A Meeting of the Student Minds – UIC Business Communications Onsite Requirement in Chicago, IL

Monday, 12/6 (Day 1 of 2)

Sitting in a room with all of my classmates, I nervously sipped my water, hoping that it would ease my stress.  Surely the weather from the previous weekend hadn’t helped everyone’s travel plans.  I remember hearing on the radio during the cab ride over: ‘and in weather news today… Chicago-O’Hare airport canceled 300 flights last Saturday as a result of nearly six inches of snow and bitter cold temperatures…’ Thank God I flew in last Friday, I thought to myself.  Time flew by as we all introduced ourselves.  I was immediately impressed with the breadth and depth of talent in the room – doctors, nurses, CIOs, consultants, educators, and everything in between.

Then came the fun part.  Matt Elwell of ComedySportz helped break the ice by having us all form a large circle for some much-needed improv exercises.  I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical at first, but the benefits of conducting these exercises proved to be mission critical when I had to present my topic in front of the class.  Matt also helped critique presentations for those students who were brave enough to present in front of all 40+ students in the class.  I must give credit to our professor, Rosemary Walker, for choosing Matt to be a part of our onsite experience.  Equally as important, I believe it goes without saying that the entire class was grateful that Matt took the time to help us get to know each other.

Following Matt was Eric Swirsky, our lead facilitator for the course.  Eric is also a professor for the Ethics and Legal Issues in Health Informatics course, which is another core course in the Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) program at UIC.  Eric gave a very compelling lecture on the components of successful negotiations and their importance in business communications.  It was extremely refreshing to hear from someone such as Eric; he was willing to share his real-life work experiences which proved beneficial to the overall execution of the course.  I am sure that my other classmates would agree that professors such as Eric are a daily reminder why our MSHI program is a cut above the rest.

After lunch marked the time for when we all had to present our topics.  As part of the onsite requirement, each student was required to give a ten minute presentation on a business communication or healthcare-related topic.  While this may seem like a walk in the park for some, it was definitely unnerving for most!  I for one, was extremely nervous; the last time I presented in front of an audience was well over four years ago!  Nonetheless, we all got through it.  Presentations as a whole were very well structured, and it was nice to have a Q&A section at the end, as well as a student critique so that we can all figure out how to improve.  After all, that’s the goal isn’t it?

Our day ended with a networking event at UIC’s Student Union, complete with much appreciated food and beverages.  Patricia Cunningham, Chief Technology Officer for the State of Illinois (and a UIC Health Informatics graduate by the way!), gave a presentation on Health Information Exchange (HIE) in Illinois.  Her presentation was a firm reminder of our nation’s complex healthcare system, and the requirements that lie ahead with HIE integration from a state-wide perspective.

Suffice it to say that at the end of day one, most of us were happily exhausted!

Tuesday, 12/7 (Day 2 of 2)

Day two proved to be just as insightful as day one.  Bonnie Siegel, Associate Partner of Healthcare IT Services at Sanford Rose Associates gave a three hour presentation highlighting topics such as proper resume writing, interviewing tips, and hiring trends in the HIT field.  In times like these, it is always nice to be reminded that my fellow classmates and I are very fortunate that the HIT field is continually growing.  Bonnie did an exceptional job answering all of our questions and deserves credit for putting together some excellent slides that we can continually use as a reference.

Prior to lunch, Eric continued lecturing about the importance of negotiating.  As a hypothetical example, Eric broke us out into groups, and we negotiated the terms of a project gone bad from a business to business perspective.  It was a very eye-opening experience to see this type of role-playing in action; to my amazement, it resembled many real-life situations that I had encountered on the job before.  Sure enough, at the end of the exercise, Eric went on to explain that the negotiation exercise was loosely based on a real-life scenario that he had encountered on the job in the past.  Overall, the exercise demonstrated negotiating skills at its finest; the exercise also demonstrated how difficult it can be distinguishing positions from interests.

After lunch, those that had not yet given their presentations did so.  The day then quickly wrapped up, and before I knew it, I was sharing a ride with a few of my classmates back to Midway airport.  My how time flies!  I am reminded of the times we shared together thanks to some notes, a handful of business cards, some great conversations,  a few freebies including a t-shirt, and a big smile on my face knowing that I got a lot out of the onsite component of this course.
If I could do it all over again, I would.  Thanks to all the UIC faculty and staff that made this experience one to remember!  Happy Holidays!

About the author


Ryan Esslinger

Ryan Esslinger is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Online Health Informatics Program. Ryan currently works full time as an Informatics Analyst at Wellstar Health System.


  • Great post, Ryan – almost as good as being there! And I really applaud your honesty. It is always nerve-wracking presenting in front of a group of people – especially such an educated and accomplished bunch – but it takes a confident man to admit that! 🙂 Looking forward to your next installment!


  • Thank you Ryan, for your wonderful post regarding our recent UIC Masters of Health Informatics, business communcations onsite. You captured the experience of the two days, exceptionally well. We all gained from meeting, networking, and hearing the presentations. It was a great way to end the course and start our holiday break.

  • Gwen,

    It is always nice to know that I’m not the only one that still gets nervous when presenting in front of an audience.


    The UIC onsite requirement was a great experience (even with the harsh weather conditions). Your presentation was very thorough and greatly appreciated! I agree that the onsite was a great way to end the course and begin holiday break. It is hard to believe that 2011 is right around the corner!

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