By William Cameron
After six separate days of student presentations that began on Nov. 16, the first ever Sheridan Conference concluded yesterday afternoon.
Panelists from four sections of an introduction to communications class delivered speeches to their peers in a business symposium format.
“If one of my students should ever be asked to speak on a professional panel, they will be ready,” says communication studies professor Julian Costa, organizer of the event.
More than 100 students participated in the event as part of a professional development project.
In preparation for the project’s final phase, Costa grouped his students into panels according to their career interests.
He then asked each panelist to locate and contact three professionals in their prospective career fields.
Costa explicitly noted in the assignment that students should “establish new professional contacts and begin the process of networking.”
Qualifying professionals needed to be currently employed in the field, and could not be ESU faculty members.
Utilizing strategies covered earlier in the semester, panelists interviewed their professional contacts to gain a better understanding of the real-world workplace.
Costa encouraged students to use technological means to seek and reach professionals, but prohibited the use of “survey” interviewing.
The assignment required a verbal conversation with the respondents.
“The event was named in memory of Thomas Sheridan,” explains Costa.
“[Sheridan] was an elocution professor in Ireland during the 1700s and one of the first known instructors to place emphasis on vocal quality, rather than message content.”
“Most courses with a public speaking component require students to deliver extemporaneous speeches to their classmates, situated at a podium in their assigned classroom,” adds Costa.
“While I believe there is much to be gained from such experiences, the reality is that the professional world is nothing like a classroom.”
The conference occurred during the regularly scheduled class times, but took place at sessions in Laurel Hall’s Main Lounge and Monroe Hall’s room B01 rather than the class’s normal meeting location.
“In keeping with the spirit of professional development, which is often done at venues such as a conference,” says Costa, “students’ exposure to this method of communication will prepare them for both their professional and scholarly growth.”
Costa’s introduction to communication class will end the semester with one final convention-style event:
The Culminating Exhibition, another first of what Costa plans to make a recurring ordeal.
Students are expected to “prepare their choice of a toast, introduction, commemoration or tribute” for their final presentation, as the course syllabus notes.
The event will take place at The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort and is open only to students enrolled in the course.
Introduction to communication is a general education course open to students of any major.
“I will be teaching four sections of introduction to communication next spring,” says Costa. “All four will meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
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