Janesville84.1°

UW-Rock reaches out to GM

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 13, 2008
— Pat Thom grew up in a GM family. Mom, dad and uncles worked on the line at the Janesville General Motors Plant.

But Thom went to college in 1968, starting at UW-Rock County in Janesville, and today she teaches at UW-Rock.


She never worked at the plant, until now.


Thom will teach a class at the plant in September as part of UW-Rock’s outreach to GM workers affected by layoffs and the news that the plant is likely to close for good by the end of 2010.


“I was pretty devastated by the news, just like everybody else,” Thom said. “I’m a homegrown Janesville person. …


“I feel strongly that I want to help GM workers. I feel kind of like I’m one of them.”


The course, Communication Arts 101: Interpersonal Communication, has been planned for more than a year. The idea was, and still is, to give GM workers a first taste of higher education.


“Probably, it’s needed more now than ever,” Thom said.


Classes will meet on Thursday evenings at the plant starting Sept. 4.


The course was selected as one that would not be threatening to older students who may not have taken a college class before.


And Thom was chosen not only because of her GM connection but because she’s had extensive experience with older students.


Indeed, UW-Rock is known throughout the UW System as a college with a high percentage of older students.


“I believe if they’re willing to try and do the work that I can get them through the course,” Thom said.


Thom noted that interpersonal communications is something everyone does all the time, but they rarely stop to think about what it is, how it works and how it might be improved.


The course will cover verbal and nonverbal communications, listening skills, interview skills, how to give and receive criticism, how to manage conflict and how to resolve it.


Small-group communications also will be taught because so many businesses work in small groups, Thom said.


The hope is that workers would gain confidence from this class and would be encouraged to take more, Thom said.


And that’s not really anything new. Lots of GM workers have started their college degrees at UW-Rock over the years, Thom said.


UW-Rock plans to offer more courses at the plant in the second semester. Thom said she’ll be teaching a slightly scarier course, public speaking.



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