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A paper from the Plenary Session of the 2004 Association for Business Communication convention with responses from session attendees.

In the Plenary Session for our 2004 convention in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Randy Barker, recipient of the Outstanding Researcher Award, surprised the audience by discussing a potential area for business communication research that few people had considered before. His paper, which asked the large assembly of business communication researchers and teachers to consider connections between their own professional interests and practices and the presence (or potential presence) of companion pets in the workplace, led to a provocative discussion that was really only just beginning when the session was scheduled to end. Randy has kindly prepared a version of this paper to be printed in this Forum. His article is followed by responses prepared by two participants in that lively discussion in Cambridge: Dr. Marilyn Dyrud and Dr. Dan Dieterich.

The Association for Business Communication (ABC) has established the Plenary Session of its annual convention as a venue for presentations by the recipients of its Meada Gibbs Outstanding Teacher Award and its Outstanding Research Award. Featuring these two honored individuals at the beginning of the conference helps to underscore at least two of the strengths of our organization: commitments both to excellence in instruction and to knowledge building within the field of business communication. These presentations also help in establishing a trajectory for thinking about potential topics of interest that the membership at large might not otherwise be considering. The recipient of the Teaching Award, Bill McPherson, was unfortunately unable to attend the 2004 convention. Randy, however, offered a paper that engaged the audience as a whole, connecting his topic to pedagogical and workplace research considerations.

Randy purposefully selected a topic that would seem at least a bit unusual to convention attendees. At the same time, however, it is clearly a topic that reflects his interests at a professional and a personal level as demonstrated by his publication record. Although many members of ABC are familiar with Randy's research through the pages of publications such as the Journal of Business Communication and the Journal of Business and Technical Communication, most were probably surprised to learn of this other strand of his research, which has been appearing in health and psychology journals in recent years.

Readers who were fortunate enough to attend Randy's presentation at the Plenary Session will no doubt remember the compelling argument he made for more serious consideration of this topic--a topic that can hardly yet be considered within the boundary of our field's research, if presence in our own journals is used as an indicator. As Marilyn's and Dan's responses below suggest, however, that situation is about to change. Randy's presentation, they indicate, will likely mark the opening of new boundary-crossing research in business communication.

Regardless of whether you heard Randy's original presentation, his article below is certain to lead you to think in new ways about the place of companion animals in our lives and the many communication-focused questions that have yet to be asked and answered about the practice of integrating such pets into our workplaces.

Mark Zachry (Ph.D., Iowa State University, 1998) is an associate professor of English at Utah State University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark Zachry, Utah State University, 3200 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322; e-mail:
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Title Annotation:FORUM: Reflections and Epiphanies
Author:Zachry, Mark
Publication:The Journal of Business Communication
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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