Portrait of a Graduate: Communication Proficiency

April 30, 2024 | Carol Blosser

Communication Proficiency SQUARE

The next component in our series about our portrait of a graduate is communication proficiency.

What is communication proficiency?

Being a proficient communicator doesn’t just mean writing or speaking words that others can understand. It means listening, engaging, and conveying complex ideas in language that our audience can understand and connect with.

Many projects at Waterloo culminate in a final oral presentation or defense of students’ learnings and new ideas.

Many projects at Waterloo culminate in a final oral presentation or defense of students’ learnings and new ideas.

Practicing and mastering communication skills

Last year, in 2023, Waterloo juniors and seniors had the courage to try this tricky balancing act and one of their first college-level courses.

In our dual-enrollment RHE 306 (Introduction to Rhetoric) with the University of Texas, students learned ancient rhetorical forms and practices in order to understand and address modern-day controversies connected to the use of AI.

They honed their research skills in the University of Texas libraries and their rhetorical skills in the classroom (and on each other). The course culminated in individual persuasive essays, in which they took a position on the controversy they had mapped and studied.

Through all this, students learned firsthand the rigor that’s required to get to the heart of an issue that’s alive in our community. Harder still, they ultimately had to convince their audience to make a change for the better.

Communication isn’t just about making up our own minds; it’s about appealing to others’ hearts and minds — skillfully and eloquently.

The lasting impact of communications

Once we write something, it goes out into the world as a living document. People we have never met can engage with us and our ideas through our words.

As children of a digital age, our students know better than the rest of us older folks that words thrown around casually and carelessly can hurt.

But they have also learned that language can heal and enable the restoration of past wrongs.

This is the gift of language. It can create beautiful things and make the world a better place. This is our most difficult and most crucial task.

Today, in our digital world, we have so much information at our fingertips. Words can seem cheap and easy, but language is an incredibly valuable gift that our Creator God gave us so that we might glorify Him and care for each other.

Rhetoric and communication are not about arguing well; they are about understanding each other better, speaking, and speaking the truth.

Be brave in your written and spoken language. Do it kindly, carefully, and with precision.

Words matter now more than ever.

Carol Blosser

Carol Blosser

Carol is a co-founder of Waterloo School and teaches humanities and directs the school’s college advising program. Before helping to found Waterloo, Carol taught literature, history, and journalism at Regents School of Austin for thirteen years, serving as Humanities Department head for five of those years and as a faculty dean for another four years. Carol has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin, where she taught rhetoric, literature, and directed tutor training at the Undergraduate Writing Center for two years. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where she worked in archeology and historic preservation and was active in the Canterbury Fellowship at the historic Bruton Parish Church. Since moving to Austin in 1998 to pursue graduate studies, she has been a member of St. David’s Episcopal Church, where she now attends with her family and volunteers with children’s and youth ministry and sings on Sundays.