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College communications classes prepare students for careers in business, advertising, broadcasting, education and public service. Many introductory-level communications courses center around public speaking, casually referred to as speech. Because some students purse careers in advertising, business, marketing and politics, mass communication is an important topic in college communications departments.
An important part of communication is instructing and educating listeners about factual information.
Incoming freshmen in certain programs are essentially offered, free of charge, a life coach to help them through their first year as a college student. The program is provided through a grant from the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program. The college programs for which the PAVES resources are offered at Wallace State include several advanced manufacturing and allied health programs, plus two transportation programs and one public safety program.
The Diesel Mechanics and Commercial Driver’s License programs fall under the Transportation program and Criminal Justice under the Public Safety program.
Students fill out an application to participate, and all have the option to discontinue the program. In its first term with coaching, Wallace State reported an increase in retention rates of its first-year students, with a 5.8 percent bump in the number of students returning in those programs. The goal of the one-on-one “life coaching” or “success coaching” as the college calls it, is to help students balance the demands of college, work and family life. The coaches assigned to the students do not act as advisors to help them determine which classes they should take, but as motivators, resources and sounding boards to help them proactively work on any issues they wish to — or need to — address, be they related to school, career, or personal aspects of the their lives. In most cases, the coaches interact with the students by phone during conversations that last about 30 minutes.
During a coaching session, coaches tailor their communication to each student and adjust for the situation from which each student approaches the conversation to learn how the student is doing in regard to everything from financing their education to aspects of their personal life that may be impacting their education. Motivating the students to take action where it’s needed would be the next role of the coach, helping them frame questions for support personnel, urging them to register for a class, and brainstorming steps they may need to take to secure financing. Benefits of coaching compared to students who weren’t coached can be seen in comparing retention rates in a particular program. Suzanne Harbin, WSCC Director of Advancement, said 100 percent of the coached students in the Licensed Practical Nurse program continued their education in the program, while those who opted out of coaching did not all continue. There were some students, Harbin added, who — though they weren’t retained in the program they started — did remain enrolled in college, entering a new program of study. Nursing student Stephanie Casey is one of the students who opted to participate in the PAVES program, and appreciates the support and guidance she received from her coach.
She went on to marry and have children of her own before deciding to enroll in college again, quitting a well-paying management job to try to attain her dream of becoming a nurse.

Coaching, she said, allowed her to be able to discuss her strengths and weaknesses and learn how to use the former to her advantage and how to improve on the latter.
Casey said she tries to be optimistic when talking with her coach, but when she’s a little down her coach can tell and asks her what may be causing her uncharacteristic pessimism. Having such a close relationship with a student is one of the main goals for coaches, said King. Executives, King said, pay thousands of dollars for the type of one-on-one coaching offered through the PAVES program, which can not only help a student meet goals related to their education, but can also help in their career. Casey said she would strongly recommend the PAVES program to other students, and encourages them to talk to their coach at least every other week.
The grant for the PAVES program will conclude in about two years, but the long-term goal is for Wallace State to create a self-sustaining coaching center on campus and offer the service to incoming freshmen for many years to come. Nursing Class – Shekitha Sanders, right, of Bessemer listens during a lecture on insulin in Millie Carroll’s nursing class at Wallace State Community College.
Nursing Student – Wallace State nursing instructor Mille Carroll leads a discussion about insulin during a morning class at the college. This class will focus on creating a strategic marketing plan and budget, as well as understanding the role of public relations, social media, and traditional advertising plays in providing key exposure for small businesses.
Topics range from specific ways to develop interpersonal skills to more general concepts, such as marketing and politics.
Students learn to compose well-constructed, thought-provoking content and present their material to classmates and instructors. Introductory and advanced communications courses stress the value of different forms of media, such as digital media, photography, printed text, audio and picture graphics. For example, third-level communications courses at Boston College cover subjects such as social and economic factors related to advertising, media research, mass marketing, crisis management, mass data analysis, public affairs and employee relations. However, persuading others to form opinions and respond to those opinions also is a large part of communication.
The PAVES (Partnership for Accelerated Learning through Visualization, Engagement, and Simulation) coaching program is an initiative aimed at keeping students in school, thereby improving their academic and employment outcomes.
Wallace State-Hanceville leads a consortium that includes Central Alabama Community College and Wallace State-Selma sharing the $9.5 million grant. Coaches are also not professional counselors or psychotherapists but do make referrals to appropriate professionals as needed.
The calls can come as often as once a week or every other week, depending on the needs or preferences of the student. From there, they will focus on one or two topics in which the student may need assistance or reinforcing positive elements of the student’s life to build momentum and further best practices. King said she had a student she coached who rarely answered her call for one reason or another.

Their decision to switch was due in part to the coaching process, where the student discovered the program they first entered wasn’t a good fit. The 1998 Fairview High School graduate took one year of college courses right after high school intending to enter a nursing program. She said she liked the idea of having a support system outside of her family that could help guide her and listen to her and give her honest feedback. As coaches talk with students, King said they will notice trends in their conversations in regards to how the college’s programs and services are perceived by students. Nursing students at WSCC are among those eligible to apply to participate in the PAVES program, which provides a full year of success coaching free of charge. As a student, you can expect a wide range of academic material that covers effective and productive communication strategies. Academic instruction focuses on organization, analysis and presentation strategies to help students learn and practice public speaking. For example, the University of Wisconsin offers a digital production communications course for freshman that teaches students how to use cutting-edge technologies to develop and present creative ideas. Many of these topics are influenced by pop culture, current events, historical trends, generational values, socioeconomics and the current political climate.
For example, one of Boston College's senior-level communications courses focuses on ways to use persuasion to influence public attitudes.
Freshmen students can feel like they’ve entered a deep, dark forest with no one around to guide them. But she later heard from that student who told her that even though he didn’t answer the call, seeing her number motivated him to study. Professors often encourage students to evaluate each others' speeches to encourage classroom interaction. Students learn how to make an impact with multimedia resources and analyze various forms of communication so they become well-informed media consumers. Mass communication is an effective tool for reaching large populations with a specific message. The course studies communication strategies that organizations and businesses use to sway public opinion.
Some universities, such as the University of California, Los Angeles, require students to meet entry-level writing requirements before taking communications classes. This topic often requires in-depth research, statistical analysis and case studies to determine what causes, influences and impacts public opinion.

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