Communication skills build student leaders

Communication Studies major Jake Wrasse is completing his 2015-2016 term as president of the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate.  He will be succeeded by another communication major–Ashley Sukhu who was recently elected president for the 2016-2017 academic year.  Here they discuss the role of communication knowledge and skills in effective leadership.

Organizational communication student Ashley Sukhu recently was elected as the next Student Senate President at UW-Eau Claire. Sukhu reflects on how her communication skills have allowed her to run such a successful campaign for her presidency, and how they will help her throughout her presidency.

Ashley Sukhu and vice president Colton Ashley recently elected president and vice president of Student Senate Pose for a picture on campus. Photo By: Kendall Ruchti
Ashley Sukhu and vice president Colton Ashley recently elected president and vice president of Student Senate Pose for a picture on campus. Photo By: Kendall Ruchti

How have communication skills been important in the process of running for president this past semester?

While running for president, I utilized a lot of my communication skills. As I interacted with students, I would watch their body language to see how receptive they were to the messages we were sending. When students seemed disengaged, we would change our tactics. We found that students were most receptive when we tried to have conversations. Even though they initially may have been bothered, by the end of the conversation a lot of students seemed more receptive to the role of Student Senate and shared governance.

How will communication skills continue to be important as you take on the presidential role with the University?

Communication, to me, is the most important skill for someone in the presidential role. As I will be working with students, administration, and legislators it is necessary for me to be able to create messages that align with the views of all. There are many ways we can improve our communication with all of these other entities. One of my goals for the upcoming year is to create higher involvement and engagement of Student Senate and the shared governance process. I would like to see more student input in the local, national, and even international conversations.

How has your CJ coursework been helpful and how can it continue to be helpful to you in this position?

In each CJ course I have had I have been able to learn about different models of communication. The Linear Model explains communication in a somewhat simple way. There is a sender, and there is a receiver. What I think is most important about this model is that no matter what the intent of the sender, it is ultimately up to the receiver to decode the message. As I will be the sender of messages, I will need to remember this and recognize and understand the perspectives of the receivers.

Additionally, the 5 problem solving methods of avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration are going to be important in moving forward. As much as I would always like to collaborate, there will be times to compromise.

Why is having strong communication skills in today’s society something that employers love to see and something that will take you far?

What I love most about communication is everyone has to do it. It is impossible for me to go a day without communicating. Even if I am walking around campus with a smile on my face that is a form of communication. To get careers, we have to communicate. It is a huge part of the process of getting the dream job.

Because communication takes form in many ways, it is arguably the most important skill. Though each person will have different ways of communicating, whether it be verbal or nonverbal, employers want it in employees.

How do you think this role as Student Senate President will help you as a communicator?

This role will help me be a better communicator because it will provide me with opportunities to practice my communication skills. There are opportunities to enhance many areas of communication like writing professionally, having casual conversations with students, and public speaking. The opportunities to enhance my skills are endless.

What are you most excited for as president?

Easy. I love people, and every experience I have working with people is joy and excitement for me.


Senior communication studies student Jake Wrasse is the outgoing Student Senate President. Wrasse reflects on his his communication skills and how they helped him during his time as president and can help him in his future after graduation.

Senior Jacob Wrasse, a communication studies student, said his communication skills were a big help for him during his presidency with the Student Senate.
Senior Jacob Wrasse, a communication studies student, said his communication skills were a big help for him during his presidency with the Student Senate.

How have your communication skills been important during your presidency?

As Student Body President, I’ve always felt that is was important I kept the fact that I’m the president of the whole student body, and not just people who agree with me, at the front of my mind. Being able to communicate effectively, professionally, and fairly were all crucial in the difficult situations I encountered during my term (and in the past two years where I served as Vice President and Intergovernmental Affairs director). If you can relay your points respectfully and actively listen to the person you’re speaking with, you’re infinitely more likely to build trust in that relationship and, as a result, get better results.

Being a competitor on the UW-Eau Claire forensics team was also a huge advantage for me in my work advocating with legislators at the city, state, and federal level. Forensics categories like Impromptu, Extemporaneous and Persuasive speaking trained me to speak well and with conviction off the cuff, which helped me convey student interests to legislators effectively during the midst of the UW System budget cuts last year. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a communication background when you encounter a ‘hostile’ legislator or staffer who vehemently opposes your perspective on an issue!

How has your CJ coursework been helpful for you as the president?

To an extent, this plays into my communication skills as well. My Communication and Journalism courses, particularly ones dealing with journalism, communication theory and organizational communication, lent themselves to everyday aspects of my position. My background as a journalist in high school and my journalism classes helped me understand how to effectively engage the media, which helped Senate engage with the community by being featured in television, radio, and newspaper articles. Communication theory provided a valuable understanding of how individuals and groups make communicative choices, which helped me enhance the annual Student Senate retreat to be more inclusive and productive. This, and my work in organizational communication and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People model, helped me adjust to the task of overseeing, directly or indirectly, Student Senate’s 25 paid employees.

Why is having strong communication skills in today’s society something that employers love to see and something that will take you far?

With personal communication being easier to broadcast via the internet and social media, people who also now how to make a persuasive argument or display high emotional intelligence while communicating in person are extremely valuable to employers and communities. Being who can effectively communicate are needed in all fields, and in every unit of any company. Graduates with good communication skills will be more impressive in interviews and naturally build influence among their peers, making them more likely to be hired and become leaders.

How did the role as Student Senate President help you as a communicator?

My extensive legislative relations work with the Senate has given me real insight into the nature of state and federal politics, which only increases my ability to effectively engage legislators. I’ve learned how to give speeches outside of a Forensics context and, in the process, spoken to crowds in excess of 1,000-2,000 people. My entire experience as President has given me more confidence in my professional skills and made me less hesitant to use my voice to help other people.

What are your future plans after graduation?

Next year I’ll be a graduate student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I’ve also accepted a graduate assistantship, which will have me working with the JMU Forensics Team as an assistant coach and teaching Fundamental Human Communication to freshmen. I’m graduating from UW-Eau Claire with a BA in Communication Studies with a rhetoric emphasis, and a minor in political science.

What changes would you like to see Sukhu make on campus during her time as president? Feel free to drop a comment below.


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