Speech department seeks renewed growth

Courses help students learn vital speaking skills

By Xavier Johnson, Scene Editor

The 2018 spring semester was a time of incremental growth and long-term planning for the speech department and a speech team that is seeing continued success.

At the start of the semester, the department moved its speech lab with the classroom located right next to it to AA-219.

Speech department Chairperson Sherry Diestler said the lab’s new location improves the department’s ability to help students, whether they’re deeply involved with speech or not.

Students can prepare for in-class speeches and get help from tutors, and the room will be used for speech and debate team practices.

“The lab can be a space available for anyone on campus to come and get extra help for any public speaking they have to prepare for,” she said.

Speech professor Randy Carver said he would like to have a shelf of texts and sample outlines available for students to take. “The lab could be one-stop shop for all your communication needs.”

The speech team placed 15 times throughout the three tournaments they’ve competed in this semester. During the Northern California Forensics Championships, the team took second place. Carver said the team’s current focus is the Northern California Forensics Association Spring Fling competition on Saturday at Solano Community College in Fairfield.

Next year the team will have a heavier competition schedule, he said. The team will participate in 10 tournaments split evenly between fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters.

Every student on the team this semester competed as a novice. For the first half of the fall semester, five students competed as novices and later were entered in the open division. Three of the five will be returning, adding an experienced edge to next year’s team.

Business major Chepheren Goree competed this semester in the Persuasive Speech category. Goree said even though he doesn’t intend on pursuing communication as a major, the skills he learned while on the team are going to apply to his business career. He said speech preparation experience helps when having to make business presentations.

Carver said that the team’s small numbers are an example of the difficulty speech teams have with recruitment. “You can expect to hang onto 20 percent of the people who show interest,” he said.

The intramural speech tournament, hosting tables and having speech team members participate in campus events are some of the ways the department is driving recruitment.

Carver said one big obstacle for growth of the speech department is a lack of clarity. He said the first step in making the department more accessible is changing the name of the department to communication studies. He said some courses that would be great additions are basic communication theory, special topics in communication and a full-fledged business communication course.

Also, he said he would like to have short-term exploration in communication courses to give students an idea of what they can do.

“We say you can do anything and it gives you all these skills. The students look and think ‘great, but what can I actually do with this.’”

Participating on a collegiate speech team presents students with the challenge of preparing a speech and presenting it in a competition at the college level.