Students in the Department of Communication integrated cultural research from five Abilene organizations into their course work in an effort to aid each nonprofit in its development.
The COMS 383 students completed a project assessing, auditing and providing improvement and problem solutions to several organizations in Abilene.
“The course is Communication in Multinational Organizations, and what that field encompasses is how to understand different cultures and people who are moving in and out of those cultures,” said Dr. Carley Dodd, professor of communication. “We’ve learned that the metaphor of culture works not just somewhere overseas, the metaphor also works for corporations, nonprofit organizations, universities and churches – every group is not just a structure, it’s a culture.”
Using that perspective and understanding of cultures, the students conducted statistical and qualitative interviews and presented applied solutions to organizations including the Boys & Girls Club of Abilene, Global Samaritan, The Alliance, Young Life and the Provost’s Office, Dodd said.
“It’s turned out to be a nice volunteer service in the sense that organizations are getting free analysis, even though our students are still learning, and they’re getting directions for the future,” Dodd said. “For the students, they’re learning their craft and blending the academic world with actually getting a portfolio of experience.”
Kaitlin Foster, junior communication major from Hallsville, used the Young Life organization of the greater Abilene area for her group project. She said Dodd gave her group a cultural assessment survey with questions on a Likert scale, a psychometric scale commonly used in research that employs such questionnaires.
“Most of us were pretty familiar with what Young Life is, so that’s what we chose to do,” Foster said. “We asked different things out of that survey that we felt were applicable to the organization, and from there we looked at the organization and came up with ideas to make it better and to improve communication within it.”
The resulting presentations showed the multicultural and organizational needs and potential change management for all five organizations. These results included statistical survey highs and lows for 22 variables associated with organizational culture, realignment of program names with outcomes, and job expectation-clarification solutions, Dodd said.
“I’m proud of the students for finding these organizations,” Dodd said. “I didn’t set it up for them, they had to go find their own group, and they all gravitated toward the nonprofit world, which shows they have a heart for helping people, so I’m just very proud of them for that.”