Profs Team Up to Give Engineering Students Crash Course
in Effective Business Communication

UTD Faculty inside the JSOM Atrium

UT Dallas faculty members who teamed up to teach senior engineering students some critical business communication skills included (from left) Dr. Robert Hart of ECS, Dr. Michele Lockhart, Margaret Smallwood, Victoria McCrady and Dr. Jeanne Sluder of JSOM, and Dr. Todd Polk of ECS

A conversation between professors from different UT Dallas schools has blossomed into a successful seminar delivered by Naveen Jindal School of Management professors. Led by Dr. John McClain Watson, director of JSOM’s Business Communication Center and the school’s business communication — BCOM — programs, BCOM faculty members provided senior engineering students proven ideas on how to foster better communication with co-workers.

Mechanical engineering faculty member Dr. Robert Hart set the seminar in motion after he met Watson and realized BCOM professors taught skills critical to the success of burgeoning engineers. Specifically, Hart wanted to enhance teamwork, cooperation and conflict resolution — skills business communication professors cover with Jindal School students.

John McClain Watson

John McClain Watson

Watson asked the BCOM faculty if they would like to work with Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science professors on those critical areas. “They were all over it,” Watson said.

About 90 engineering students in the mandatory two-semester capstone project attended the one-hour class last semester. Professors from both schools have reason to believe students embraced the concepts.

Dr. Todd Polk, a bioengineering senior lecturer at ECS, works closely with Hart and like him, had a career in industry before moving to academia. They guide their respective senior students’ capstone projects and cover communications strategies in capstone classes.

However, Polk and Hart were happy to defer to JSOM expertise. “They’re much more trained to do this than we are,” Polk said, “(and) there’s a very high need for (students) to be very expert in this.”

Hart and Polk sketched out an idea, and BCOM professors developed the curriculum.

Jindal School senior lecturers Margaret Smallwood, Jeanne Sluder, Victoria McCrady, Kristen Lawson and Michele Lockhart worked together to design a one-class summary of best practices in teamwork settings.

But Hart and Polk “really laid the foundation,” Smallwood said. “It shows real insight on their part.”

Another capstone class is being offered this semester, and the engineering professors hope to again tap into Jindal School expertise.