CSU Communication Chair Helps Win National Education Competition

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Department of Communication chair, Danna Gibson, was part of a team that won recognition at a recent national conference for finishing first in a competition involving professors from 49 colleges and universities.

Gibson’s four-professor team was recognized Oct. 17 at the 2013 Educause conference in Anaheim, Calif., for developing U.Belong, a program that matches college seniors with corporate mentors who help better prepare students to enter the workforce.

The U.Belong program, Gibson said, targeted core areas of concern that CSU’s Department of Communication focuses on with its students: oral and written communication skills, conflict resolution, teamwork and leadership.

“Fifty-two percent of employers say college graduates lack these skills, and U.Belong’s focus would be to help students obtain these in a unique way that involves universities, corporate partners and students,” Gibson said. “The U.Belong model flips the traditional model of worker training programs and student university community experiences.”

A CSU communication student and three recent graduates joined forces with the department’s Nonprofit and Civic Engagement Center, better known as the NPACE Center, to assist Gibson’s team by producing a promotional video for U.Belong. Current student Courtney Mason collaborated with alumna Hayley Henderson on a script for the video that featured Henderson and another communication alumna, Kat Cannella, who’s also a part-time communication instructor. Dan Quigley, a communication alumnus who’s now on the NPACE staff, provided videography and editing expertise.

Gibson, who joined CSU in 2001, said the competition’s expert judges noted they were impressed by the creative contributions of the CSU student and graduates.

The Educause conference announcement of a winner among 12 competing teams was the final step in a process that began last April with preliminary meetings, followed by a Breakthrough Models Academy in July at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Accessibility, affordability and effectiveness were goals of the instructional models that used innovation and technology to improve college readiness and completion. A selection committee chose academy participants from across the nation based on applicants’ management and leadership experience, roles at their respective institutions, commitment to academic transformation and innovation, and other criteria.

Gibson said she hopes to further develop and possibly implement the U.Belong model at Columbus State. 

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Photo: Dr. Danna Gibson, professor and chair, CSU Department of Communication