Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

SDSU School of Communication Trains USMC Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group

SDSU School of Communication Trains USMC Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group

August 5, 2019

“How do Communication professors train Marines for ground combat?” That was the challenge posed to School of Communication professors by alumna Dr. Alana Nicastro.

The answer came in the form of a pilot workshop for the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group (MCTOG) titled “Unpacking the Black Box: Hidden Opportunities for Improving Relational and Organizational Communication.” The 2-1/2 day workshop focused on using communication theories and principles to address real-life challenges faced by the 9 Marine participants.

The workshop was formed to address the growing recognition that it is time to expand current military ways of thinking by associating with those who can provide warfighters and their civilian associates with the intellectual edge needed to accomplish the calling of our nation. The vision is to merge the intellectual capital of the School of Communication and MCTOG to create world-class innovation, positive social support and change, and transformational relationships. Nicastro noted, “Making connections between theory and real-world problems sets apart those with high-capacity to effect change from those who reproduce old solutions to intractable problems. The key to capacity building is to relate other concepts, knowledge, and experience to further enhance one’s own expertise.”

The workshop was a pilot effort to test how academic experts in organizational communication could work with front-line Marines to make positive workplace impacts within their units. The 2-1/2 day workshop included 5 modules led by Dr. Heather Canary, Dr. Kurt Lindemann, and Dr. Tiffany Dykstra-DeVette. Drs. Brian Spitzberg and Kathleen Czech, also from the School of Communication, gave cameo presentations highlighting their expertise. A friend of the School, Dr. Mark Brouker, also joined as a guest speaker for part of the workshop. For the final module, each Marine presented how they would use principles from the workshop to implement an improvement at their base. Participants left the workshop committed to being “Communication Insurgents” inside their organization.

Some comments from officers after the workshop include:

“The instructors were truly master instructors … .Their insightful discussions and constant reference back to MCTOG’s situation was immensely useful.”

“The mental exercises were fantastic. Most importantly, the modeling of effective behavior is truly life changing.”

“This gives words to how I want to make changes within my section, and how to make MCTOG a top-rated institution.”

The School of Communication and MCTOG are currently discussing additional workshops and assessing the value of future opportunities.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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