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UNT Insider | April 2007 Issue | Faculty Focus

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Students teach communication skills to women escaping abusive situations

From a UNT News Service press release

Brian Richardson

Brian Richardson, assistant professor of communication studies

As part of their class requirements, 10 students in Communication Studies 5625, Communication Consulting, spent four evenings teaching interpersonal communication skills to clients at The Ladder Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Fort Worth that provides office skills training to clients referred from area shelters and agencies that serve abused women.

The students provided workshops on interpersonal communication April 2-5 at the organization's office in Fort Worth.

Kristan Smeaton

Kristan Smeaton, second-year master's student, leads trainees in a discussion of effective non-verbal communication skills.

Brian Richardson, assistant professor of communication studies and instructor of Communication Consulting, says he offered his students to The Ladder Alliance after reading about the organization in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last summer.

During Richardson's class, students are divided into small groups to conduct four-hour communication workshops for eight to 10 clients in a setting outside of UNT. The workshops help the students develop and refine the training and facilitating skills they learn in class, Richardson says.

Second-year master's student Kristan Smeaton says her group observed clients at Ladder Alliance classes in professional skills, which cover resumé preparation, interviewing skills and professional dress, as well as classes in computer skills. The students met with the clients to ask them about what they wanted to learn in a communication skills class before writing the curriculum.

"The ladies are wonderful. We decided to focus on general interpersonal communication skills that they can hopefully use not only in the workplace, but also in other parts of their lives," says Smeaton, who has worked with high school students on communication skills but not adults in professional settings.

Brian Richardson

Communication Studies graduate students Stuti Mehta, Khrystie Prince, Eric James and Michael Calk led Ladder Alliance trainees in sessions about listening skills, appropriate dress and professional etiquette.

Michael Calk, another second-year master's student, says her group will teach nonverbal behavior skills and provide information on appropriate business dress and fitting into a business culture.

"Nonverbal behavior accounts for 73 percent of our communication. Most of us don't realize that," she says. "The women we will teach were probably punished when they tried to be assertive. We want them to walk away from our workshop knowing how to carry themselves with confidence and knowing that every little thing counts about their appearance."

"The last time I taught the class, the students went to the Roanoke Fire and Police Departments and taught a class on listening skills," Richardson says. "I provide the students with guidelines of how to put together a curriculum, but they have to write their own curricula."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108
Contact: Nancy Kolsti (940) 565-3509
Email: nkolsti@unt.edu

Read other stories in this issue:

April 2007

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