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Students Learn About Importance of Information Literacy from Diverse Panel

April 15, 2013

Picture of Information Literacy Panel members standing  
From left: Abby DeShane, Pat Feeney, Dawn
Dupler, Andy Hixson, Lisa DeLorenzo, Jean
Heggie and Laura Grapes

How do you use writing in your business? What is the best way to write a cover letter? Will I ever have to do research if research isn’t specifically part of the field that I’m going into? How important are presentation skills?

These questions recently were addressed at Wildwood during a panel discussion on information literacy.

The event was organized by Abby DeShane, manager of Instructional Resources; Layla Goushey, chair of English, Reading, Interdisciplinary Studies and Foreign Languages; and Tracy Marshall, writing tutor. DeShane also moderated the discussion.
The panel participants came from a broad range of industries, but their message was consistent: you must be able to communicate well in order to succeed.

Jean Heggie of Solae, a division of Dupont, explained that she writes value proposals, informational pieces, power point presentations and emails, but the hardest part is knowing who her audience is and being able to communicate effectively with them. She talked about writing for a global audience, and the pitfalls of using vocabulary and slang words that are culture-specific.

Laura Grapes, scientific communications manager at Monsanto, agreed. She has been tasked with writing a broad range of materials, from a report on the current status of agricultural research for the President of the United States to drafting hundreds of emails to colleagues.

Lisa DeLorenzo, STLCC and University of Missouri-St. Louis faculty member, said that communications skills are a window to intelligence.

“Communicate in a way that lets people know how smart you are,” she said. She also said it was important to be able to go back and forth between writing styles quickly.

The panel provided advice to students about cover letters and resumes. Dawn Dupler, STLCC instructor who has experience in city administration and government, said that the best cover letters convey information concisely. Andy Hixson, administrator for the city of Manchester, advised students to have more than one version of their resume so that it is tailored to the job they are applying for, and also to update it consistently so they have an inventory of their skills and accomplishments.

Pat Feeney, STLCC instructor who has worked as a nurse and in the healthcare and public relations fields, urged students to make sure they do thorough research and verify sources.

“Go to the original source. There have been many times when I have gone back to a source and not been able to verify it,” she said. “Every citation needs to be verified.”

She also said that it was important for students to be able to base their business proposals on business needs, rather than emotional needs.

“If I went to my supervisor and said that we needed more equipment because the nurses were complaining, I wouldn’t get it," she added. "But if I said that it was the industry standard to have a certain number, and we weren’t meeting that standard, I’m more likely to be successful in getting what we need.”

All of the presenters also agreed that presentation skills are essential.

“Practice, practice, practice,” urged Feeney. “Stand up in front of a mirror and read what you are going to say out loud so you know it makes sense.”

Heggie suggested that students learn how to “speak in 3’s” – grouping concepts into three areas so that their audience can follow along and remember easily.  Hixson added that non-verbal clues were just as important.

“I can relax an audience just by the way I’m sitting in a meeting,” he said.

The event was an opportunity for students to hear that the skills they are learning in the classroom will be relevant to them for a lifetime. After the discussion, Grapes said that excellent communication skills are really “a tipping point for success. Without solid communication skills, even the smartest person can’t be successful,” she said.