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Kylan Rutherford, Matthew J. Baker, Mary Zink, and Janis Forman

Photo by Erwan Hesry

Four of the Association for Business Communication award winners in 2018 came from the western United States. We congratulate them on receiving these ABC awards and are pleased to share with our reader a gloss on each of them.

Kylan Rutherford: Outstanding Student Writer Award

Kylan is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University and one of the founding editors for the Marriott Student Review, a publication of the Marriott School of Business. The case that earned this award put Kylan in the shoes of a manager at a technology company which was dealing with a difficult computer programmer. Kuylan chose to respond to the situation with an email explaining to the employee the expectations they had set forth together and the associated consequences. Kylan’s main takeaway from this case was that simple, business communications like emails and memos really do have the power to permanently impact relationships and outcomes.

Kylan is presently pursuing a Phd in Political Science and plans to research British principles of constitutional design in their former colonies. Speaking of this next academic endeavor, Kylan tells us that “A lot of my time has been spent reading firsthand correspondence between political leaders between 1930-1970. If you will, it’s an investigation on how ‘business communication’ has influenced some of the most critical developments in post-colonial governance.” We wish Kylan all the best for this doctoral project.

Matthew John Baker: Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award

Matt has a PhD in Rhetoric and Professional Communication from Iowa State University. The dissertation project that earned him this award focused on how knowledge workers can write questions online so they can get answers they need to do their work. Matt analyzed both answered and unanswered how-to questions posted on a social question and answer site called Super User ( He found that the answered questions were simpler, provided shorter examples, and expressed less gratitude and politeness–making them clearer.

Matt is presently an Assistant Professor of Editing and Publishing at Brigham Young University. He is currently working on two projects related to feedback. With the first project, Matt hopes to help business communication instructors more effectively use real-time peer feedback on oral presentations. With the second, he wants to help instructors facilitate more effective in-class peer editing.

Baker, M. J. (2017). “Contextual information, answerability, and the logical construction of social how-to questions”, Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 15485.

Mary Zink: 2018 Student Travel Grant for the ABC Conference

Mary is studying for a Doctoral degree in Business Administration from CalSouthern University and is also an adjunct professor at a small liberal college. She co-presented a paper, “Teaching Writing to International Students in the First Year” with her student, Tobias Schomerus at the 2018 ABC Conference.

Mary reports that international students as English language learners face particular challenges in their writing, including adjusting to the classroom atmosphere in American schools. Most international students have high academic achievement in their home countries, so the failures they sometimes experience in their writing can be traumatic. Mary’s quantitative research discovered that there is only a very weak correlation between the grades that international students earn in their first semester writing class in the USA and the TOEFL or IELTS tests they take to demonstrate their English proficiency.

Her study showed that by the second semester of study, there is no correlation between their test scores and English proficiency which she speculates is due to the large English language gains they achieve due to their first few months of living in an English speaking culture. The study also revealed that international students wanted more, authoritative feedback on their writing. Rather than the generalized feedback that American students are accustomed to, international students want to know exactly what is wrong with their writing, why it is wrong, and how it can be fixed.

Mary has also completed an ethnography about Starbucks. She plans to begin work on her doctoral dissertation later this fall. We send our best wishes to her for this next major undertaking.

Zink, M. Belonging at Starbucks: An ethnography. DOI 10.13140/RG.2.2.13964.9792.

Janis Forman: 2018 Outstanding Teacher-Scholar Award in Memory of Meada Gibbs

Janis is the founder and director of the Management Communication Program at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. She has taught strategy and communication to MBA students for their capstone project which usually consists of a strategic study for an outside organization. Currently, Janis’ programmatic responsibilities also includes faculty development and adaptation of the communication curriculum for online instruction. The book that earned her this award is Storytelling in business: The authentic and fluent organization. Janis’ teaching philosophy—study, listen, and interact more than profess—emerged from an understanding of the pedagogical challenges of teaching Millennials and her pedagogical goals of teaching data-based persuasion to the future organizational leaders.

Janis’ next scholarly work focuses on the development of a collection of essays called Teacher-Scholar Journeys: Essays on Business Communication and the Professional Lives of the Discipline’s Leaders. Through a set of personal essays, Janis wants to share and preserve reflections on the discipline from many of the award-winners of the ABC Researcher of the Year and Meada A. Gibbs Teacher-Scholar awards. Since this collection will represent experienced writers and scholar-teachers, Janis intends to give them great latitude in determining the relative emphasis they place on a particular theme in their academic lives.

Forman, J. (2013). Storytelling in business: The authentic and fluent organization. (. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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