by Linda King, Paul Mueller, and Cindy Pao
On September 28, 2007, leaders from STC, technical communication programs in universities, and industry met at the University of Houston-Downtown for an Academic-Industry Leaders Summit. The goal of the summit was to strengthen the relationship between academic and industry practitioners and discuss critical topics, such as defining the body of knowledge for Technical Communication. The summit brought together members who have shown leadership in fostering a mutually beneficial relationship among STC, technical communication educators, and industry and government practitioners. Ann Jennings, STC Houston member and director of Professional Writing at the University of Houston-Downtown, secured UH-D sponsorship for the event and managed all logistical arrangements. Also representing STC Houston at the summit were Linda King, Paul Mueller, Cindy Pao, and Jeff Staples. STC President Linda Oestreich, STC Executive Director Susan Burton, and several other board members attended the summit to participate in the discussions, answer questions, and gather critical knowledge for the future of STC.
Summit participants were assigned to one of five committees. Their preparation for the summit included researching critical questions, surveying industry and academic practitioners for their ideas, and gathering published information. During the morning session of the summit, each committee briefly presented their findings and recommendations. Then, each committee conducted one or two breakout sessions for further discussion and input from other summit participants.
- The Academic-Industry Connections Committee, chaired by Tommy Barker, explored how STC, academe, and industry can work together to strengthen support for entering professionals. This group also discussed how academic members can help industry and government members involve themselves with academic programs and be assured that they will receive maximum benefits from those programs.
- The Job Skills and Needs Committee, chaired by Alison Reynolds, discussed what hiring managers really want in a technical communicator: short term skills such as tools expertise, long-term assets such as business knowledge and leadership skills, or both. This group also discussed what practitioners wish academics knew, what basic and more advanced competencies hiring managers would like to see in graduates of TC programs and who might teach and train these competencies. Linda King and Jeff Staples are members of this committee.
- The Research and Its Integration into Teaching and the Workplace Committee, chaired by Mike Hughes, investigated what sorts of research questions practitioners would like to have addressed, how academic research can benefit practitioners, what kinds of research questions should be explored in a practitioner context, and what contribution to basic research can be expected of practicing professionals.
- The STC Support for Academe, Faculty, and Students Committee, chaired by Scott Deloach, addressed these questions: How can STC help grow its student and teacher memberships? How can STC best support educational programs and facilitate involvement of industry-practitioner expertise in their design and development? Cindy Pao is a member of this committee.
- The Defining a Body of Knowledge (BOK) Committee, chaired by David Dayton, researched how academic and industry practitioners can collaborate with STC to begin defining a body of knowledge for our field and how other professional associations have approached this process. Paul Mueller is a member of this committee.
All participants agreed that this summit was very productive. The groups and discussions identified relevant issues and generated many ideas for constructive action. The initial result of the summit is a report summarizing the proposed initiatives. The STC academic liaison, Hillary Hart, who chaired the summit, is preparing and submitting the report to the STC board by November 1, 2007. The focus of the report is to propose practical action items and next steps to help integrate academic and industry efforts to expand and shape our industry for the benefit of all current and future technical communicators.