Communicate outside of discipline

In this day and age, it is almost impossible to get a job where you will be working exclusively with people of the same major as you. Companies employ teams of people with widely varied skill sets and these people must be able to communicate with each other. I assume this is the reason for requiring students to take a certain number of communication intensive courses (the motivation could be something else, of course, but I find that unlikely).

However, it seems to me that the way communication-intensive courses are currently structured may not be the best way to do it. I have noticed that all communication-intensive courses that have a TA have a TA that is of that major. However, if the goal of these courses is to learn to communicate with people in different fields, this seems a little bit misdirected. Such TAs are already familiar with the field and will be able to decipher unclear work. On the other hand, an excellent test of a students ability to communicate would be to require them to write a complex idea from their major in language that anyone (like a TA in another major) could understand.

I also think that many School of Science and School of Engineering students could benefit from taking a communication-intensive course in another School of Science or School of Engineering major outside of their own.

I had some first hand experience last summer in exactly this matter when working with an ultrasound research group in a biomedical engineering lab. I was there to design mathematical algorithms that could analyze the ultrasound data in a new way. However, when the weekly group meeting rolled around, I was expected to explain what I was working on so that the other members of the group could understand. I must say, it was a very interesting experience. Presenting to people in other scientific fields who have little background in your field requires some simplification of the high level mathematics, while still giving the full depth of qualitative understanding.

But, it is possible to go further than just communication intensive courses. A great way to get experience in this and to understand how people in other fields of science and engineering look at the world is to take courses or do research in other departments.

What’s more, you might discover some combination of your major and another that you enjoy more.

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