August 1999

Bentley College


Just a stone’s throw away from the ivy and lore that make Boston one of the world’s academic hot spots, Bentley College ( in Waltham, Massachusetts, has earned a solid and respectable reputation for its programs and certificates in the field of technical communication.

Originally named the Bentley School of Accounting and Finance, over time, Bentley College has expanded its mission to provide students with strong liberal arts, business, and information technology knowledge bases. As the mission grew, so did the number of programs, majors, and certificate options. Today, Bentley has about 9,000 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students.

Of particular interest to us, though, are the undergraduate programs in Technical Communication, the new MS in Human Factors and Information Design, and the continuing education possibilities offered by the Information Design and Technical Communication Certificate programs.

There are currently about 40 undergraduate students enrolled in the BS in Business Communication program’s Technical Communication track. The core of this degree is a series of three technical writing courses, plus a number of other courses in Web development, programming, design, and production. Courses within this track are taught by five full-time technical communication faculty members, all of whom belong to a variety of professional organizations.

The post-baccalaureate certificate programs in Technical Communication and Information Design are part of Bentley’s continuing education programs. The Technical Communication courses are taught one evening a week for a full semester. To complete the certificate, students must take two technical writing courses and one course each in online Help, Web development, visual communication, and tools and techniques. The Information Design certificate program, the older of the two, offers a series of two-day intensive courses. The program, originally derived from a seminar series, provides students access to key thinkers in the field. Center Director Dr. JoAnn Hackos will be leading a course in this program in October 1999. The intensive courses are delivered by instructor, video conference, and new this fall, a pilot study of a Webcast.

Finally, this fall, Bentley welcomes the first class into its new MS program, Human Factors and Information Design. Fifteen students will be entering the ten-course program and will be put to work quickly in Bentley’s new $1.5 million usability testing suite. As part of their curriculum, students will actually do corporate client testing in the new facility.

The corporate partnership has always been an integral part of the education process at Bentley. Dr. Bill Gribbons, Director of the program explains:

We work very closely with industry contacts to get a solid sense of what they want from our graduates. As a result of this contact, we purposely situated our program as an information design program.

And employers appear to be finding what they want in Bentley graduates; all technical communication graduates are employed upon graduation, and their salaries are almost at (and quickly approaching) the level offered to their computer science colleagues.

To secure one of these graduates for your own organization, you might begin by recruiting an intern from the undergraduates or Technical Communication certificate programs (the Information Design students are an impressive lot as well; they average more than five years’ professional experience, and 27 percent hold a Master’s degree-however, most are already gainfully employed in our industry). All internships are paid, and Bentley has developed formal programs with companies such as Lotus, Oracle, and Compaq.