When Andrew Neff wrote that “Husson University students attending Monday night’s [Feb. 13] regular Bangor City Council meeting got more of an education than they expected,” he was right on the mark.
The students are enrolled in my professional communications course at Husson, and their assignment was to attend a formal meeting with all the components that involves — call to order, discussions, voting, adjournment, etc. They were to take notes and then write their own minutes.
It was supposed to give the students experience digesting a large amount of new material and summarizing it so that only the critical points remain — in other words, comprehension and writing skills, all of which are crucial in all professions.
This assignment was part of the experiential learning experiences every instructor at Husson attempts to provide, an opportunity to see how the real world operates. Now when students attend a meeting on the job, they will know what to expect. It is one more arrow in their professional quiver.
The students were encouraged to attend a Bangor City Council meeting or government meeting in their hometowns to also provide a look at how local government runs and who is doing the running. It was extremely gratifying that so many students chose to attend the Bangor City Council meeting.
Yes, the meeting was long. The students made sure to tell me that the next day. They also told me that they enjoyed the meeting, that they learned something and that it was interesting to watch the interpersonal communication dynamics of the council. Mayor Weston need not worry that at times the meeting seemed almost jovial. The students learn that a light touch is frequently the best way to communicate and get the job done.
The students in professional communications hone their professional social skills as well as their writing, speaking, leadership, presentation, and comprehension skills. They learn the fine art of correct hand-shaking, dining etiquette and the art of professional conversation. The students are business management, accounting, marketing, sports management, hospitality, tourism, criminal justice, education, liberal arts, prepharmacy, physical therapy and occupational therapy majors. All are eager to enter the workplace armed with professional skills that will allow them to assume leadership roles.
Several weeks ago, two business giants in the community, Dan Tremble and Bill Miller, wrote on this page about the importance of early childhood education. They expressed doubt that young people are entering the workplace professionally prepared. In order to do that completely and well, students need the assistance of business leaders.
Students need jobs not only as waiters and shelf-stockers and gas attendants. They need to spend time with business executives and owners. They need to see and hear and watch how someone runs a business, speaks to employees and clients and vendors. They need to see how inventory is handled and how new systems are created. They need to hear how problems are addressed and resolved in their organizations.
Students need mentoring. I challenge community leaders in all professions — for-profit and nonprofit — in Bangor and beyond to get involved: visit my classes and speak to the students, hire an intern, challenge them to create a project and reward them for a job well done.
I did not attend the council meeting. My students did not need me. At Husson, they are given the tools they need to become independent students who can transfer those skills to the workplace and become independent workers. Professional workers.
I did, however, watch the meeting on television and was delighted that my students filled the first rows rather than hide in the back of the chamber, paid attention to the entire meeting, did not text, tweet or use cellphones. They were professionals.
Many thanks to the council members for acknowledging the students, welcoming them, speaking directly to them and explaining what was going on. My thanks, too, to Police Chief Ron Gastia, who, I am delighted to say, is a former student of mine, for explaining the citizen award program. It is an inspiring concept, and the students were impressed with it.
Later in the semester, Husson will host for its students a professional program with a speaker on etiquette dining and a reception with professionals from the community. The students will have an opportunity to dress in their best professional attire and meet the people who run local businesses and organizations.
The council members and Chief Gastia will receive an invitation. It will provide an opportunity for Dan Tremble and Bill Miller and everyone else who needs professional workers to see that Husson has students with the skills to become those workers.
By getting involved, you will get more of an education than you expect.
Sharon J. Kobritz, who worked for many years in the corporate world in Boston, teaches English and communications courses at Husson University.