Two-credit course allows DePaul students to experiment with public speaking on major platform


Jeff Carrion / DePaul University

In a performance from 2017, alumna Nelly Mueller presents her speech “Careening Out of Complacency” at TEDxDePaulUniversity. The course prepares students for performance and public speeches in a professional and recognizable environment.

Public speaking terrifies pretty much everyone — even professionals.

A new two-credit course at DePaul University encourages students to overcome their fear of public speaking. The course, “YOU, on the TEDx Stage,” teaches students how to choose and develop a topic into a final pitch. The course ends with a presentation of the students’ pitches in front of a panel of skilled speakers.

The course first became available this fall and concluded on Oct.  24. The students delivered their pitches and received feedback from the panel. Lexa Murphy, Dean of the College of Communication; Kelly Richmond Pope, TEDx DePaul University speaker and accounting professor; and Shawna Franks, Theatre School alumni and speaker coach for Girl Meets Voice, Inc. made up the panel. The event was moderated by the course instructor, Deborah Siegel-Acevedo.

The course was created by Carolyn Bronstein, the associate dean of strategic initiatives.

“We’re the College of Communication,” Bronstein said. “So we’re invested in finding ways to promote speech.”

Bronstein created the course as part of the new Center for Communication Engagement. The center strives to create speech opportunities for faculty and students and is arranging an event called The First Annual Day of Public Voice for May 12, 2020. The center partners  with the Office of Public Relations and Communications, which runs the TEDxDePaul event. They support the event through the creation of the class and by providing faculty judges. Bronstein says that this class does not guarantee students a spot in TEDxDePaul, but merely gives them the resources to deliver a good speech.

Each pitch at the event was two minutes, with the exception of one student who prepared her full speech.

Daisy Nauavrete, a junior at DePaul, pitched her speech entitled “This is What Racism Looks Like.” She used her personal experiences to express the existence of the subtle and sometimes unconscious racism she has experienced throughout her life. Halfway through the pitch, Nauavrete had to take a breath because the topic made her emotional. After her pitch, the panel encouraged her and said her connection to the topic was beautiful and should continue to be utilized in the speech.

The panelists continued to give encouraging and constructive feedback to each student throughout the event.

DePaul senior Priyanka Podjale’s pitch, “Love Literacy, Arranging Marriage in the 21st Century,” discussed an understanding of love in the modern age.

After her pitch, Murphy said “You have to use that adrenaline to push yourself forward, because you have a great story to tell.”

Public speaking is one of America’s greatest fears. According to a study on fear from Chapman University, 25.3 percent of all Americans report it as a phobia. The Center for Communication Engagement and the TEDx course strive to reverse this fear by making students more comfortable.

Murphy said they want to “lift student voices” and create a collaborative environment for them to grow.

The event ended with a reflection by the students on how this course has changed them.

“I came into this class thinking I was going to take the environmental route,” DePaul senior Nicole Granados said. “But I have another story to tell first.”

Granados’ pitch was called “Why the Troubled Kid, Like My Brother, Is Worthy of Love.” She discussed her relationship with her brother who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia. She said the course helped her to realize that there were lots of stories she wanted to tell, but this was the one she needed to tell first.