The Human Resources Development Centre (HRDC), an initiative of the Conference Board of Canada ranks a student’s ability to “communicate clearly and concisely in written, spoken, and visual forms that fulfill purpose and meet audience needs” as top among its Essential Employability Skills framework.
A brand new communications course, combining the theoretical with the practical, is Glendon’s response to the high demand for a formal program in this area. In a first step towards expanding the college’s communications offerings, a new, bilingual, upper-year course has been created within the Multidisciplinary Studies Department. Under the title Professional communications and field experience / Communication professionnelle et expérience pratique (GL/Sosc 4505), it provides students with the opportunity of studying a diverse range of human communications, such as nonverbal, interpersonal and public communication, informative and persuasive speech, and others.
A great new addition: the course includes a six-week field placement, where students work for an organization engaged in professional communications practice, usually in a marketing, public relations or media relations environment. What an invaluable opportunity for students to apply communications theory to real life experience, and to add work experience in a professional setting to their resumes!
L-r: Jennifer Sipos-Smith, Michael Barutciski and Françoise Mougeon
The course is the brainchild of Jennifer Sipos-Smith, Director of Glendon’s Academic Writing Workshop. In that capacity, she has been approached by many students who expressed their desire to learn all communications skills, not just those grounded in writing practice. “A small, bilingual liberal arts college like Glendon, with strengths in social sciences, fine arts, the humanities, and business and public affairs is uniquely positioned to bring together a critical, multidisciplinary approach to communications theory and practice”, says Sipos-Smith. “While we do offer students the opportunity to learn to think and read critically and to write well, we must also provide more rigorous support for the development of these and other essential communication skills, if we are to help them achieve success in the workplace, in day-to-day living and in their lifelong learning goals.”
During the current, inaugural year, third and fourth-year students enrolled in the course undertook internships in the greater Toronto area. Participating organizations included the Canadian Education Association, the CBC, York’s Faculty of Law, Début Communications and Event Management, and Glendon’s own Office of Recruitment, Marketing, and Communications.
Two top students in the new course, fourth-year International Studies major Kathryn Robson, and third-year Psychology major Cindyrella Miranda - an international student from France and Guyana - were eager to comment on their internship experience.
Kathryn Robson was an intern at CBC Radio One, at a program called Outfront. “I really didn’t know what the internship would entail and I only hoped that I would do some valuable learning and not just be pouring coffee and filing. The actual experience exceeded all my expectations. I was provided with training on several of the sound editing programs that CBC Radio uses, and became familiar with various global networks and sources from which they draw their news and information.”
Left: Kathryn Robson in Washington at the Obama inaugural
Robson took part in a wide range of productions, including a show about a group of Aboriginal youth living in Alert Bay, her own show about a personal story, and even got to travel to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of President Obama, where she interviewed and recorded young people about their thoughts on Obama, youth involvement in politics, and the Obama campaign’s use of social networking technologies. “While I was in Washington, I also connected with the CBC crew and was interviewed live on-air for [CBC Radio’s] The Current’s inauguration coverage. It was pretty thrilling!”
Robson plans on doing an MA in Global Media and Communications and hopes to work on documentary filmmaking. “This internship gave me a window into the imbalanced structure of the global media system and the constraints that even well-meaning journalists face when trying to tell under-represented stories. I also learned a lot of technical skills in the production of radio documentaries. But I think most of all I learned about the construction of narratives and the struggle to balance the need to produce a compelling and entertaining story with the responsibility of representing the diverse perspectives and identities contained in a single story comprehensively and respectfully.”
Cindyrella Miranda completed her internship at Glendon’s Office of Recruitment, Marketing and Communications with Print and New Media Coordinator Marie Maher and Glendon Communications Officer Marika Kemeny. She had the opportunity to learn about and use new research and web technologies; she was also invited to participate in recruitment events and comment on the communications pieces created for them. One of her tasks was to complete a literature review of the products developed by recruitment teams at other academic institutions, culminating in a report. “Cindyrella had fresh insights and very astute observations”, says Maher, “we valued her input and integrated some of her ideas into next year’s plans.”
Right: Cindyrella Miranda
Working with Kemeny, Miranda participated in the step-by-step preparations for reporting on conferences, lectures, cultural events and interviews. “I wanted to learn how to produce a media release and what a reporter’s tasks are from the first exploration of the topic to the final article. Being able to practise each step gave me a full understanding of the process, and self-confidence about being able to do it in the future.” Miranda also got to revise her own resume as a communications tool, which will be useful for applying to future internships and jobs in the world of work. As for her future plans, she will seek out other internships relating to the media in Toronto or in France, and hopes to pursue formal qualifications in journalism.
The course has been an unqualified success for students and host organizations alike. Sipos-Smith has previous experience in developing this program, having worked as an industry host to third and fourth-year students in a course of similar name and focus, in collaboration with Arthur Siegel of the Communications Studies Program within York’s Faculty of Arts.
The professional communications course is one of several new endeavours to bring practical communications training to Glendon. The recent partnership signed with Ottawa’s Cité collégiale will offer theoretical and practical training in the field of media and communications to students of both institutions as of September 2009.
Sipos-Smith is already hard at work with Michael Barutciski, Chair of Glendon’s Multidisciplinary Department and Françoise Mougeon, Associate Principal (Academic and Research) on building a formal bilingual program in this area. “As we move forward with the development of expanded program offerings in communications, my hope is to give Glendon students the opportunity to develop high levels of theoretical knowledge and competency in written, verbal, visual and technology-mediated communication, applicable to any career and lifelong learning plan”, says Sipos-Smith.
Professional communications and field experience / Communication professionnelle et expérience pratique is offered again this summer, with internships running from June 15 through July 3.
Article by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny