Speech lab offers students opportunity to polish skills

In the past, students stumbling and stammering through speeches for oral
communication class had to chase down an impermanent speech lab if they wanted
help with oration.
The lab, staffed by graduate assistants and communication teachers, has
been offered to students since the fall of 2009 when Brandon Chase Goldsmith,
doctoral candidate in communication, started it in lieu of teaching one of the two
oral communication classes required of every graduate teaching assistant.
Now the lab has found a permanent home in room 222 of the Engineering
Science Building from noon to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays this semester
until April 27.
"I proposed that I start a speech lab in place of teaching a second session,"
Goldsmith said. "Dr. (Michael) Leff, the chair of our department at the time, who
passed away in February 2010, said that they had been talking about starting a lab
for 15 years, and he told me to make it happen."
Goldsmith said the location as well as his availability provided inconsistency
to the lab's schedule at first. When he was available to work with students, he had
to set up wherever there was room.
Student usage of the lab has continued to increase since its inception, and
eventually, students who demonstrate proficiency in the course will be staffing it,
said Melody Lehn, doctoral candidate in communication.
She also said the vision of the lab is to assuage all students' public speaking
"Ideally, students taking other courses on campus will be able to utilize the speech
lab in order to sharpen their presentation skills, receive feedback, learn how to
organize ideas and practice," Lehn said.
Goldsmith said this lab is different from others because, unlike other tutoring
services where staff members may be moderately knowledgeable in several
subjects, the speech lab is staffed with people who teach oral communication at The
U of M.
"It gives (students) a chance to practice their speeches before they have to
do it in class, and they get advice from people teaching the actual class," he said.
Lehn said the lab provides students with feedback from people other than
their instructor.
"They get another perspective from different instructors with different styles,"
she said.
Reginald Bell, doctoral candidate in communication who has worked with
students at the lab in the past, said the main issue he's worked on with students
has been focus.
"They were lacking a common theme that was necessary to bring the speech
together," he said. "The speech lab gave (students the) opportunity to put ideas out
there and to formulate them."
Cody Belew, junior accounting major, took oral communication last semester
and said the lab is a good idea for some students.
"It probably would have put nerves down a little, but I was confident in my
ability to stand and speak, so it wasn't necessary for me," he said.

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