Plan aims to improve communication skills

By Amelia Orwick

A document development team has started drafting a plan to improve communication skills on UK’s campus.

The Quality Enhancement Plan is one of 12 requirements needed to attain reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The development team, which is made up of faculty, staff and students, is responsible for devising and submitting the plan, which should be no more than 100 pages, by January 2013.

Should SACS approve the plan, it will be fully implemented by fall 2013.

Throughout the process, the team will receive feedback from students, faculty and staff, as well as SACS officials. Multimodal Communication Across the Curriculum has been selected as the topic of UK’s QEP.

The topic “was chosen because it reflected a consensus that students can always benefit from more practice communicating,” said communication professor Amy Gaffney. “We don’t always communicate face-to-face. In applying for jobs and having jobs, you have to communicate in a variety of ways.”

Research shows that employers are not satisfied with the effectiveness of students’ communication skills upon graduation.

“One in four employers think we’re doing a good job. That means three in four think were not,” QEP co-chair Deanna Sellnow said in an email to the Kernel.

Once approved, the program will be led by a director and committee of experts from across campus.

“This is absolutely a broad-based cross-campus endeavor. It is not something that one program or unit will administer,” Sellnow said.

Not only will students have more resources available to help them improve their communication skills, but professors will work on enhancing their assignments to give students more opportunities to put their skills to use.

“There are going to be resource centers across campus where any student can walk in and get help, and there will be similar places where faculty will be able to improve,” Gaffney said. “We want to give students the opportunity to make the most of their assignments.”

Another positive aspect of the QEP is its connection to UK Core, the university’s new general education program.

“One of the design principles of our new UK Core is ‘vertical integration,’ which means that the oral, written and visual communication skills students are introduced to in the composition and communication courses are supposed to reappear in the majors,” Sellnow said.

The QEP will complement UK Core by focusing in on the communication skills necessary for specific professions within each major.

Sellnow and her colleagues look forward to being a front runner in the transition from communication mediocrity to excellence amongst college students.

“We at UK are trendsetters in attempting to prepare our students with a written, oral, and visual communication across the curriculum program that addresses flat print, face-to-face, and digital channels,” Sellnow said.