A successful and diverse career in communication earned Barbara Puffer ’76, a College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Board of Advisor member, an esteemed fellowship designation with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Puffer’s fellow IABC members presented the award, which recognizes excellence in the field of communication, to Puffer during the Annual World Conference held in Chicago.
Puffer has been a member of IABC since 1974 and has served on IABC’s international executive board and was IABC’s Research Foundation Chair. In addition she is an Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) a professional designation that recognizes communicators who have reached a globally accepted standard of knowledge and proficiency in their field.
For the past 15 years Puffer has consulted in business communication under her own name and has spent nearly four decades working in corporate and organizational communication management. In addition, she is an associate professor of communications at the University of Maryland University College where she teaches courses online.
A life-long interest in writing initially led Puffer to pursue a career in journalism following her graduation from the University of Bridgeport in 1972, but decided to make the move to corporate communication in 1974. In 1976 she completed a Master’s degree in communication at Fairfield University.
“There were so many opportunities in a big corporation,” she explained. “The writing was the underpinning but you could take it in a lot of different directions such as making a video or coaching a vice president on a speech.”
Whether she was in banking, insurance, or manufacturing she knew that the best way to communicate the goals of an organization was to focus on the people. Understanding the goals, plans, and objectives of a company and seeing it through the eyes of the people has always proven successful. In short, Puffer explained, “People like to hear from other people.”
During her years working at corporations, Puffer provided her expertise to nonprofits through a community relations component of her work. She found this experience to be as rewarding and over the years has served as the first woman president of the Board of the American School for the Deaf, was a member of the first class of the Special Olympics CT Hall of Fame, and has done extensive work with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization very close to her heart as she is a two-time, 25-year breast cancer survivor.
On top of consulting, Puffer has been teaching students about the finer points of communication at the University of Maryland since 2002. Her students are mostly non-traditional which is a good match for Puffer’s non-traditional format of online courses. “I should be the poster child for teaching online,” Puffer said. “It’s the perfect format for me and my students.” She was initially concerned that she would not get to know her students through the internet, but found that they readily acclimated to the environment. Puffer was even awarded a teaching award…even though not one of her students ever met her in person!
Puffer, who with her husband Tom, splits her time living in Southwest Florida and Connecticut, has been a member of the CAS Board of Advisors for one year. She said that she looks forward to engaging with projects such as the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Nursing Integrated Health Sciences Initiative. As a communication specialist who’s spent her career applying her skills to many fields, she knows about the opportunities that are available. “There are all kinds of jobs related to healthcare and I think that’s what Fairfield is trying to expose students to: the wide array of opportunities in many fields that students might not know about,” she said.
“Barbara’s service on the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Advisors has been substantial and consequential,” said Dr. Robbin Crabtree, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She is an excellent resource for advice on our initiatives, particularly about how to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences. We are so luck that she has dedicated some of her time to helping Fairfield continue to reach our goals.”
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