Lesson #1: Find Your Voice

September 17, 2007

The college’s Business Communication course helps students achieve clarity of expression – and thought

Business communication is more than a matter of writing memos and phone messages, says Mary Padula. “It relates to thinking creatively and logically – and formulating clear and direct messages in every possible arena. You can’t communicate well in business unless you can communicate well interpersonally.”

An associate professor of business management, Padula teaches BMCC’s Business Communication course, which is primarily geared toward business students, but emphasizes principles common to all communicating situations. Students typically take the course shortly before graduating, having previously fulfilled basic English and speech requirements. “So I consider this a graduate level course,” Padula says.

Padula joined the BMCC faculty 29 years ago, when the school was housed in rented quarters in midtown Manhattan. “I’ve had more than one student come up to me over the years and say, ‘Hey – you were my mother’s teacher,’” she says.  She has taught in the Business Management department since 1996.

Focus on self-development

Over the semester, Padula covers the applicability and construction of business letters, memos, reports, resumes and other forms of communication. Tying it all together is an emphasis on self-development and personal communication.

“In any arena – business, personal or academic – it’s essential to know your own voice – what you sound like and how people react to what you write and say,” Padula notes. “If you keep your thoughts in your head and don’t express yourself, you’ll never know the value you can add.” Classroom exercises in team-building, negotiating conflict and speaking persuasively figure importantly in the course. “You cannot be an island unto yourself,” Padula says. “You have to reach out to others; you have to share.”

Admittedly, some students recoil initially at the theme of personal development, Padula says. “They think, ‘Hey – this is personal. Why am I being asked these questions? Where are we going with this?’” But they quickly come to recognize that “emotionalization often works better than intellectualizing when you’re finding your voice and learning to communicate.”

Having fun

While most of Padula’s students are business majors, the course also attracts a sizable contingent of liberal arts students. “Actually, non-business majors often seem to have more fun with the course, because they are less explicitly goal-directed,” she says. “They see life as a business – and are sometimes quicker to see the relevance of personal development and communication skills.”

Ultimately, Padula says, “everyone seems to have a good time in the course.” She urges students to view her as a facilitator and coach – and to approach the course with an open mind. “Openness is really the key to personal development – and clear communication,” she says.

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