A Note from the Dean

PaulHaughtThis is the third installment in a series of “Notes from the Dean” that focuses on the School of Arts’ recently adopted mission statement:

“The mission of the School of Arts at Christian Brothers University is to advance the Lasallian synthesis of knowledge and service by teaching students to think, to communicate, to evaluate and to appreciate.”

 

If there’s a single consistent message I share with prospective students and their parents, it’s that the most valuable skill you can develop and improve upon is your ability to communicate effectively. I make this claim for several reasons. One is straightforward: if you can communicate what you need and why you need it, you’ll improve your chances of actually getting it. Another reason stems from my observation that in any organization, those who possess really good speaking and (especially) writing skills are those who will advance. I have met and worked with many people who majored in English or philosophy who became leaders in finance, energy, healthcare, and many other sectors of our economy. Why? Because early in their careers they stood out for their clarity and reliability as communicators of the concepts, plans, and goals essential to their work.

Teaching communication skills also gives breadth to the Lasallian ideal of educating the whole person. Without effective communication, our relationships with one another are vulnerable to hardship and even failure. It is difficult to earn respect, admiration, or trust if one always has to struggle to communicate feelings, needs, or gratitude. Effective communication also involves the ability to listen well. Along these lines, the School of Arts offers a number of courses across its six departments that cultivate the communication skills needed for our relationships to flourish. For example, one of the things I’ve come to appreciate about Professor Matthew Hamner’s Speech Communication class is the extent to which it helps students become constructively self-aware about their appearance and performance at public speaking. Such learning is not always comfortable, especially because it involves critique by professor and peers, all of which involves a delicate negotiation of trust and respect. Nonetheless, Hamner’s students consistently report how grateful they are for going through this process and for how much confidence it gives them beyond the Speech Communication classroom.

I am immensely proud of the contributions of our faculty, who like Hamner, have invested their efforts in enhancing our students’ communication skills. I often hear back from former students now in graduate programs about how well-prepared they are compared to their peers. This success is not surprising given that the vast majority of our students in the School of Arts earn their degrees having presented research at a professional conference or other public setting. They leave CBU confident and secure in their ability to command an audience and to share their knowledge in the spirit of the Lasallian education they have received. Thus, as we recognize that the ability to communicate effectively is a skill with lifelong benefits, we are also grateful for the opportunity to nurture it in our students in the School of Arts.

Dr. Paul Haught