UR will launch a Speaking Fellows program as an offshoot of the Writing Fellows program beginning in the middle of next semester. The program will help students with every stage of the speaking process from conceptualizing an idea to writing the presentation to practicing the delivery.
Spearheaded by graduate student and Writing Consultant Amy Negley, who is basing the idea off of a similar program at Allegheny College, where she did her undergraduate work, Speaking Fellows will be available to help students with presentations for all academic disciplines as well as with interview preparation and dealing with speech anxiety. Negley worked as a speech consultant at Allegheny and saw the value to both students and the tutors, she said.
“I saw the value in the Writing Center, but the speaking component is missing,” she said, adding that she sees a “parallelism of objectives” in both — helping students set goals and communicate a message effectively.
“We’re building on the Writing Center’s current mission of helping students improve communication,” Negley said. “Speaking is just another form of communication.”
As of now, Speaking Fellows will be students who currently work as Writing Fellows. Negley will be teaching a two-credit course this spring for these students because they already have training as Writing Fellows and much of this overlaps; they will skip the peer training component taught in the four-credit course currently a pre-requisite for Writing Fellows. Starting next fall, the training course will be open to students who are not Writing Fellows and Negley said she is still considering keeping the two-credit course for current writing fellows after she assesses demand. Around ten students are currently pursuing the two-credit course this spring, Negley said.
Speaking Fellows will function similarly to Writing Fellows — appointments will be available or students can drop in and the office will be located in G119 in Rush Rhees Library where one of the Writing Fellows’ offices is currently located. Speaking Fellows will not be open as many hours as Writing Fellows currently is, however, and only one fellow will be on at a time.
“I think the demand will be a lot smaller than for Writing Fellows when it starts out,” Negley said. “Students tend to write a lot more papers than give presentations in college.”
She added that this is a pilot program to gauge interest and said she thinks based on demand that “we’ll grow as the center grows.” As the Writing Center has been “incredibly popular,” Negley believes that the speaking tutoring will become so as well.
She is unsure if the program will expand to include graduate students — the Writing Center has graduate Writing Consultants — but said that several have been interested and that this is a possibility.
The Center will also have a computer and a projector so that students can practice with visual aides and a video camera so that students can watch themselves and then take the tape home with them.
“People are reluctant, but they see the value,” Negley said of the tape, adding that this is one of the most valuable, albeit terrifying, ways to learn about yourself.
Although as of now the Speaking Fellows program will be an offshoot of the Writing Center, Negley said her overarching goal is to build on the strengths of the current Writing Center to integrate writing and speaking tutoring into a larger Writing, Speaking and Argument Center, similar to what she said many other colleges have.
Writing and speaking tutoring then would be “separate facets with lots of interaction,” she said.
Negley added that she intends to allow the incoming class of Speaking Fellows to define the program and have a sense of ownership and pride in its ultimate manifestation; she hopes the final capstone for the two-credit course will be a promotional video incorporating speaking skills learned in the course.
“I want these students to brand us and determine what direction it moves in,” she said.
Writing Fellow and junior Nicholas LeClaire said he is optimistic about the program’s potential.
“I think it fills a need that hasn’t been filled so far,” he said.
Just last weekend, a student asked for help with a presentation, LeClaire said. Writing Fellows are allowed to help students with presentations, but are not explicitly trained to do so.
LeClaire also said that he thinks his skills and training as a writing fellow — general tutoring styles and effective teaching, among others — will translate well into being a Speaking Fellow. LeClaire also said that he thinks demand for help with interviews might be higher than demand for presentations as “people are always applying to things.”
He thinks that the demand for the Speaking Fellow Service will be high once “word gets around” and said he thinks UR’s emphasis on the sciences will contribute to a greater interest in the service, as presentations are largely more commonly assigned to science majors than in majors such as English.
“We’re still building the program, so we don’t know where it will go,” he said. “Hopefully it sees the same interest as Writing Fellows.”
Buletti is a member of the class of 2013.