November 16, 2020

Hinds CC speech instructor uses old-school methods to train students for brave new world

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BY: Danny Barrett Jr.

Photography: BRAD SMITH

VICKSBURG – Karen Gamble hasn’t lost sight of what has produced results for her students and for the workforce for generations.

“I teach communication classes – public speaking, interpersonal communication and business communication,” Gamble said. “In all three cases, students are afraid to communicate. I grade like college, because that’s what it is here. Communication is a scary, scary challenge for these students, particularly in this day and age when they’re all about their technology – their computers, their cellphones, their videos. Then, they have to stand up and present something face-to-face that’s on a piece of paper. They have trouble with that.

“They’re not any less smart than students 20 years ago, but their skillset is different. But, in my class, they have to participate in class and give examples of concepts we’re studying. When they finally do it and get a decent grade, there’s nothing like it for me when that light turns on for them. Their reaction is a bit like, ‘Mama, look what I was able to do!’”

Gamble was managing editor of The Vicksburg Post for 23 years and an adjunct instructor on the Vicksburg-Warren Campus until 2013, when she began teaching at Hinds full time.

The kinds of examples she uses to direct class discussion are pulled not just from her own experiences, but from the workforce as a whole.

“In my business communication class, we talked about integrity and what it is,” she said. “The point we came to is that integrity is typified by the person who puts the grocery buggy back in the stall at the store. Nobody will come after you if you don’t put your buggy back. But integrity is the person who puts it back knowing full well it could hurt someone or get in somebody’s way if they don’t. And the reason they’re putting it back is because it’s the right thing to do.

“One of my students came back to me a week or two after we had that discussion. ‘Miss Gamble, Miss, Gamble,’” she said. ‘I got offered a job where I just interviewed!’ The student told me she was asked straight-up, ‘What’s the best characteristics you can bring to the table if we hire you?’ She told me she said, ‘I have integrity and I can embrace the challenge.’”

Confident self-presentation is paramount to landing any job opportunity, Gamble said.

“Business people and professional people of all walks of life want professional candidates for their jobs,” she said. “They want people who can communicate. One of the top requirements before someone is hired is that they’re able to communicate. Communication covers writing, speaking, presenting oneself, everything. Our students know this is their community. It’s also my community, so I try to help them do the best they can in our community.”

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