One of the highlights of the M.S. in Commerce Program is getting to know one of the most amazing faculty who teaches our courses. My conversation with Professor Rob Patterson, Associate Professor and Communication Coordinator for the Program, highlights his recent projects, the new “branding” of the strategy course, and his feelings on being back in the classroom.
What’s new with your strategy course this year?
This year, we have more Choice Days–which are electives for GCOM 7010 Communications course–compared to last year. It has been piloted for three years. The Choice Days change topically, influenced by the current business world, students’ interests, or articles I read that might be worth exploring! Choice Days are integrated, allowing students to engage in smaller group discussions, and each choice has a unique skill set impact and connection to the marketplace.
This year Choice Day topics were as follows:
- Personal Storytelling for the Workspace: This topic choice is tailored to students who seek careers that anticipate communicating on a frequent basis with stakeholders and those who want to understand more about how corporations tell stories, since storytelling in the workplace is a prevalent feature to most corporate and organizational environments. It is also appealing to those wanting to develop networking and interviewing skills.
- Digital Media Brand Storytelling and Personal Digital Media Portfolios: It is beneficial for students who desire a quick introduction about why and how to curate digital media in a highly intentional way. This choice is applicable to students specifically in the Marketing & Management and the Business Analytics tracks. Most career paths (consulting) in these areas will involve compiling curated data, so this session will help students understand the foundations of and basic steps needed to curate professional, accurate, and impactful digital or e-portfolios.
- Infographics and One-Pagers When Sharing Big Data: Given the growing industry demand for visual representations of raw data and scattered statistics, this choice may resonate with students who are interested in furthering their knowledge of why infographic imagery provides an essential tool for making solution-driven business decisions, such as business analysts, management consultants, or product managers. Learning more about infographic imagery ranks at the top of tools used for enhanced decision making.
- Communicating about Financials with Investors: This choice explores how to consider investors as audiences and to introduce participants to investor relations. Students who are specifically interested in working in investor relations–integrated with accounting, corporate communication, legal, and executive management team members–or interested in careers advisory/professional services cross-functional roles such as accounting, law, and various financial services would learn more about crisis management and succinct communication on medium- to long-term prospects to private and/or institutional investors.
- Being Coachable and Listening as Critical Workplace Skills: Listening, as a communication skill, perhaps stands as the least taught, but upper-level managers often cite its critical importance as a communication skill that differentiates mediocre managers from effective leaders. This session explores good listening behaviors, and then the class attempts to experience and assess good listening practices. Students leave with fundamental takeaways to apply to their employment searches and beyond.
- Communicating in a Post-COVID Workplace: The pandemic has impacted the way work functions and how we relate to colleagues, potential employers, employers, and stakeholders. This topic explores the human communication habits and channels most impacted and prepares students to discuss relevant issues intelligently with prospective employers and at recruitment events. The pandemic was a large-scale crisis, and so how to communicate and lead in a crisis is also part of this conversation. [Check out Professor Patterson’s LinkedIn post where he hosted classes outside on a beautiful fall day.]
Any ongoing research projects?
Last year, I responded to a nationwide call for the inaugural Rural Scholar program at the Rural Communication Institute, which is based at Tarleton State University in Texas. My application was accepted, and so I’m now a Rural Scholar there, along with several other academics and practitioners across the country. Rural Communication Institute (RCI) at Tarleton State University is in my home “country,” Texas, which is an incubator of rural research. RCI is focused on helping people live, learn, and thrive in rural areas of Texas, the United States, and beyond. The commitment to be part of the research was through being a Rural Communication Scholar, serving as a research and informational resource focused on rural communities in Virginia and Texas. I have been interviewed in a podcast to spread a great need for more rural research.
The point of these tools is to spread rural communication research to broader communities. The key attributes for the project are to make it more cohesive and domestic. Currently, rural research is very international, on a global scale, not domestic. It is important to focus on rural communities around us and address best practices for the eradication of systematic bias in the areas of education, housing, and health. In my research with RCI, I have identified a few communities in Texas and Virginia to find the best workforce and economic development practices to attract industry, tourism, and retain its workforce.
How do you feel about being back in the classroom?
Being back in the classroom is a lot of fun. Although we have to wear our masks inside the classroom, being in person really created an interactive environment. It was hard to connect and create culture with the pandemic and school being closed. However, now, we have a much better and bigger space to learn. The pandemic has not only brought challenges in regard to testing the technology, but also working efficiently. Remotely working for RCI allowed me to think outside the box. Also, lecturing on Zoom taught me how to better communicate and connect with students without sacrificing classroom experience. Going through last year definitely gave me an appreciation for Zoom and technologies, learning process of understanding and utilizing technologies, and figuring out boundaries of the technology space.
A memorable ending of this semester course
I certainly enjoyed engaging with all my students, during the joint strategy and communication crisis sessions. We have a tradition on our last core day in Communication to not only dress casually, but we observe it with themes! It has evolved into a day when we dress out in either UVA spirit gear, tropical wear, or some combination of the two! [Check out the post on LinkedIn.]