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Dynamic Learning Community : Horse Whisperer's Ranch Challenges MBAs' Nonverbal Communication Skills

Allison Duffy at Rancho Bosque
Allison Duffy, MBA '11, talks body language with horse whisperer Allan Hamilton at Rancho Bosque.
Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

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December 2010

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Eller MBA students in Barry Goldman’s negotiations course this semester went out of the classroom and down to the ranch for a hands-on exercise in nonverbal communication.

At Rancho Bosque the students participated in a day-long program led by UA professor of surgery Allan Hamilton, who is also a horse whisperer.

Goldman had heard about similar sessions that Hamilton hosted for medical students, focused on nonverbal communication in a clinical setting. “I had been trying to find a way to emphasize nonverbal behavior in negotiations to our students,” Goldman said. “There are, simply, no good readings or videos on the issue. It’s not enough to tell people nonverbal behavior is important; it is something that they must see for themselves.”

The students arrived at the ranch prepared to interact directly with the horses. After Hamilton provided some background information, the students gathered around the corral and Hamilton solicited volunteers.

“I volunteered to go into the ring first,” said second-year MBA student Allison Duffy. “Since I had no previous experience with horses, I didn't know what to expect. My time in the ring, about five minutes, was spent convincing the horse that I was in charge, with body language as my only tool.”

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