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Dr. Paula Lentz receives national teacher-scholar award in business communication

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Dr. Paula Lentz, professor of business communication at UW-Eau Claire, has been awarded the 2020 Meada Gibbs Outstanding Teacher-Scholar Award from the Association of Business Communication, a peer-nominated award.

For the first time ever, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty member from the College of Business has received the top national award for teaching from the prestigious Association for Business Communication (ABC). Recent recipients of this honor include faculty from nationally known colleges and universities including the University of Notre Dame, UCLA, Cornell University and Virginia Tech.

Dr. Paula Lentz, professor of business communication, became the 31st instructor recognized by the ABC for outstanding contributions to the academic discipline of business communication. A member of the Blugold faculty since 1999, Lentz serves as the academic program director for the department of business communication, director of the Business Writing and Communication Studio and director of the COB Student Professional Development Program.

"I am humbled and honored to have received this award from my colleagues in the Association for Business Communication," Lentz says. "Being part of a department, college and campus that support and enable creativity and excellence in teaching and learning makes what I do so very rewarding. And, of course, my students continually challenge, engage and inspire me." 

The Meada Gibbs Outstanding Teacher-Scholar Award

The ABC is an international, interdisciplinary organization committed to advancing business communication research, education and practice. Each year, the ABC awards one educator its highest recognition of excellence, the Meada Gibbs Outstanding Teacher-Scholar Award. The honor recognizes significant contributions to business communication teaching methodology and concepts.

Lentz was nominated for the award by her colleague of many years, co-author, co-presenter and co-editor Dr. Kristin Getchell of Babson College.

"When I looked at the description of these ABC awards, quite frankly, I was shocked she hadn't already won this award," Getchell says. "Paula is such an obvious choice for an award recognizing teaching excellence — her teaching is informed by her scholarship and vice versa. It's clear that she truly enjoys doing the hard work of developing and assessing teaching practices with the goal of improving student learning. I believe she is motivated by her delight in watching students improve, in the business communication classroom, in the job search and in their careers." 

High level of scholarship and collegiality 

Lentz has long maintained a strong record of publication while filling multiple roles within her department. Dr. Brewer Doran, dean of the College of Business, highlights Lentz's steady scholarship, teaching and student support as reasons she so enthusiastically supported her nomination for the national award.

"She currently is the first author on a publication accepted by the Business and Professional Communication Quarterly," Doran says. "In the past five years, she also had two other peer-reviewed journal articles, two chapters, eight refereed conference presentations and three non-refereed presentations. Most importantly, she has completed four either totally new or new editions of different textbooks."

One of those textbooks, "Rhetorical Theory and Praxis in the Business Communication Classroom," earned Lentz and her co-author the 2019 Outstanding Publication in Business Communication Award from the ABC. 

"Paula's textbooks are widely adopted and highly respected in the field," Doran says. "Dr. Lentz maintains a close relationship with employers and practitioners as well, through her work with her Business Communication Advisory Council. These relationships help her keep the curriculum up-to-date and inform her general teaching."   

In addition to her high volume of publications, Lentz also is widely held as a colleague who goes above and beyond to share her knowledge and expertise with fellow educators.  

"Paula Lentz is, without a doubt, the most generous teacher-scholar I have met," Getchell says. "You could see this when her name was announced for the award and virtually the entire ABC membership enthusiastically contributed to the celebrations. She devotes an incredible amount of time to sharing her knowledge with others within ABC and through her textbook with Kathy Rentz, which I use in my classes. Whenever I have a knotty teaching problem, I go to Paula to brainstorm, and she is always open to helping me work it out or helping me translate ideas into classroom practices. I can honestly say I am a better business communication teacher because of Paula." 

Lasting impact on students

Lentz's teaching career reflects her excellence, according to her colleagues and students. Her students have successful academic and career outcomes, and many current and former students cite her as their favorite instructor, including Beth Nelson, a senior marketing major who also is pursuing a certificate in advanced business communication. 

"To say Dr. Lentz is my favorite professor would be an understatement," says Nelson, a native of Cannon Falls, Minnesota. "She is not only a great professor, but a mentor and friend as well. I remember being an undeclared freshman and meeting Dr. Lentz for the first time at a 'meet the COB faculty' networking event. She gave me such great advice about majors and minors, and she helped me understand where my passions lie. That one conversation with her about which skills I already had and which skills I wanted to gain, paved my way to where I am now. My favorite thing about Dr. Lentz is how much she genuinely cares about her students and wants us to succeed." 

It came as no surprise to senior Solomiya Kavyuk that Lentz received a national award for education in the field of business communication. 

"I could not think of a professor more deserving of this award," says Kavyuk, of Wisconsin Dells. "Dr. Lentz's advanced BCOM class was the most rigorous I've taken, and taught me the most of any course in all of my four years at UWEC."

Kavyuk, a marketing major who also is earning a certificate in business communication, says she uses what she learned Lentz's class every day in her internship with Royal Credit Union. She also attributes her strengths in business communication to the high-level academic and personal care that Lentz shows her students. 

"I tell everyone who needs a BCOM class to take it from Dr. Lentz," Kavyuk says. "I truly hope that every student has the chance at least once in their life to experience learning from a professor like her. First and foremost, she cares about us as humans. During this pandemic, her first concern is for our health and safety, and providing us the support to succeed during this stressful time."

Lentz also teaches in UW-Eau Claire's highly respected MBA program. The MBA program meets the needs of busy working professionals, including Mark Wehde, a 2018 graduate who works in Mayo Clinic's division of engineering. 

"This program was entirely dependent on the student’s ability to put together coherent thoughts," Wehde says. "I thought I was a pretty good writer when I took my first class from Dr. Lentz, but she taught me that it didn’t matter what I thought about what I wrote — I wasn’t the intended audience. Business writing serves a purpose and she taught me to write not for me, but for my audience. That simple shift resulted in a dramatic change in the effectiveness of my written communication."  

Wehde says he appreciates the experience Lentz brings to her instruction and the ways she pulls the absolute best work from her students. 

"I’ve had great instructors before — you never forget them because they fundamentally change how you think and how you perform," Wehde says. "Paula Lentz is that type of instructor. She teaches with an insight that comes from hard work, innate talent, and a tremendous and passionate commitment to helping her students excel."