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New speech tutoring center helps students with phobia

March 11, 2010

UW-River Falls added a new tutoring center March 1, specializing in helping students with speeches.

According to the University Web site, there are currently help rooms on campus for physics, chemistry, math, writing, reading and speech, with speech being the most recent addition. Student Jubilynn Hanka brought the idea for the speech center to professor of Communication Studies, Kathleen Olsen, in November.

Hanka had noticed students struggling with speeches, and Olsen agreed that help was needed.

“People, in general, are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death,” Hanka said, quoting a statistic. “I find that fascinating.”

Professor Olsen said her role has been simply to guide Hanka along and to help her with roadblocks in the process of opening the center.

“We’ve needed a place where students who don’t want to come to faculty because they’ll look stupid can go to get help from their peers,” Olsen said.

Students will be able to go to the speech tutoring center for help with just about anything they need related to speeches or presentations.

Olsen said the tutors offer help that isn’t threatening and that will not be critiqued as it may be by faculty. Both Hanka and Olsen said everyone is welcome at the center; it’s not just for speech majors.

Students can go for help with composition, outlining, visual aids, PowerPoint, delivery and even choosing a topic. Anything students need help with for their speech or presentation, the tutors at the speech center will be able to provide assistance, according to Olsen. The tutors are able to record the students’ speeches and play it back on a big screen TV and walk the students through them. 

Even professors that have a presentation to give can come in and have it assessed.

According to Hanka, the center had originally been set to open prior to finals in December, but due to funding complications, it was pushed back to this month. Hanka said that once realization of everything that was needed for the center set in, she was happy that it opened as soon as it did.

Rooms, tutors, a payroll, hours and appointment set-up had to be determined before opening the center, and a Facebook group, “UWRF Speech Tutoring Center,” was created to reach students.

The center currently employs six tutors, all of whom plan on being teachers, according to Hanka. The center benefits not only students, but also the tutors who are gaining job experience. The tutors are mainly speech communications or English majors, having earned their spots with proven skills.

Olsen said that she and professor of Communication Studies, James Pratt, hand picked students for the tutoring positions. Each student went through an application process and interview to be sure they had the needed skills for tutoring students. One of the tutors, Lydia Kiminski, is optimistic about the center.

“With the experience that the tutors have in the center, I can say that, without a doubt, students who use this new resource center will succeed in their speech-giving skills whether it is for writing them or presenting them,” she said.

According to Olsen, the center’s success will be measured by the number of students who use the service and whether or not it helped them.

Sheets similar to those used in the writing center will be given to professors of those students that use the service. Hanka said some professors are offering extra credit to students who use the service. Olsen said she believes the center will be successful and will help students solve problems before their presentations.

Hanka said she thinks this semester may be rough for the center, as she has noticed the writing center is usually empty.

She added that she thinks the center can be successful if students are thinking ahead. Students in a particular class waiting until the last minute can overwhelm the tutors, and they may not be able to help everyone. Kiminski said she believes the tutors will work one-on-one with students and focus on their needs based off of the assignment for the speech.

“I believe that with enough promotion and positive examples of successful tutoring sessions, we can be a large help to students,” she said.

The speech tutoring center will be open Mondays in 119 KFA from 4 to 8 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays in B19 KFA from 4 to 9 p.m., and Wednesdays and Fridays by appointment only. Hanka said the tutors do prefer appointments for the convenience of the tutors, but walk-ins are welcome Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Students can make appointments via the Facebook group, or they can go to the communications studies office in the Kleinpell Fine Arts building with questions regarding tutoring.