Director, Judith R. Frank Business Communications Center
The University of Iowa
Recruiters have indicated over the years that developing good communication skills is just as important as learning in the classroom. The ability to speak well and write a concise memo is critical to business success. It is for that reason that the Tippie College of Business developed the Judith R. Frank Business Communications Center.
The center helps undergraduate students at the Tippie College of Business refine both their writing and presentation skills as well as overall communication ability. The center was conceived by Professor Nancy Hauserman, who saw the benefits of the writing program that the Department of Accounting made available to accounting majors. She wanted all Tippie students to have the same opportunities to improve.
As director of the center, Pamela Bourjaily shares this view. She has been helping students who come to the center since 2009. While these students generally seek help to improve their grade on one or two assignments, Bourjaily has a long-term goal in mind. She believes that the center can help students communicate more professionally, clearly, and concisely. She also focuses on “clean” writing, which is free of distracting errors.
Bourjaily maintains this attention to detail will help interviewers and future employers get a better sense of the student and his or her ability to handle projects: “Writing well can distinguish you from other students, especially in this tight job market.” She believes the center will make Tippie students more viable in the workplace: “Students should think longer-term; correcting your writing and communication mistakes now incurs less risk than having to correct those mistakes when you enter into your professional life.”
Expanding the center’s focus on professional preparation is the addition of tutor support in individual speeches and team oral presentations. Bourjaily is excited about the opportunity for Tippie students to practice vocal and physical delivery and to get feedback on their PowerPoint slides and the organization of their material. She also coaches students to monitor how they present themselves in social media and to pay attention not only to images but to how they communicate through language: “How you express yourself with words can undermine your credibility.”
To help students get on the right communication track, the Frank Business Communications Center administers a Business Communications and Protocol course, in which students learn how to write different kinds of business messages and practice delivering oral presentations. Bourjaily’s role is to “coordinate these classes and determine the curriculum in consultation with the associate dean of the Undergraduate Program.” She also finds time to teach one section out of the 11-13 offered each semester.
In addition to these duties, Bourjaily also manages the Mary Thomas Prappas Ethics Essay Contest, which poses an ethical dilemma to be answered in the form of an essay.
Bourjaily is enthusiastic about writing, even in her volunteer activities in which she is “the go-to person for writing/editing when it comes to taking notes or helping someone write a letter to the editor or op-ed piece for the local paper.” However, she is an even more avid editor; her husband and his family have been writers for four generations, and that ancestral passion extends to their sons as well. All that family writing has given her extensive experience with editing, proofreading, and constructive feedback. She is also interested in film and literary criticism, so be sure to ask her about her opinions on the latest films!