How students learn to communicate at Saint Paul

I'm in Speech 1720 - Interpersonal Communication, which is being taught today by Carol Paulnock.

The class is not just for those in the humanities or students who want to go on to a four-year university. It's a required course for many of the college's programs, said Daniel Paulnock, chair of the department (and husband of Carol.) S

So it sounds like one of the many liberal-arts injections that tech and vocational students receive. It was the strong melding of the two that helped it win the position of best community college in America by Washington Monthly magazine, whose feature story called the college "Shakespeare with Power Tools."

(Saint Paul College went from being a purely technical college to a "comprehensive" community college in 2002, and its new president said he's trying to beef up the liberal arts offerings even more.)

Today, the topic of the class discussion is gender stereotypes, and nursing student Linda Moore (above) is telling the class how an ad for the drug Cymbalta wrongly suggests that women are the main sufferers of depression.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

The class seems fairly engaged, and the instructor trades humorous examples to get her point across about how preconceived notions, stereotypes and other cultural baggage are obstacles to healthy communication at home -- and on the job.

Various students talk about ads showing women as the lead figures in ads for dish- and laundry detergents and baking products, as well as men in ads that show him as the main breadwinner. Paulnock discusses what the stereotypes are, and whether they are positive or negative in their depiction.

Moore said later she finds the class helpful. As a 50-year-old nursing assistant and distributor of medication to nursing home patients, she said, "I'm communicating all the time."

(And she's having to handle some generational differences with her classmates. Hey, Linda: I know how it feels.)

Seems like a smart course to have in this day and age, and Daniel Paulnock said it's pretty hard to get out of most colleges without a class like this. Although I knew speech majors back in college in the 1980s, I don't remember it being a required course. And in this class, job-interview skills are apparently a component -- something my classmates and I didn't learn until we hit the career center toward the end of college.