The biggest fear in America is not heights or spiders or snakes or even death. It is the fear of public speaking. Fourteen Fairfield Communication students tried to conquer this fear April 21st during the First Annual Speech Showcase.

The event was set up by Professor Rhonda Trust-Schwartz for students in two of her Argument and Advocacy classes, a 100 level Communications classes required for majors. Students were offered extra credit to give a speech at the event. About 25 students volunteered but for the sake of time the fourteen best speeches were selected.

Trust-Schwartz, a former speech and debate team coach, sees the art of speech essential. “Rhetoric is the foundation of a Jesuit education,” said Trust-Schwartz. “It is so important to have those skills. I think a speaking class should be part of the core curriculum”.

The students talked on a variety of topics ranging from for a plea for help in Haiti and to shedding light on sex slave trafficking in America, to touching personal stories about students who have siblings with disabilities.

Kristen Dimmling ’13 was one of the students selected to speak. She decided to deliver her persuasive speech. “For this speech our class was required to choose a non-profit organization and try to ‘persuade’ our audience to join the cause we are discussing.” Dimmling continued: “after doing some research online I decided to speak about the non-profit organization, Doctors Without Borders.”

Dimmling delivered a strong and passionate speech and emphasized how many lives are saved by Doctors Without Borders. She, like many of her fellow speakers, established very early in the speech that she was qualified to speak on this topic because of the amount of time she spent researching it.

The students prepared their speeches about three weeks before the showcase. After Professor Trust-Schwartz critiqued the speeches, the students had a dress rehearsal to see how long the speeches would run and how to best pace themselves. The dress rehearsal prepared them for all but one thing- the audience of close to 90 students at the showcase.

“I was nervous when I saw the crowd of people walking in,” said Dimmling. “But I knew I did everything I could to prepare myself for my speech. When I was delivering my speech I spoke the same way I would have spoken as if it were just the people from my small class.”

The showcase not only helped the students giving the speeches but also the ones in the crowd. Meaghan Butler ’13 was one such student. “As a communications major I am constantly forced to make speeches in front of a class, and it helped to see other people and witness their public speaking strengths and weaknesses.”

Professor Trust-Schwartz said she hopes to make this an annual spring event and that next year she will ask other communication professors to pitch their “star” students so they can give speeches as well.

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