Can We Talk?

The Conversationalists

Alums Whose Careers Are Tied to the Art of Conversation

Known for her bold yet practical approach to executive coaching and leadership development, for more than two decades Susan Scott ’67 has been challenging people to say the things that sometimes seem impossible to say. The founder of Fierce, Inc., Scott is the author of several books, including Fierce Conversations and Fierce Leadership. Here, Scott tells us what it means to be “fierce” every day.

“It means that we come out from behind ourselves, into all of our conversations, and make them real, disclosing what we’re really thinking and feeling. Many are afraid to do this but I have found that there is something within us that responds deeply to those who level with us; who do not pamper us or offer compromises but instead, describe reality from their perspective, so simply and compellingly that the truth seems inevitable, and we cannot help but recognize it. ... Importantly, our conversations enrich relationships, connecting with the people central to our success and happiness – at a deep level.”

Bruce Avery ’71 is a collaborative practitioner, mediator, attorney and counselor at law. Now a partner at Avery and Upton Law which specializes in family law, Avery spent 20 years in the United States Army, serving 15 of those years as a Judge Advocate General. We asked Avery to tell us how his experience in the Army influences his approach to his conversations with clients.

“The Army is where I first became involved with interest-based negotiations – that it is possible for both sides of a disagreement to come to a mutually acceptable agreement that meets the needs of both. Armed conflict is a win-lose proposition. Armed conflict without a concurrent or subsequent resolution of the underlying issues will not be a stable one and often leads to more armed conflict. The same is true in family law. Putting the problem off until the next round of litigation just ensures that there will be another round. Resolving the issues means there won’t be another round.”

Dan Fee ’92 is president of The Echo Group, a strategic communications firm that has led dozens of successful political campaigns, development projects and issue-advocacy efforts. A seasoned communications and political strategist, Fee shares the conversation every candidate running for office should have with voters.

“A candidate should largely have the same conversation with every voter— who they are, why they are running, and what they will do if elected. Because voters have different priorities, it’s impossible to try to respond to every issue in a single presentation, so a candidate needs to be clear about their priorities rather than simply responding to an audience. Voters will support a candidate they don’t always agree with if they trust how they make decisions.”

A celebrity journalist for the Miami Herald, Madeleine Marr ’89 covers features, interviews, events, red carpets, premieres, award ceremonies, style, news and gossip in the South Florida area and beyond. From interviews with William H. Macy to Jennifer Garner, Marr reveals her favorite celebrity conversation.

“I interviewed Jennifer Garner twice – once in 2012 for The Odd Life of Timothy Green when she had her baby son Samuel with her on the press junket. I told her that I had taken my daughter Scarlett, then 4, to see it with me the night before – the first non-cartoon she had sat through, and we bonded over that. Garner was back in Miami for Miracles from Heaven in March, as a single mother of three. She seemed definitely sadder and more introspective, talking about the themes of the movie as well as strong women. She told me, “Forgiveness is always the strongest choice.” That stuck with me.”

Dr. Gregory Vincent ’83 is the vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. He recently played a major role in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, in which the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the use of affirmative action in higher education. Here, he shares his thoughts on how to create an environment that encourages the free exchange of ideas and dialogue, one that engages diverse people, ideas and perspectives to create a vibrant learning and working environment.

“I am a big believer in being intentional – things don’t happen by accident. We have to create opportunities to share ideas and to engage with our students, faculty and staff to ensure that they feel welcome and supported. Once that atmosphere is in place, I believe the vibrant working environment takes care of itself.”

Genoa Boswell ’09 is a senior associate producer for CBS’ The Talk, a daytime television program in which hosts Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Sheryl Underwood and Aisha Tyler discuss current events, pop culture, family life and interview celebrity guests. While Boswell develops questions for the celebrities that will solicit the best and most entertaining responses, she says the best conversations are unscripted.

“Over the course of our six seasons, the hosts have had some amazing moments, but the best conversations are always the ones that we don’t plan; ones where the ladies just do what they do best. We give them the setup and topic, and they run with it. That’s part of what makes our show fun, you feel like you’re just grabbing lunch with the girls.”


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