Strategic Communication Academy Celebrates Six Years of Success Helping UF Faculty and Staff Become More Effective Communicators
By Lila Greenberg, B.S. Telecommunication 2022
The Strategic Communications Academy for UF Leaders and Scholars (SCA) on Sept. 7, 2022, celebrated its sixth anniversary by hosting a reunion with previous SCA participants. Alumni from each cohort of the program joined together to celebrate their professional accomplishments and the success of the program. A fifth anniversary celebration was postponed due to COVID.
The seven-month-long program, run by the Center for Public Interest Communications, was launched in 2017 to fulfill core communication skills outlined in the UF Leadership Competency Model. The SCA is a leadership development program that focuses on strategic communications, teaching participants frameworks that they can implement in their work to become more effective communicators. Participants produce a final project at the end of the program that helps them solve specific challenge and apply what they’ve learned.
To date, the program has trained more than 170 UF faculty and staff representing each of the University’s 16 colleges.
The information and proficiencies taught at the SCA are rooted in social, behavioral and cognitive science, teaching participants skills that can increase the impact of their communications. The Center’s Director of Programs and Training Ellen Nodine says the SCA informs participants of “what science tells us about how to communicate.”
Reformatting the SCA online during the pandemic allowed more UF faculty and staff to gain skills from a distance — instructing participants from the Gainesville campus, IFAS extensions, and cities in Florida and across the nation. The SCA now alternates face-to-face and online offerings each year to accommodate those who want to attend in person and those who need to attend remotely.
The program’s participants hail from various university departments. Nodine recognizes the importance of cross-campus and position diversity within participants. “There is value to taking this program no matter where you sit at our university.”
She paraphrased Center Director Ann Searight to encapsulate the importance of the program. “Everybody is a communicator. But they don’t always think they are. No matter where you sit within an organization, you are communicating.”
Associate Chair and Marketing Lead of Health Science Center Libraries Maggie Ansell says her time at SCA helped her think more holistically and thoughtfully about her role in managing the library’s marketing practices. Ansell notes the urgency of fighting against the spread of misinformation, especially regarding health information and the Coronavirus pandemic. “It is more crucial than ever to make sure our message is clear.”
Ansell and her colleagues applied what she learned at the academy to create a full-fledged onboarding document for future marketing team members.
Kevin Coulson, communications manager at the UF College of Education, graduated from the SCA in 2018. He joined the program to improve upon his communication skills and connect with other UF communicators. Coulson applied the competencies he learned in the SCA by teaching others the importance of setting tangible goals rather than raising awareness when trying to create an effective campaign.
“If anything comes across our desk, I’ll encourage our staff to consider how it rolls up into the key objectives or goals that we are trying to accomplish for the college.”
He urges his colleagues to consider, “What value does [our work] add to society, beyond the value it provides to the college.”
Aside from the frameworks taught in the program, the SCA offers opportunities for participants to collaborate and network. Participants are highly encouraged to connect and collaborate because sometimes issues transcend a single topic of study.
“The networking aspect of the program itself is huge — it’s wildly beneficial,” Coulson says.
As the SCA kicks off its seventh year, participants are hopeful that the program will help them fine-tune their skills and learn how to communicate more effectively.
Moxy Moczygemba, social media and communications specialist at the UF College of Education, enrolled in the 2022 SCA to help departments in the college achieve their mission. Moczygemba hopes to learn how to navigate communicating in today’s age, where we have access to seemingly infinite amounts of information.
She said, “I enrolled in SCA to learn how to better cut through the noise and understand what is going to be the most effective way to reach people.”
As for where the program will go next, there are plans for a future special topics program. Beginning October 2022, the SCA will offer a course specializing in communicating about artificial intelligence (AI). The UF AI Center and Office of Research will sponsor a cohort of AI faculty to attend the program.