From Caterpillar to Butterfly
Sr. Lecturer Sue Vargo is most satisfied when she sees initially timid students emerge as confident communicators. “The transformation is amazing,” she says. “In this kind of class, we get to know our students very well because they are very vulnerable; we get close and become like a family."
Sr. Lecturer Sue Vargo talks with students following the Target Case Competition.
Learning to be a good communicator not only serves one well in business, but in just about every career pursuit—and in life. Senior Lecturer and Director of Business Communication, Sue Vargo, knows this well and loves the impact she and her team of faculty experts have on their students’ personal and professional lives.
In 1999 Vargo, an experienced teacher, helped the Kelley School establish its Business Communication specialty area and grow its faculty from 10 to more than 20. Their credentials range from PhDs in communication, management, and theatre to MAs in organizational communication, linguistics, business education, English, and journalism to JDs and MBAs. Their diverse backgrounds are channeled into a single focus: to help Kelley students become the best speakers, writers, and team members they can be.
Vargo is most satisfied when she sees initially timid students emerge as confident communicators. “The transformation is amazing,” she says. “In this kind of class, we get to know our students very well because they are very vulnerable; we get close and become like a family.”
Alumnus Joon-Woo Song, BS’08 can attest to his own transformation taking C104 Business Presentations. Like many students, public speaking was one of his greatest fears – but he had the added challenge of speaking in a non-native language. “C104 changed my whole college career,” Song says. His success inspired him to join what he calls “the best club ever,” Kelley’s Toastmasters International speech club. “Having the opportunity to speak in front of a crowd every week gave me a lot of confidence, which really helped me succeed in interviews.”
“I’m continually amazed at how well students perform when expectations are high, and I am always proud to watch as students become more confident throughout the course of the semester,” says Vargo, who fell in love with teaching from the start. She adds, “I believe that our courses give the students a competitive edge.” Kelley students are required to take business communication courses to help them develop individual skills and learn how to work well in teams.
Guiding students as they find their “authentic voice” is the most gratifying part of the job for Senior Lecturer, Brenda Bailey-Hughes. She worked as a consultant for 20 years, which overlapped with 10 years in human resources. “I love to see a student who has struggled to find her authentic voice finally just nail a presentation by being herself.” She adds, “You may be an absolute genius with the most amazing ideas ever—but if you can’t communicate those ideas to others, the ideas die with you.”
The Foundation for Good Business
And Business Communication is an integral part of the Kelley curriculum students and alumni appreciate, regardless of their discipline. “You have to communicate every day, whether it’s building relationships with co-workers or conveying an action item to a client,” says alumnus Rex Czuba, BS’06. “Communication is the most fundamental skill in business.”
Czuba, an associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, consults with clients on technology-related projects, such as a multinational bank’s efforts to prevent money laundering. “I’m constantly employing the communication skills I learned at IU to create value for our clients,” he says. His responsibilities range from helping a client’s staff resolve technical issues to presenting recommendations to clients. “Because of the training I received at IU, I’m able to stay calm and collected in what could be very intimidating situations.”
Collectively, the Business Communication faculty has been awarded numerous teaching and teaching innovation awards. And they are committed to offering challenging courses to build skill and, in turn, build confidence.
Alumnus Mason Hughes, BS’02 explains, “My professor was a tough cookie. You couldn’t wing anything in her class. If you didn’t prepare for an assignment, she didn’t give you a good grade because she thought you were a neat person. She challenged me to prepare better for meetings and presentations.”
A Regional Director for Wells Fargo Bank, Hughes adds, “My entire career is figuring out how to communicate best with my client. I have to adjust my style to meet my clients’ needs.” And his Business Communication courses provided a foundation that has enabled him to do just that.