Meet Our New Faculty: Melanie Hoftyzer
Meet Melanie Hoftyzer, one of the newest faculty members from across the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. Hoftyzer previously served as director of business communication at the Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She joins the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration as a senior lecturer of marketing and management communication. Learn more about Hoftyzer’s areas of expertise, research focus, courses she is teaching, and other interests in this Q&A.
Melanie Hoftyzer | Senior Lecturer of Marketing and Management Communication, | Nolan School
What are your research and teaching areas of focus?
My primary foci for research and teaching are in writing pedagogy and building communication skills through agency. For instance, how can we teach students to be proactive listeners? Or to ask questions to get useful feedback? Both of these skills are often thought of as being passive, but to be engaged communicators in all relationships, we need to be responsible for our half of the conversation. Neither of these are skills are taught in school, but I have found they are both nuanced skills that can be taught and developed in even as short a time as a semester. The challenge is developing curriculum and activities that students can use to see some quick results, which is necessary for buy-in and consistency. I am, however, interested in almost all aspects of teaching and connecting with the changing education environment.
What class will you be teaching this year?
I will be teaching HADM 1650: Business Writing for Hospitality Professionals.
What attracted you to the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and to the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration, specifically?
I was initially attracted by the SC Johnson College’s and the Nolan’s School commitment to collaboration. Teaching can be a lonely profession, so administrative support for faculty and staff to work together is exciting. Another important factor for me was how the college and the Nolan School take writing and communicating seriously as foundational skills. These two things combined, plus new colleagues I’m looking forward to working with, made this an ideal opportunity for me to both learn new things and share my own experience and perspective.
What first sparked your interest in business communication?
When I started teaching business writing 15 years ago, I knew nothing about it, so at the start, I read a lot of surveys about what employers thought employees didn’t do well. What I noticed, and continue to notice, is that many complaints stem from people not knowing how to analyze audiences (in various forms), but also from a lack of “hidden” skills—ones that we don’t think about teaching explicitly, because we assume others already know how to do them.
For instance, listening is often high on the list, but also factors into successful teamwork and connecting with clients. With training, students discover there are actual techniques to improve, and how much relationships can change when they’re better listeners. From there, I’ve found that student confidence grew quickly when they were provided the training to use skills (and any communication skill applies here) that they hadn’t thought about much before.
How did you know you wanted to teach? What do you like best about teaching?
I only knew I wanted to teach once I started doing it! My favorite thing about teaching is empowering students to connect more authentically with others, through which they often connect more with themselves as well. Obviously, business writing has specific purposes and specific conventions, but communication, at its core, is about interacting with people to accomplish goals.
What I like about teaching business writing is that the results are often immediate and tangible. Students need to know how to write for the academy while they’re here, but being a successful academic writer doesn’t often translate to the workforce. Teaching them how to write for professional success and how to master those skills is gratifying. Also, teaching is a field that is always changing; there’s always something new to learn or to try, so it’s rarely boring.
What do you do to recharge?
To recharge, I hang out with my cat. I also love puzzles of all kinds—logic, crossword, jigsaw. I really enjoy crafts, particularly cross-stitch, and I’m learning to crochet. And, as a writer myself, I love reading!