60 Toolkits and Teams

Denise Hutchins

Summer 2019

The major benefits I have received from the CPLC experience thus far have centered around having more tools in my toolkit that I can utilize to give my students a better classroom and project experience resulting in their understanding of how to apply what they know in the workforce.

I have thought mostly about both my Organizational Communications writing connection course which is not project based and my Event Marketing class which is totally project based. I have sought ideas, explored what might work for my students and me, and asked for feedback based on my thinking.

Organizational Communications

One of the internal struggles I have with this course is that fact that it is a writing connection course coupled with public speaking. Writing and public speaking are both critical skills for students to acquire and my struggle is that I want to give each area focus.

The required course is well received, and students seem pleased with the practical skills they gain; however, I believe that they need more writing opportunities and feedback that is reviewed, digested, reflected, and applied. An important fact is that at least twenty-five students are enrolled in this course from different majors so individual attention is not the same as having a 10-person writing class.

Based on what I heard discussing my challenges with the CPLC members and replies from my posts, I am going to try something new this fall. I am going to setup 1:1 sessions in weeks 5 and 6 with my 50+ students. The idea is for them to revise their first writing assignment, which is a cover letter for their dream job. Based on my feedback and noted track changes in their cover letter, I want them to rework the letter and bring it to our scheduled meeting. We will discuss the first and second versions. Having a face-to-face discussion, I think I can ensure that they understand the feedback, know what they do well and what they can improve upon. I think I can have more impact and maybe make more of a difference with a conversation than I can with my edits and commentary inside of Moodle.

Also, I want them to come with their questions and be prepared to talk about their success in this class to date – what does s/he need to continue doing and what does s/he need to change in order to be successful. I know that this is a large undertaking but I’m hopeful that my students will enjoy the personal touch and better understand what they can do to improve. I’m also hopeful that I will feel better about knowing my feedback is being reviewed, acted upon and that my students will be better writers for it.

Another piece I am going to work into my course is discussion about personal learning networks and hands-on work to begin a personal learning network. I think this would be a nice addition when I talk about careers and interviewing.

Lastly, I’m going to find ways to add more space and time for students to practice purposeful communication as a habit of mind. This will be mostly through free writes and think, pair, share.

Event Marketing

This project-based course has a client in which my students design and execute an event. This course is challenging in that we are listening to our client’s needs, goals and then designing an event (really an experience) that we believe will fulfill, meet or exceed the goal. As with any project, there are many twists and turns that occur from selecting dates, weather issues, approvals, budget and unexpected circumstances.

This 30-person class challenges me because we have one semester to plan, market and execute an event. I do not know the outcome but have my ideas on how to build a successful event. One of the issues I have is how to keep the many teams moving forward in a timely, efficient and effective manner because the event happens on the date that is planned, and it is well publicized and generally high profile in nature. Not all students have the ability to create a plan and work on each piece collaboratively. I try to give them space to figure out how to do the planning, fail, learn and figure out how to make it all work but time is not on our side. I act as their manager and guide in the process while teaching the necessary content and discussing how it might apply to our event.

I have been watching and reading with interest what is happening in the Tackling a Wicked Problem and the different tactics being used. I’m going to further develop the 7:7 form and use it more often based on project milestones and potentially use the one pagers mentioned in the posts.

I also think that I will try to give more time for students to get to know each other. This course is open to many majors, so it isn’t a given that most students know each other. In fact, I try and design the teams so there are different majors and skill sets together. Given our short timeline, the getting to know you piece tends to be trimmed down.


Aside from the tactical elements I would like to implement, the other helpful piece for me is being with my colleagues and knowing that we are all working through similar issues and trying things that may or may not work for us and our students. Setting aside the time to read, think and engage in this type of work is interesting and necessary for me to further develop my teaching.

This year, I am interested in doing the drop-in professional development and sharing sessions and perhaps, even join a reflective practice group. As one of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship leaders, I’m also planning to bring the ideas and tactics I am trying to my colleagues and create space for us to share what we are doing and how we are doing it.

After this week’s University Days and CPLC session, I read the article The Secret to a Lasting Culture by Synchrony CEO Margaret Keane and it hit home for me. She understands the importance of organizational culture. She writes “At the center of Synchrony’s [culture] is caring, which focuses on relationships and mutual trust. People come to work expecting warmth, collaboration, and authenticity. To unleash innovation and meaningful results, you need room to make bold decisions, test and learn from mistakes, and importantly have the support of your team.”

I believe the last part is the piece where we need to focus most. Making change is about the people and people will make or break it. I hope that through our initiatives we focus on culture as I believe caring and trust are foundational supports to meaningful results. A supportive team is necessary to make change. I hope we can find a way to gain more support from our colleagues to enable the innovation and make the changes necessary to keep students choosing and graduating from Plymouth State University.

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