I was brought into the Rice MBA program in 2006 as part of the MBA Communications faculty. Together with four peers, I helped take what was once standard twice-a-year classroom courses and engineer a new experience that made communication the founding principle of the entire first-year curriculum. Since businesses then and now rank communications skills among the most needed for success, this redesign helped improve Rice’s program ranking as well as placement scores.

Key to our new approach was a set of strategic workshops designed around communications principles that culminated in a full-day event in which teams had to deal with a simulated business crisis and develop a communications plan to deal with the aftermath. Students ranked this experience as one of the best of their entire first year, and it became a staple of the curriculum.

At the same time, the program made its first foray into blended learning using an open-source LMS. I conducted a needs analysis that involved both faculty and students, then designed an approach that would keep students engaged, but not overwhelm them with additional requirements. I can provide samples of the techniques we used on request.

Finally, I helped the diversity and inclusion program at Rice add communications and learning skills into their three-day introduction for international students. Since most of these students came from very different educational backgrounds, they often did not understand what was expected of them in a U.S.-based classroom or in their day-to-day coursework. We helped them understand how to interact in dialogue-based courses like ours and helped them understand both how to prepare for and create interactions with their classmates.

Our work is still part of the full-time MBA program curriculum.

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