis, Strang, & Howe, 2004; Wheeler, 1998). These decentralized organizational structures are team-oriented and collaborative (Hamilton et al., 2000). However, business schools have traditionally designed curriculum for each business major that reflects more conventional vertical forms of organizational structure and separate functional groupings. Course content tends to be discipline-specific and this focus results in what has been termed a silo mentality (Hartenian et al., 2001). The silo mentality, which is widely used in most business colleges, trains graduates to have a vertical perspective and approach when businesses now operate horizontally. Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 1
  • 2. By using the silo approach, business educators train students to become technically competent within their discipline but never learn to effectively integrate discipline-specific knowledge (Corsini et al., 2000; Wheeler, 1998). Markulis et al. (2004) indicated that while employers expect business graduates to have core disciplinary knowledge, they also report that most graduates are not able to apply this knowledge in the cross-functional environment of decentralized organizations. While more and more stakeholders express the need for change in how business education is delivered, business schools (especially at the undergraduate level) ―have continued to deliver their core common body of knowledge in a curriculum compartmentalized by discipline‖ (Miller, 2000, p. 113). Ph.D. programs in business train faculty to develop a narrow, deep expertise and the knowledge potential educators receive in Ph.D. programs is primarily conveyed using lecture and discussion. As stated by Stinson and Milter (1996), ―Traditional faculty orientations are strongly embedded in the culture and in the profession and reinforced by the existing structures and reward systems‖ (p. 39). A number of business schools and colleges have responded to the claim that changes in the curriculum must be made in order to address stakeholder needs. At present, most of the curriculum changes focus on functional integration. This type of change reflects the environment found in decentralized organizations and such integration more effectively prepares students to work in these organizations (Hamilton et al., 2000). As such, schools such as Babson College, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, The University of Denver, Boston College, and University of Dayton have all embraced an integrative approach (Steiner & Wells, 2000). The Importance of Soft Skills Today it is generally acknowledged that well-developed soft skills, including communication skills, are vital in obtaining employment and achieving long-term career success in today‘s dynamic business world (Elmuti, Minnis, & Abebe, 2005; Elmuti, 2004; Messmer, 1999; Noudoushani & Noudoushani, 1996; Roth, 1989; Smith, 2005; Tuleja & Greenhalgh, 2008; Wardrope, 2002). Navarro (2008) states that in today‘s world ―communications, leadership, negotiation, entrepreneurship, team building, and interpersonal skills arguably are as important as sound data analysis and rigorous application of analytical management tools‖ (p. 108). Employers and recruiters have clearly and consistently established that they value these skills highly (Luse, 1999; Pittenger, Miller & Mott, 2004; Wardrope, 2002). According to a recent survey of 320 employers conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates on behalf of The Association of American Colleges and Universities, teamwork, critical thinking, and communication skills are the most important skills employers look for in new hires (How Should Colleges . . ., 2006). The Job Outlook 2008 survey of 276 employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that employers named ―communication skills, a strong work ethic, teamwork skills, initiative, and interpersonal skills in that order‖ as the most sought after qualities in new hires (Di Meglio, 2007). In addition, the results of the Graduate Management Admission Council‘s (GMAC) Survey of Recruiters, done each year since 2002, consistently indicate that soft skills are extremely important in hiring and selecting Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 2
  • 3. employees. Finally, according to a survey of 1,400 chief financial officers by Robert Half Management Resources, 53% of respondents said they would hire a candidate with less technical expertise if that person had excellent soft skills such as communication or interpersonal abilities (Weinstein, 2008). So, even in a technical field, there is evidence that good soft skills can give applicants a tangible advantage over those who may have stronger technical skills (Wardrope, 2002). An interesting reform under consideration by the University of Wisconsin in response to the clamor of employers for graduates with strong soft skills is developing dual student transcripts—a traditional transcript and a transcript that documents a student‘s soft skills such as creative thinking, leadership, and communication (Di Meglio, 2008). Despite the demonstrated demand for soft skills in the workplace, there is widespread feeling by recruiters and employers that many graduates are deficient in these skills, particularly communication skills, and they have called on higher education to do more to develop graduates‘ soft skills, in part by revising curricula to make it more relevant to employers‘ needs (Andrews & Tyson; Doria, Rozanski, & Cohen, 2003; Elmuti, Minnis, & Abebe, 2005; Elmuti, 2004; Mast, 2006; Mintzberg, 2004). A recent employer survey (How Should Colleges . . ., 2006) found that 73% of employers thought that colleges and universities should put additional emphasis on soft skills. The survey concluded that employers are frustrated by the ―challenges of finding ‗360 degree people‘ who have both the specific job/technical skills and the broader skills (communication skills, teamwork skills, problem-solving skills, and work ethic) necessary to promise greater success for both the individual and their employer‖ (p. 7). In addition, the GMAC 2004 Corporate Recruiter Survey found that recruiters felt that MBA graduates needed stronger written and oral communication skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership skills. The results of both the GMAC and American Association of Colleges and Universities surveys closely parallel recommendations in a report from the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America‘s Promise titled College Learning for the New Global Century (2007) which stated that essential learning outcomes for college students should include written and oral communication, critical thinking, and teamwork (p. 3). In a 2002 report, even the Management Education Task Force of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) recommended that business schools include ―communications, interpersonal skills, multicultural skills, negotiations, leadership development, and change management‖ in their curricula (p. 27). The importance of enhanced communication skills for workplace success seems clear, as does an employer perceived deficiency in these skills. In Writing: A Ticket to Work . . . Or a Ticket Out, a 2004 report of the National Commission on Writing, the commission surveyed 120 major American corporations. The commission concluded that ―writing is a ‗threshold skill‘ for salaried employment and promotion‖ and that ―individual opportunity in the United States depends critically on the ability to present one‘s thoughts coherently, cogently, and persuasively on paper‖ (p. 5). However, it also found that about one-third of employees in these large corporations do not have the necessary writing skills for success (Writing: A Ticket to Work . . . Or a Ticket Out, 2004). As a result, many companies have been forced to provide writing training. The severity of the problem is illustrated by the cost to employers of this training, which is estimated to be over $3.1 billion annually (Writing: A Ticket to Work . . . Or a Ticket Out, 2004). Even The New York Times commented on the lamentable state of writing in the workplace in an article titled ―What America Can‘t Build: A Sentence‖ (Dillon, 2004). Interestingly, despite the consensus favoring integration of communication, in a recent web- Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 3
  • 4. based survey of MBA core curricula of Top-Ranked Business Schools, Navarro found that soft skills, including communication skills, are not ―adequately woven into the fabric of the MBA core curriculum‖ and that the functional silo remains the predominant reality (Navarro, 2008, p.116). Many colleges and universities have responded to the calls for curricular reform (Dvorak, 2007; Fisher, 2008), but it has proven to be challenging to find the most effective way to teach soft skills (Navarro, 2008; Pittenger, Miller, & Mott, 2004). Despite barriers to increasing curricular emphasis on soft skill development such as resource allocation and ―simple philosophical choice‖ (Navarro, 2008, p. 118) that core subjects should not be cut back in favor of more soft skill learning (Butler, 2007), there is some consensus that the most effective way to teach soft skills is to integrate them into the curriculum and provide opportunities for experiential learning in a multidisciplinary setting (Cyphert, 2002; Elmuti, Minnis, & Abebe, 2005; Luse, 1999; Navarro, 2008). This approach has been taken at The W. A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University. This paper describes how the College has integrated communication into both its undergraduate and graduate curriculums and provided opportunities for experiential learning in a multidisciplinary setting. Business Communication in an Integrated Undergraduate Course BizBlock – A course description In a proactive response to the need for integrated curriculum, The W.A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University developed and subsequently offered a course called BizBlock in the fall of 2000. BizBlock integrates core business courses early in the business curriculum and uses a more experiential learning approach. Anecdotal evidence suggests that by combining these two educational approaches, all business school stakeholders can be satisfied. The combination of integration and experiential learning allows students to better understand and master functional overlap and ambiguity which are significant components of current business practice. Providing students the opportunity to acquire these proficiencies addresses the concerns of faculty and employers regarding the competency of business graduates. Although the course has evolved considerably over its five-year history, the concept of meeting stakeholder needs remained the primary driver for curricular design and implementation. This integration effort took direction from scholars such as Hamilton et al. (2000) who indicated that ―The redesign curricula must cut across traditional boundaries to develop and reinforce the appropriate bundles of technical knowledge as well as social and organizational skills‖ (p. 103). In theory, the basic BizBlock design was straightforward: take three core undergraduate courses (must be completed to earn a degree in business administration or accountancy) in management, marketing, and business communications and integrate the material so it can be delivered in a single nine-credit-hour course block (the total of three 3-hour credit courses). Underlying this design was the key component of integration: don‘t just deliver the content of the three courses sequentially but teach the courses so there is obvious functional overlap. Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 4
  • 5. BizBlock is usually taken during the first semester of the junior year, after the student has been admitted into the professional program. Therefore, the courses taught in BizBlock represent the first upper division business courses taken by the students. In addition, for those students who transferred from local community colleges, these will be the first courses taken at the university level. Therefore, student workload expectations are often fairly low. At first, students are somewhat taken aback by the work required in an integrated class. The course meets Monday and Wednesday mornings from 8:15 – 12:30. Meeting early in the morning in four hour blocks is also a new experience for most students. BizBlock is taught by a team of three faculty instructors, representing the three disciplines included in the course. Each instructor assigns grades for their respective three credit hour course; thus, students will receive three grades on their transcript representing each of the three discipline courses in BizBlock. Although there are a number of integrated assignments, each instructor grades the assignments independently, and students often receive different grades on the same assignment that reflect their ability to apply discipline-specific knowledge to that assignment. BizBlock faculty provide a limited number of traditional lectures which are necessary to deliver basic discipline-specific information. However, once the foundation knowledge has been provided, the faculty switches to using facilitated discussions, breakout sessions, consultation meetings, and guest speakers. In addition, the three faculty members remain in the classroom for the entire class session (whether or not they are ―on stage‖) in order to participate in discussions and encourage class participation. The faculty also stay in the classroom together in order to model another key component of BizBlock: effective teamwork. The order and timing of lectures are determined by the instructors and based on student and project needs. An agenda is then developed by the faculty team during planning sessions which occur before every class. The faculty team also meets with individual students or teams by appointment. Students in BizBlock are organized in teams of five to seven depending on the class size. It has been determined that faculty facilitation of more than ten teams results in decreased performance and thus team size is dictated more by the maximum class size of 70 students than by research suggesting optimal team size. The student teams are presented the problem of identifying a consumer need and developing a business plan that fills that need. Lectures, assignments, exams, and activities are designed to motivate students to develop, improve, and augment their understanding of the problem. The problem and resulting business plan are developed and revised throughout the semester-long course. Details are added, concepts are reinforced, and corrections are made to submitted drafts before the finished plan is presented for final grading. Each draft is graded on a 10 point scale (by each faculty), thus making the process of developing the plan a cumulative, comprehensive learning experience. Additionally, the plan is presented to the class and faculty teaching team four times throughout the semester to gather extensive feedback and improve the delivery. Final plans are presented in a competitive format before a panel of 3-5 venture capitalists that provides outside validation to the students‘ work. The team judged by the venture capitalist panel to be most deserving of funding is declared the winning team and often given the opportunity to revise the plan for organized undergraduate business plan competitions. Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 5
  • 6. Integration of business communication in BizBlock BizBlock is wholly integrated in that no one course is considered more important than the other two. However, the primary goal of the management and marketing courses is to provide the information and direction needed to design and develop the necessary components of a complete and effective business plan. Business Communication has a slightly different function. While basic business communication principles are taught in BizBlock, it is the actual application of these skills that is vital in transforming marketing and management content into a polished, professional business plan and presentation. As such, Business Communication functions primarily as an overlay, a skill set used to not only clearly present pertinent marketing and management research and data but to also provide a means to link the two disciplines. In many ways, this overlay function mirrors how communication is used in actual business practice. Role of the business communication faculty member in BizBlock As mentioned earlier, the primary outcome assessment in BizBlock is a team developed business plan. This plan is written in sections as drafts which are read and assessed for content by the marketing and management faculty. The business communication faculty member reads the same draft but edits each draft for grammar, punctuation, clarity, and form. Because these drafts are assigned points, students must make an effort to write well to attain those points. However, given that they get feedback on their writing on every draft, students have the opportunity to improve with each successive draft. This process not only allows students to improve their writing but also meets the 20 page write-and-revise requirement of a Northern Arizona University junior level writing class. In week 12 of the semester, the student teams submit their last draft. To do this, they must combine all drafts, which represent sections of the business plan, and make the editing and content revisions. The business communication faculty member then edits this final draft and returns it to the student teams, which use this last set of revisions to complete the final plan. Often, the turnaround time for this last revision is three days but can sometimes be as little as two days. Enhancing oral communications skills are also a key component of BizBlock. The student teams make an informal presentation on their business to the entire class at mid-term. This presentation is primarily used to obtain feedback and to address any major issues with their business idea. Generally, there is a local investor invited to this presentation. This investor gives each student team advice and direction for making their plan more viable. Once the business plan draft has been completed in week 12, the teams make a professional 20 minute presentation with 10 minutes of Q & A. This presentation is made to another student team, the BizBlock faculty, and interested business faculty. In this presentation, all members of the team speak, professional attire is required, and no note cards are allowed. The business communication faculty watches and critiques a rehearsal of this presentation 3-5 days before the actual presentation. One week later, this presentation is then modified into a 10 minute presentation made by two members selected by the rest of the team. The 10 minute presentation is followed by 20 minutes of Q & A. While only two members deliver the presentation, all team members participate in the Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 6
  • 7. Q&A session. Again, the business communication faculty member watches and critiques a rehearsal prior to the presentation. After all of the teams have made their 10 minute presentation, the BizBlock faculty selects the best presentations. As stated earlier, these teams deliver their presentation to business professionals (successful FCB alumni) who act as venture capitalists (VCs). These venture capitalists receive a copy of the presenting teams‘ business plans about five days before the presentation so they are able to ask in-depth questions. The prior presentation is fine-tuned and rehearsed multiple times before the final presentation, again with the guidance of the business communication faculty member. Multiple rehearsals of this presentation are needed because this final presentation is 10 minutes with a 40 minute Q & A session and a 10 minute feedback and debrief session. Not only does the intensity of this presentation mandate multiple rehearsals, so does the prize awarded to the winning team: 30 extra credit points in each BizBlock class. Course Outcomes FCB administration (particularly the deans and the development office) report they are pleased with the outcomes of this class which they observe first hand by attending the final presentations. They receive requests from recruiters desiring to specifically interview BizBlock students and they get feedback from impressed alumni and visitors who often become donors. Many of the alumni who volunteer to act as venture capitalists for the final student presentations are so enthusiastic and positive about their experience they come back to the college every semester to participate. Faculty who teach upper-division courses report that BizBlock ―alumni‖ are generally more prepared for these courses and often achieve higher grades. These students have a better understanding of effective teamwork and are more likely to meet the higher academic expectations and standards inherent in upper-division coursework. In addition, BizBlock students become cohort groups: they take classes together and select each other when forming teams in those classes. For the most part, BizBlock is a success. The class has high level administrative support and is provided with resources. Students report they gain valuable knowledge, skills, and confidence they use in their academic and professional careers. BizBlock faculty unequivocally state they enjoy being part of the BizBlock team. But this situation is probably not the norm. Undoubtedly, the culture of this institution, its students, faculty, and administration, and the course material presented are a unique combination and the reason for the continuing success of BizBlock. Business Communication in an Integrated MBA Program The MBA Program Design The W. A. Franke College of Business has been at the forefront of the movement to integrate business curricula in an MBA program and to emphasize communication in the curriculum. Over ten years ago the program was redesigned with the goal of creating a fully integrated core curriculum. The purpose of the new curriculum was to move the emphasis from the functional Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 7
  • 8. ―silo‖ model of learning to multi-disciplinary classes that would allow students to develop the broader perspective that is needed to function effectively in a business world characterized by rapid change and increased globalization. Although the program has been refined over time as we seek continuous improvement and is currently undergoing intensive review, today that goal and purpose have largely been achieved. The MBA program is fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) and is offered in an accelerated ten-month format. It is small, personalized program. The core is comprised primarily of team-based classes that are team- taught by faculty from different disciplines. Those courses include ―Customers, Markets, and Organizations‖ which is co-taught by faculty members from economics and marketing, ―Managing People and Processes‖ which is co-taught by management and CIS faculty, ―Managerial Decision-Making‖ which is co-taught by accounting and finance faculty, and ―Control and Innovation‖ which is co-taught by accounting and management faculty. These courses integrate functional areas, and by doing so, create a learning experience that is more than the sum of the individual parts. Students learn that business is an open system and that no single element functions in isolation. More specifically, the integrated nature of the classes encourages students to apply a number of cross-functional skills to solve complex problems in a holistic manner. Because problems are often approached in different ways by faculty from different disciplines, classroom disagreements occur and discussions can become quite animated. Although at first this surprises some students, they quickly learn the benefits of listening to diverse perspectives. Another benefit is that faculty learns more about the perspective of experts in other disciplines and they can then bring this broader perspective to students in other courses. The integrated core courses are also notable for offering students an experiential case-based learning environment. Students are expected to read the course materials before class and be prepared for discussion. So, although lectures remain a part of the courses, most class time is spent discussing cases, making team presentations, debating, negotiating, or engaging in some other activity such as small group interaction exercises. Integrating Business Communication in the MBA Core Curriculum Communication is an adopted MBA learning goal, and as such all core courses are expected to contribute to that goal in some way. The MBA communication learning goal is as follows: MBAs should exhibit a well-developed ability to organize and express difficult and technical ideas, concepts, and analyses in oral and written form. Specifically included is the ability to adapt communications to audience needs, employ appropriate communications technologies, and treat sensitive data and information appropriately. Importantly, MBAs should be able to understand what others mean and diagnose problems in communication processes. Consistent with the MBA communication learning goal, the program‘s aim of encouraging students to think cross-functionally, and the time constraints of a 10-month program, communication assignments, instruction, feedback, and assessments in are integrated with the core courses as opposed to being delivered in a traditional stand-alone course. Communication activities are managed across the core courses by a communications coordinator, a management faculty member who also teaches undergraduate communication courses. Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 8
  • 9. Integration is valuable as it requires students to think cross-functionally and lets them develop and use communication skills in the same way they will use those skills in the workplace (Elmuti, Minnis, & Abebe, 2005). Several schools have introduced innovative programs for integrating communication into the curriculum that we can all learn from (Cyphert, 2002; Luse; 1999; Tuleja & Greenhalgh, 2008; Kelly & Sydel, 1996). The W. A. Franke MBA program provides another such model that is useful for small, accelerated programs that focus on providing a personalized education. The first assessment of students‘ communication skills occurs before admission to the program. As a member of the MBA Admissions Committee, the coordinator assesses writing skills based on application essays and oral communication skills based on interviews. Skills are evaluated using the College‘s communication assessment rubrics, and applicants are expected to meet certain minimum skill levels. Each rubric includes various performance dimensions and students are evaluated on each relevant dimension as exceeds, meets, or falls below expectations. At the beginning of the program, students meet with the coordinator and receive an initial individual writing evaluation based on their admission essays. The assessment includes comments on style, tone, clarity, organization, and grammar. This meeting is intended to begin a relationship- building process that will continue throughout the program. Such relationship building has been found to enhance student learning (Tuleja & Greenhalgh, 2008). Before the program begins, students are asked to purchase The Business Writer’s Handbook by Alred, Brusaw, and Oliu (2006) to use as a reference throughout the program and are provided with a detailed writing checklist covering the following issues: format; spelling, grammar, and punctuation; clarity; coherence; conciseness; professionalism/content; and use of visuals. The checklist contains references to page numbers in the handbook where each checklist item is discussed in detail. The MBA students have found it useful to keep this book as a desk reference after graduation, as have students at the University of Pennsylvania‘s Wharton School (Tuleja & Greenhalgh, 2008). For selected writing assignments throughout the MBA program, students are asked to turn in a completed checklist with the assignment. Using this checklist requires them to periodically refocus on writing expectations and seems to improve the quality of submissions. Other items provided to students before the program begins are the College‘s writing and presentation rubrics as well as standards for the grading of writing in the MBA program. All of these items help students understand that communication skills are important to faculty, a significant part of curriculum, and key to their success in the program. Also, by setting specific expectations for professional communication standards at the beginning of the program and reinforcing the same standards throughout the program, the expected outcome is for students to consistently improve their skills in these areas and carry those skills from class to class. Formal instruction in communication skills is provided periodically throughout the MBA program. Because of the accelerated nature of the program, it has been challenging to find time for this component; however, since the addition of a career management class to the core curriculum in 2005, most of the formal communication instruction takes place there. This instruction is considered necessary because it helps ensure that all students meet expectations (and employers‘ expectations) in terms of being a professional communicator. Traditionally, at the beginning of the program students participate in three skill-building workshops: presentation skills, long-form business writing, and short-form business writing. The Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 9
  • 10. presentation skills workshop takes place on the first morning of the summer session. In the afternoon the students participate in teams in a hands-on community service project, generally working at a local food bank. At the end of the day, groups meet individually to craft and rehearse a presentation about their community service experience, including information about operational issues, the customer base, opportunities for process improvement, and personal take- aways. The following day the teams present to a group of MBA faculty. After the presentations, they receive feedback on their delivery skills, content, organization, and visual aids. Students are also invited to receive additional individual feedback from the coordinator after the group session. Presentations are recorded and posted for students to review and for assessment purposes. In addition to the workshops conducted at the beginning of the program, students attend a presentation skills workshop and a workshop on writing for managers in the spring and fall semesters, respectively. Finally, the coordinator provides formal workshops on targeted resume preparation, employment-related correspondence, and interview skills and preparation. Role of the Business Communication Coordinator in the MBA Program In each of the team-taught core courses the coordinator performs a detailed analysis of two or more written assignments (some team and some individual assignments) and assigns a writing grade. This analysis is done at the request of the course faculty. Sometimes students are told in advance that they will receive a separate writing grade, and sometimes it comes as a surprise to them. This approach is intended to encourage them to care about maintaining a high quality of writing in each assignment in each course. Points allocated to writing on each assignment are determined by the course faculty, but generally range from 20 percent to 50 percent of total points. In addition, the coordinator observes, provides feedback, and assigns grades on one or more presentations in these core classes. Again, this is done at the request of the course faculty. Points for presentation skills are determined by course faculty, but also generally range from 20 percent to 50 percent. For major presentations, groups may be required to attend a dress rehearsal and receive coaching from the coordinator. Several major presentations are recorded during the program and posted online for viewing by the students. If students desire extra coaching in writing or speaking skills, they are encouraged to meet with the coordinator. Most students self-select to receive assistance, but others may be referred by faculty. Students are not made to feel that consulting with the coordinator is remedial or punitive. Instead, faculty strive to have them see using this resource as an opportunity to build core business skills. The coordinator is available throughout the program on a drop-in or appointment basis to meet with students to rehearse presentations and provide feedback on papers and employment communications. Formerly, the coordinator provided dedicated office hours for MBA students; however, due to the students‘ intense schedules it has been more productive to meet on request. Some students, particularly international students, regularly take advantage of this informal opportunity to receive additional coaching, while others rarely or never visit the coordinator. Of course, there is a wide range of skill levels in every class. By offering formal instruction as well as ongoing informal access to coaching on a voluntary basis, the communication needs of all MBA students are addressed. Program Outcomes Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 10
  • 11. Overall, the communication aspect of the MBA program seems to be successful. Student surveys have been extremely positive, and assessments have shown increased communication skills among students. In the 2004 Educational Benchmarking Inventory (EBI) survey, our MBA program was ranked first in writing and first in presentations out of 60 participating institutions. In the following year we ranked first in writing and second in presentations out of 52 participating institutions. In 2008 Northern Arizona University ranked first in writing and 14 in presentations among participating institutions. In addition, The W. A. Franke College of Business‘s 2008 Summer Assessment Committee found that the MBA students‘ performance in writing and oral presentation as a group met expectations across all dimensions of performance measured in these areas using the College‘s rubrics and that the students as a group showed significant improvement from the previous year. Based on these results, the committee concluded that existing training processes should be maintained and possibly strengthened with the goal of achieving even greater improvement in future years. As with BizBlock, the success of the communications component of the MBA program is due in large part to consistent, strong support from administration and dedicated faculty. References Alred, G. H., Brusaw, C. T., & Oliu, W. E. (2006). The business writer's handbook (8th ed.). New York: St. Martin's. Andrews, N., & Tyson, L. D. A. (2004, Fall). The upwardly global MBA. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from Bailey, J., Sass, M., Swiercz, P. M., Seal, C., & Kayes, D. C. (2005). Teaching with and through teams: Student- written, instructor-facilitated case writing and the signatory code. Journal of Management Education, 29(1), 39-59. Bovinet, J. W. (2000). Interdisciplinary teaching combined with computer-based simulation: A descriptive model. Marketing Education Review, 10(3), 53-62. Butler, C. K. (2007). The soft side of the MBA. U.S. News & World Report, 142(12), 74-78. College learning for the new global century. (2007). Retrieved July 3, 2008, from Corporate recruiters survey. (2006). Graduate Management Admission Council Corsini, L. S., Crittenden, V. L., Keeley, R. C., Trompeter, G. M., & Viechnicki, B. (2000). Integrating cross- functional undergraduate teaching and learning: A work in progress. Marketing Education Review, 10(3), 1-17. Cyphert, D. (2002). Integrating communication across the MBA curriculum. Business Communication Quarterly, 65(3), 81-86. Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 11
  • 12. Dillon, S. (2004, December 7). What corporate America can't build: A sentence. The New York Times. DiMeglio, F. (2007). A transcript for soft skills. Retrieved July 3, 2008, from Doria, J., Rozanski, H., & Cohen, E. (2003, Fall). What business needs from business schools. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from Dvorak, P. (2007). MBA programs hone 'soft skills'. Wall Street Journal, 249(35), B3. Elmuti, D. (2004). Can management be taught? Management Decision, 42(3/4), 439-453. Elmuti, D., Minnis, W., & Abebe, M. (2005). Does education have a role in developing leadership skills? Management Decision, 43(7/8), 1018-1031. Fisher, A. (2007). The trouble with MBAs. Retrieved July 8, 2008, from Hamilton, D., McFarland, D., & Mirchandani, D. (2000). A decision model for integration across the business curriculum in the 21st century. Journal of Management Education, 24(1), 102-126. Hartenian, L. S., Schelienger, M., & Frederickson, P. (2001). Creation and assessment of an integrated business course: One college's experience. Journal of Education for Business, 76(3), 149-159. How should colleges prepare students to succeed in a global economy? (2006, December 28). Retrieved July 3, 2008, from Jauch, L. R., Luse, D. W., McConkey, W., Parker, M., Rettenmayer, J., & Roshto, P. (2000). The wheel of learning: An integrative business curriculum experiment. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 27, 77-83. Kelly, K., & Sokuvitz, S. (1996). An MBA communication program in an entirely integrated management core. Business Communication Quarterly, 59(2), 56-69. Luse, D. (1999). Incorporating business communication in an integrative business seminar. Business Communication Quarterly, 62(1), 96-100. Markulis, P. M., Strang, D. R., & Howe, H. (2004). Integrating the business curriculum with a comprehensive case study: A prototype. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 31, 74-78. Miller, J. R. (2000). Economics in the integrated business curriculum. Journal of Education for Business, 76(2), 113-118. Mast, C. (2006). Challenges facing management education: An overview and analysis of recent criticisms: Graduate Management Admission Council. Mintzberg, H. (2004). Not MBAs: A hard look at the soft practices of managing and management development. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Navarro, P. (2008). The MBA core curricula of top-ranked U.S. business schools: A study in failure? Academy of Management Learning & Education, 7(1), 108-123. Nodoushani, O., & Nodoushani, P. A. (1996). Rethinking the future of management education. Human Systems Management, 15(3), 173-181. Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 12
  • 13. Olian, J., Caldwell, L., Frank, H., Griffin, A., Liverpool, P., & Thomas, H. (2002). Management education at risk: A report from the management education task force: AACSB International. Pittenger, K. K. S., Miller, M. C., & Mott, J. (2004). Using real-world standards to enhance students' presentation skills. Business Communication Quarterly, 67(3), 327-336. Porter, L. W., & McKibben, L. E. (1988). Management Education and Development: Drift or Thrust into the 21st Century? New York: McGraw-Hill. Roth, W. F. (1989). Today's MBA: A lot to learn. Personnel, 66(5), 46-51. Smith, G. F. (2005). Problem-based learning: Can it improve managerial thinking? Journal of Management Education, 16(9), 677-700. Steiner, T. L., & Wells, R. M. J. (2000). Integration of business curriculum: The case of finance and marketing in a MBA program. Financial Practice and Education, 10(2), 148-159. Stinson, J. E., & Milter, R. G. (1996). Problem-based learning in business education: Curriculum design and implementation issues. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 68, 34-43. Tuleja, E. A., & Greenhalgh, A. M. (2008). Communicating across the curriculum in an undergraduate business program: Management 100-leadership and communication in groups. Business Communication Quarterly, 71(1), 27-43. Wardrope, W. J. (2002). Department chairs' perceptions of the importance of business communication skills. Business Communication Quarterly, 65(4), 60-72. Weinstein, M. (2008). Q & A. Training, 45(3), 11. Wheeler, B. C. (1998). The state of business education: Preparation for the past? Selections, 14(2), 19-21. Writing: A ticket to work or a ticket out. (2004, September). The National Commission on Writing/College Board. Biographies MARY YOUNG BOWERS is a Senior Lecturer in Business Communication in The W. A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University. She received her MBA from the University of Toledo. Bowers has taught the business communication component in BizBlock since 2000 and is the director of the college's business communication center. MARCIA METCALF is a Lecturer in Business Communication in The W.A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University. She received her J.D. from the University Of Maine School Of Law and teaches undergraduate courses in business communication. Metcalf is the communications coordinator in the MBA program at the FCB. Proceedings of the 2008 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention. Copyright (c) 2008, Association for Business Communication 13