It’s been said that “the art of communication is the language of leadership.” That’s why the Office of the Campus Writing Coordinator and the School of Humanities partnered to offer the first Arts of Communication Boot Camp (ACB). The two-day boot camp was held in mid September. Participants commented that brushing up on their communication chops was more fun than they expected.

The Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication was packed with guest speakers, mini-lectures, and interactive workshops. The boot camp included activities to refine visual and oral communication skills and effectiveness. For those who didn’t get a chance to attend, here’s a recap of all the exciting topics covered in the ACB.

Jonathan Alexander, the Chancellor’s Professor of English and Campus Writing Coordinator, opened ACB with Skills Inventory exercises. He led participants in assessing their communication and collaboration skills. Students learned their strengths in areas like interpersonal communication, problem solving, technical skills, influencing abilities, data literacy and innovation skills.

Professor Alexander also offered students numerous practical applications for academic and professional projects.  Participants discussed how the advanced communication skills they’ve learned in their undergraduate careers and practiced at ACB will help them in the workplace.

Julia Lupton, the Faculty Director of Illuminations and Associate Dean for Research, presented a Contemporary Communications Landscape. Professor Lupton highlighted artistic elements of information-sharing in the digital age.

“I learned that there’s more to communication than just words,” said a student participant. “Interior design and graphic design can be a form of communication.”

James D. Herbert, Associate Dean for Curriculum and Student Services, discussed the nuances of presenting information. Professor Herbert lectured on the effectiveness of data tables, graphs, and other research. He compared effective communication to storytelling around a campfire — getting back to communication basics.

For those nervous about public speaking, Bri McWhorter gave a public speaking workshop on effective anxiety-reducing presentation techniques. McWhorter is a Communications Consultant and Presentation Coach, and the founder and CEO of Activate to Captivate  

McWhorter offered a second workshop, Building Your Brand, which assisted students with their final group projects. Through their final projects, student teams practiced communication skills by presenting marketing pitches. The Writing Center staff judged their verbal and visual presentations.

One group brainstormed how Illuminations can strengthen its communications plan using channels other than print and email. Some students also discussed how the Writing Center could better convey the importance of written communication as a “lifelong skill” through a visual presence on campus and online. Another group addressed how the Writing Center can remain relevant and timely in UCI’s social and political climate.

Groups divvied up tasks such as data research, verbal presentation, and brainstorming based on their Skills Inventory results. The winning group proposed revamping the Writing Center’s space to better reflect a writing culture. They received gift cards to UCI’s bookstore, The Hill.

“It’s great to work in groups,” said a participant. “We got the opportunity to put our minds together and our creativity together…Arts of Communication Boot Camp has given me the skills and the tools I needed to be a better presenter and better speaker.”

Professors Alexander and Lupton hope to establish Arts of Communication Boot Camp as a regular event.

About the Writing Center

Founded in 2012, the Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication (Writing Center) promotes lifelong writing skills for academic and professional success. We assist undergraduates in any writing project, from brainstorming to final drafts. Peer tutors and Writing Specialists offer writing and research strategies and model revision techniques. Students can make an appointment, walk in for peer tutor sessions, or receive feedback through online tutorials. We host special campus events and provide workshops and faculty resources. Visit or contact Jonathan Alexander at