Improving Communication Skills

Communication skills shouldn’t be taken for granted, and NC State is taking proactive measures to improve the communication skills of our soon-to-be engineers. In the workplace it is not uncommon for engineers to work in a team that consists of people from other disciplines. It is undoubtedly important for the engineer to be able to express ideas, recommend actions, and achieve buy-in from these multidisciplinary team members. While there is an awareness that communication and professional skills are critical, engineering managers still express the need for further emphasis of these skills in the curriculum.

Dr. Anita Vila-Parrish, director of undergraduate programs and teaching professor for the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, is teaming up with Prof. Sarah Egan Warren from the English department to bring a unique perspective to the classroom through the CHASS sponsored Interdisciplinary Liaison Program.

Both departments have a mutual interest in this collaboration: improve communication of engineers.

The program involves the two professors essentially swapping roles in the courses they are teaching this semester. Dr. Vila-Parrish is the instructor for ISE 498, which is more commonly known as the senior design project. Prof. Egan Warren is the instructor for ENG 331, Communication for Engineering and Technology, a class designed to improve the communication skills of engineers.

Dr. Vila-Parrish will record two lectures for Dr. Warren’s sections of 331, which happen to be online courses. The goal is to leverage Dr. Vila-Parrish’s knowledge of industry from her work experience with Dell and provide a more tangible perspective for engineering students to relate with in the classroom.

Prof. Warren will also give two lectures to the students of ISE 498, as well as attend their final senior design presentations as one of the judges. Her lectures will help reinforce the concepts students learned in 331, which all ISE students are required to take before they graduate (and is typically taken before they enroll in ISE 498). She will cover presentation skills, identifying key messages, understanding the audience you are presenting to, as well as interpreting data and technical materials.

Both departments hope to learn key weaknesses that students have and apply that information into a plan to develop the skills that students tend to lack.