Employers need effective communicators — that’s the bottom line. So the College of Business recently opened a business communication lab to assist students in strengthening their business communication skills.
“Whether you are leading a team or working on a team, how you communicate is a reflection of your professional presence,” said UM-Dearborn College of Business faculty member Christine Fischer, a longtime business communication educator who teaches BA 330: Managerial Communication, among other courses. “Effective communication is a skill employers want their employees to have. At the end of the day, your communication skills will differentiate you in the business world.”
To help connect UM-Dearborn students with a dedicated business communication campus resource, a prominent Michigan alumnus’ family estate gifted $250,000 to establish the John H. and Patricia W. Mitchell Business Communication Lab. This gift was then matched with $250,000 from other gift funds in the College of Business to create a $500,000 endowment to support the lab.
The gift honors the legacy of Columbia Pictures Television Founder John H. Mitchell (A.B. ’39) and his wife Patricia Mitchell. John Mitchell was an entertainment industry executive who served as president of Columbia Pictures television division from 1968 to 1977. Under his leadership, he produced shows that include The Flintstones and Bewitched. He also served three terms as president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
“The Patricia W. Mitchell Trust supports the College of Business’ vision of evolving our business writing curriculum into a comprehensive business communication lab,” said Raju Balakrishnan, dean of the College of Business. “Business communication plays a vital role in who succeeds. Our students will benefit because of John H. and Patricia W. Mitchell’s generosity — both now with this enhanced educational experience and into the future.”
Fischer, who is the director of the John H. and Patricia W. Mitchell Business Communication Lab, previously worked at U-M’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, meticulously researched and developed lab plans for nearly two years. She surveyed campus faculty and students, and looked at prominent business schools — like Ross, University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and others — to see what they offered when it came to business communication development. She then tailored offerings to meet Dearborn Wolverine needs.
Student services include providing feedback on written assignments, evaluating slide presentations, giving presentation rehearsal assistance, and more. Faculty resources in development include a business communications writing module and a communications best practices presentation that they can share with students.
She said the communication lab was a priority because research shows there is a widespread disconnect between how students view their written and oral skills versus how employers view those skills. For example, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, nearly 80% of students believed they were competent in oral and written communication, while only 42% of employers indicated that students were successful in those areas.
The Mitchell Business Communication Lab offers online and in-person appointments where communication consultants — who are business professionals or high-achieving COB students — work one-on-one with students in 30-minute sessions. In-person appointments take place in Fairlane Center South room 152.
“Memos, emails and reports are different from a research paper. People get a lot of messages each day and we want our students to get their point across clearly in their business deliverables,” Fischer said. “In the business world, clear concise communication saves time and builds goodwill because time is money.”
To learn more about the John H. and Patricia W. Mitchell Business Communication Lab, reach out to Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read More: Mitchell Business Communication Lab supports UM-Dearborn business students