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Soon appearing over a transom near you.

You won't be able to avoid all the resumes in your in-box much longer. It's job-hunting season, as this year's graduates catch sight of the end of their college tribulation.

The colleges that turn out public relations and corporate communication majors have paid attention to the professional demand for writing skills, business savvy and problem solving. They've also listened to the cry for computer literacy. Not only are students becoming familiar with computers, they're also applying their learning to real-world projects. That training has covered a scope that even some of us with years of experience can't match.

"Graduates from our corporate communication program go to the market with skills in Wordperfect on DOS and PageMaker in the Macintosh environment. That exposes them to the two main kinds of hardware and two frontrunners in software," said Gary Schlee, ABC, coordinator of the corporate communication program at Centennial College, Scarborough, Ont., a suburb of Toronto.

"On their own initiative, students can get into things like Lotus 1-2-3."

The commitment to making computers ubiquitous in the classroom was not an accident, but at the same time, the focus remains on training well-rounded communicators, not desktop publishing technicians. That pleases employers, Schlee said, who had eagerly brought in the equipment but didn't always have the time to figure out how to use it. "You have a case of the graduate teaching the practitioner," he said.

A corporate communication student at Centennial College starts with writing courses - the cornerstone - and gets training in design before even beginning desktop publishing. "In our particular program, which has a focus on employee communication, projects most often include layout and design of newsletters and brochures using PageMaker. Some students are using Quark Xpress as well," Schlee said.

For these students, computers are fun. "We still use typewriters in one or two writing labs - and the students kick and scream about it. They become very comfortable with computer editing capabilities."

Schlee compares their fascination with computers and desktop publishing to the audio-visual fad on campuses in the '70s.

Students become mesmerized by the glamour of desktop publishing. Many students, if given the choice, would spend all their time playing with design. It's very tactile. And they can print out a very sharp looking Publication," he notes.

In fact, the computer is the motivating factor pushing many students through the public relations program at California State University, Chico, says Bob Vivian, lecturer in the journalism department. "It's fun and it's stimulating," he said.

Public relations students leave the Chico labs knowing MacWrite, MacPaint, and Microsoft Word on the Macintosh. If they've taken the "Public Relations/ Publications" class, they also have been exposed to PageMaker and Hypercard. The course, generically called "desktop publishing," is an elective, and it is clearly one of the most popular. Last semester, 74 Students requested the class, but the lab only would seat 16.

"We're very sold on the idea of using computers - from the dean on down. We preach the need for this, but students are aware on their own of the necessity," Vivian said.

So, it takes no convincing for the students to list computer skills on their resumes. "We encourage them to include "Proficient in ..' on their resumes," Vivian said. "Employers tell us they're looking for that."

If their resumes open the doors, students then have a chance to show off their computer prowess. "It's very worthwhile to take concrete evidence of their skills - in writing and in electronic communication, said Mae Frantz, professor of communication at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

For class projects, JMU students produce flyers, leaflets, brochures and magazines in the department's Macintosh computer labs; they have access to computer labs elsewhere on campus with IBM equipment. "My students are most familiar with MacWrite, ReadySetGo, MacDraw, MacPaint and HyperCard," Frantz said. "All public relations classes do real projects, such as programs for the American Cancer Society or for the JMU basketball team - how to increase student support, for example."

In a survey research class, public relations and organizational communication students do original research including internal communication audits. "They design questionnaires, collect the data, tabulate data, analyze it, and do a formal report," Frantz said. On the computer of course - using SPSS, a sophisticated research software program.

As a member of the typewriter generation, Frantz is impressed with this electronic generation. "They understand how to apply the technology," she said.

Just ask them - preferably in a job interview.

Sheri Rosen, ABC, owns ConsultRosen Enterprises, 1468 Nelson St., Mandeville, LA 70448, and specializes in communication planning, corporate publications, and computer applications for public relations. She used manual typewriters in college journalism labs, but she did take one university computer course: electronic music; the display was an oscilloscope, the input device was a joy stick, and the storage medium was reel-to-reel tape.
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Computer Sense; training of business communication students
Author:Rosen, Sheri
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:801
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