When asked to find a subject to interview there was no question in my mind who I would choose. Denise Hutchins is a respected and engaging teacher and from the second I met her it was obvious that her intellect and experience went far beyond just her immediate academic field. Professor Hutchins took her undergraduate degree in Communications from Bridgewater State University and stretched her education to Emerson College in Boston where she received a Master’s Degree in Public Relations & Management Communications.
After twenty years in working corporate jobs around communications, management, and public relations, she began teaching and sharing her knowledge with students. Professor Hutchins is currently my Organizational Communications teacher where she reminds us of the behind the scenes skills companies assume you will have that most people miss out on learning. These are learning how to write the memos, the professional emails, resumes, and cover letters, or speaking fluently and to the point while keeping eye contact and engaging the listener. These skills are generally overlooked by students because we assume that logistics are common sense… that is until we are asked to give a public speech and realize we have been focused on what we are saying instead of how we are saying it.
It is these small details that Professor Hutchins teaches us that really are the core of professionalism. In the first day of class she told us that no matter what discipline you are studying or what field you end up in, you will always be writing and speaking. Professor Hutchins demonstrates this in all the different careers she has held, whether it was marketing positions, creating lengthy proposals, or working in scientific fields such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association or an energy efficiency company. She never thought she would go into science, but she points out that it is all about the willingness to learn. Since her education crosses over into so many fields she was able to explore different settings.
We discussed this idea of give and take in the work environment. Specifically, while working for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Professor Hutchins participated in an exchange of professional knowledge. She brought her logistical skills to the table though she was not a scientist, and where the scientists had technical skills, they were not proficient in communicating their ideas. By working together, their skills complemented each other and they all had the opportunity to learn about another discipline.
The cross disciplinary style is being adopted at Plymouth State with the new cluster programs to prepare students for this give and take system in the professional world. This allows multiple majors to come together to create a project with a dynamic team. The Happiness Quest was a cluster project, designed my Maria Sanders in the philosophy department that Professor Hutchins had her classes set out to publicize for the community. The project brings together students from communications, business, philosophy, social work, and data analytics, and she designed a research question for them to test through an experiment. The cluster project’s goal was to encourage meaningful living by providing knowledge, products, and reflective experiences designed to inspire happy and flourishing lives for individuals, communities, businesses, and schools.
Through these projects students can learn about how other majors work and broaden their skill sets to include other disciplines that will further their education. This gives students in social work and philosophy a look into the business world and business and communication majors a look into the community. Just like how Professor Hutchins found her medium of give and take in the workplace, she teaches students to do the same.
The last bit of advice that Professor Hutchins left me with was a quote by Lily Tomlin. She said, “The road to success is always under construction,” meaning that there is always something blocking your path but you have to find a way around it. Building out from you major is important because there are arts that will help us over the ‘construction’ no matter the field we choose to find success in. Professor Hutchins suggested that taking classes about scientific inquiry, informational technology, and business fundamentals would all be helpful courses because of their interdisciplinary qualities. Developing comprehensive expertise will prepare us for the ever changing career paths in the future. Since everyday new jobs are being created, we can use these interdisciplinary experiences to prepare to tackle everything that comes our way.