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"Speak Up!" A Program for Teaching Communication Skills to Summer Undergraduate Researchers

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2018

Conference Session

Improving Presentation Skills Through Summer Research and Ambassador Programs

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count

15

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/27429

Download Count

28

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Paper Authors

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Necia Werner Carnegie Mellon University

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Necia Werner is an Assistant Teaching Professor of English and Director of the professional and technical writing programs at Carnegie Mellon University. Werner serves on the advisory committee (AdCom) of the IEEE Professional Communication Society, and as an Associate Editor for the teaching case section of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.

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Joanna Dickert Carnegie Mellon University

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Joanna Dickert is the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Research and National Fellowships at Carnegie Mellon University. In this role, she directly advises and supports undergraduate students through each phase of the research process beginning with proposal development through learning assessment and program evaluation. She is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Evaluation and Measurement at Kent State University. Through the alignment of a student-centered process with an evidence-based approach to making, she is interested in exploring how assessment and evaluation can optimize student learning.

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Nisha Shanmugaraj Carnegie Mellon University

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I am currently the Assistant Director of the Global Communication Center (GCC) at Carnegie Mellon University, where I received a Master’s in English. In my five years at the GCC, I have enjoyed helping STEM and humanities students learn to convey their innovative ideas more effectively. I have also taught First Year Writing and graduate level engineering courses on language and genre foundations for diverse types of writing. My research interests focus on deconstructing rhetorical moves in both written and visual communication to help demystify expert writing practices for students.

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Kevin G. Monahan Carnegie Mellon University

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Kevin joined Carnegie Mellon University in July 2013 as the Associate Dean of Student Affairs for Career and Professional Development. In this role, Kevin leads the career center’s efforts in providing leading career development and recruiting services.

During Kevin’s tenure at CMU, the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) has experienced increased significant student and employer engagement with the CPDC services. Student appointment traffic has grown from 5000 to 8000+ appointments annually by expanding the service offerings. Because of this growth, the CPDC has embraced new service delivery models, including digital and social media venues to meet the increased need.

Kevin has specialized in identifying untapped areas within student populations and offering service that provide high student engagement. In addition to “high touch” engagements, Kevin has been celebrated for delivering career management services to distance audiences. He was awarded the CASE Circle of Excellence Gold Award for online alumni services and was a Bronze Award recipient for distance educational programming. Kevin is a graduate of Notre Dame and earned his masters from the University of Portland.

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Stephanie Wallach Carnegie Mellon University

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Stephanie Wallach is Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. She is responsible for, among other things, overseeing the Undergraduate Research Office (URO) and its programs and for developing new programs that serve all the disciplines across campus.

Stephanie earned a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in New York; she has a master's degree in History and Education from the University of California, Berkeley and a master's degree in Higher Education from the University of Chicago. Her research expertise is in twentieth century American history and focuses on issues of gender, education and juvenile justice.

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Jennifer Keating Carnegie Mellon University

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Jennifer Keating, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Educational Initiatives
Special Faculty, Department of English
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University

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Abstract

In 2016, a multidisciplinary team at Carnegie Mellon University piloted a program to teach core communication skills in a flexible, modularized way to undergraduate students participating in summer undergraduate research experiences. The team consisted of faculty from the department of English and the college of engineering as well as staff from the centralized undergraduate research office, the writing and communications center, and the career center. The professional communication seminar blended learning and practicing core component skills for written, oral, and visual communication, with an emphasis on strategies for communicating complex research.

Considered a work in progress, this lunchtime workshop series was designed to teach core communication skills through a series of non-evaluative real-world activities and genres focused on public communication of research. The program culminated in a 3-minute research presentation (3MRP) modeled after the international 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for doctoral students. The opening session focused on strategies to concisely “sound bite” complex research for different contexts and audiences. This was followed by a module about translating professional autobiographies into brief written self-portraits that blend professional and personal skills. The third session introduced participants to the 3MRP competition grounded in a discussion of rhetorical moves to convey the novelty of research to non-expert audiences. The final session and 3MRP collectively gave students the opportunity to synthesize what they had learned in written form via resumes that communicate professional stories to busy readers and in oral and visual form via the 3MRP presentations.

A total of 100 students were eligible to the participate in the pilot program including those who received centralized summer undergraduate research fellowship funding, participated in a pilot summer undergraduate research experience program for engineering students, and received senior honors fellowship funding for research in the humanities and social sciences. Participation was especially high across all sessions for the 45 engineering students who participated in the pilot. 35.6% of these students attended every session and 84.4% participated in at least four of the five meetings. 84.4% of eligible engineering students participated in the 3MRP. All three winners of the 3MRP were engineering students.

Pre- and post-program assessments focused specifically on students who worked on a project in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) discipline during summer 2016. All engineering students who were affiliated with one of the aforementioned summer undergraduate research programs were invited to participate. These assessments were designed to measure participants’ beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions regarding their professional communication skills. 42.8% of eligible participants including 18 engineering students completed both the pre- and post-program surveys. Chi-square analyses indicated that study respondents approximate the overall study population in terms of university college affiliation, funding source, and class year. Results suggest that participation in the professional communication seminar recalibrated students’ self-assessment of their written and oral communication skills.

Werner, N., & Dickert, J., & Shanmugaraj, N., & Monahan, K. G., & Wallach, S., & Keating, J. (2017, June), "Speak Up!" A Program for Teaching Communication Skills to Summer Undergraduate Researchers Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27429

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