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English Department’s Kathy Rentz Does Well with ABC

Association for Business Communication names outstanding teacher and recognizes her research on status of journals in the field.

Date: 11/30/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
In the world of business communication, few are as widely respected as Kathy Rentz at the University of Cincinnati (UC). Rentz, a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, has long been a quiet force for professional writing instruction in the halls of McMicken.

Rentz has played many important roles in the English Department. She taught the first "Writing for Business" course as an instructor in 1983 and subsequently helped develop a program that now includes upper-level undergraduate courses, a new English major track, a graduate certificate program and a master’s track. For five years, Rentz was also the director of Graduate Studies for the English Department and served as the coordinator of the professional writing program, a program that she had helped establish with fellow faculty member Mary Beth Debs.

The Awards

ABC President Roger Conaway and award sponsors present the Outstanding Teacher Award to Rentz.
ABC President Roger Conaway and award sponsors present the Outstanding Teacher Award to Rentz.

Rentz's expertise was recently recognized with two awards at the Association for Business Communication's international meeting in Lake Tahoe. Rentz was named the 2008 winner of the Association for Business Communication's (ABC’s) Outstanding Teacher Award. In addition, an article she co-authored in 2007 just won the association’s award for Outstanding Article in the Journal of Business Communication.

The ABC’s teaching award is considered one of the two most prestigious achievement awards given by the organization (the other being the Outstanding Researcher Award).

Rentz was also awarded for the Outstanding Article in the
Rentz was also awarded for the Outstanding Article in the 'Journal of Business Communication.'

“I was honored as this year’s winner at the plenary session of the annual ABC meeting,” she explains. “The Outstanding Researcher Award recipient and I will each give an address at the plenary session of next year's meeting in Portsmouth, Va. My address and a respondent's reply will be published in Business Communication Quarterly.”
 
The Meada Gibbs Outstanding Teacher Award recognizes both excellence in the classroom and published contributions to business-communication pedagogy. (Meada Gibbs was a popular business communication teacher and member of the ABC who died young. The award honors her memory.)
 
The specific criteria, as stated on ABC's Web site, are as follows:

  1. Significant contributions to business communication teaching methodology and concepts.
  2. Current teaching or training experience on business communication or related courses.
  3. Positive student/participant and peer/administrative evaluations.
  4. Conference presentations, publications and/or research record (publications must include teaching-related articles in the Business Communication Quarterly and/or The Journal of Business Communication).

Rentz was having a good month.

“I also learned a few days before the conference that an article I had co-authored with an international team of business communication scholars had been selected as the Outstanding Article in the Journal of Business Communication (2007),” she says.

The article, called “The Impact of Perceptions of Journal Quality on Business and Management Communication Academics” used empirical and secondary research to assess the current “social capital” of journals in the field and to discuss the difficult publishing decisions that academics in niche disciplines face.

The award-winning paper describes the main dilemma that business communication academics face when deciding where to publish their work as being whether to send it to a large, mainstream journal that hiring and RPT committee will regard as a "big hit" or to a smaller, "niche" journal, such as those in business and professional writing, that will reach those who can best appreciate and benefit from the research.

“To determine journal quality, some department/college administrators, especially those in colleges of business, rely on international journal rankings and/or on ‘impact factor,’” says Rentz, which she defines as a measure of a journal's influence based on the number of times it's cited. “Smaller, more specialized journals, by their very nature, do not do well by such measures. But it's in the smaller journals where the most sustained, in-depth scholarly dialogue can take place.”
 

(Photo by Melanie Cannon)
(Photo by Melanie Cannon)

Rentz says that the tide may be turning though, as more and more scholars challenge the validity of using big-journal criteria to assess smaller journals.

“I recently did a follow-up study on the award-winning article, this time surveying new business communication academics about the publishing advice they were being given. The findings suggest that niche journals are especially important to these academics, who need outlets for their work and have interesting work and approaches to share,” Rentz says. “A recent article on a giant study of science researchers' publishing habits and attitudes reported the same result--but, perhaps even more interestingly, it also found that, once science academics have achieved a certain status, they go back to publishing in niche journals. So while assessment pressures may tempt administrators to rely on the ‘objective,’ easy-to-use measures that discriminate against niche journals, these journals actually publish much of the best work in their fields. The award-winning article that I helped write, as a member of the ABC Publications Board, is an effort to apprise business communication academics of the politics and economics of journal assessment while also arguing for the importance of sustaining the niche journals.”

(Photo by Melanie Cannon)
(Photo by Melanie Cannon)

According to the chair of the ABC’s Publications Board, which judged the entries for the award, the article received multiple nominations and was unanimously selected.
 
In addition to being an award-winning teacher, Kathy Rentz is co-author (with Ray Lesikar and Marie Flatley) of Business Communication: Making Connections in a Digital World (McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2008). Flatley and Rentz also have an accelerated, updated edition (titled simply Business Communication) coming out in January that is part of McGraw-Hill's new "M" series — textbooks in a graphics-intensive, two-column magazine format.