The Student Newspaper of Highline College

Lisa Voso

Public Speaking Center adapts to COVID-19 restrictions

Edward Vega Staff Reporter Oct 15, 2020

The Public Speaking Center is available to support students for their communications needs, despite changes to how students receive that support, the center’s director said.

COVID-19 has altered how students typically get assistance from tutors at the Public Speaking Center. What used to be live, in-person sessions, have transitioned to the virtual setting students have experienced since Spring Quarter.

Lisa Voso has been at Highline as a professor of communications since 2016. She acquired permanent funding as the founder for Highline’s first Public Speaking Center after facilitating a successful pilot program two years ago.

“It’s still possible to really help students in a meaningful way, even through we are in a virtual format,” Voso said.

“Often, students have not had a lot of training on how to do proper citations or how to organize their thoughts,” Voso said.

The Public Speaking Center provides students with support for things like outlines, speech anxiety, topic ideas, and even a tutor that can fill in as a required audience member.

“Honestly, I think they all are beneficial,” Voso said regarding which services she finds more helpful for students.

“In the short-term, students feel a lot of relief having a safe place to go to get help with drafting their outlines and to practice their speeches,” she said.

Students can receive help from tutors, who provide them with visual aids and help them work on their delivery while practicing their speech as they record and review it.

“They helped me with drafting the assignments and I received the support I needed to be able to prepare and practice before recording my videos,” student Maria Hatch said.

Hatch got help from the Public Speaking Center while she was taking a public speaking class.

“I’m an immigrant with an accent, and I was looking for some guidance. I’m over 40 years old and new to the college system so having access to resources can make a big difference for students like me,” Hatch said.

The Public Speaking Center caters to students with varying degrees of need, Voso said.

“The tutors make that happen in many different ways, including providing ways to decrease their anxiety, increase their confidence, and improve their delivery,” she said.

Tutors can help with things such as speech anxiety. The tutors are trained on methods such as speaker development exercises, breathing techniques, and even neuro-linguistic reprogramming.

Students having difficulties preparing or performing their speeches can make an appointment to meet with one of 3 tutors at the Public Speaking Center page, where they can select from a list of various times available.

“I always scheduled the earliest appointment because I had to be at work and they were always happy to help,” Hatch said.

“We fear the students think that if they cannot come to the PSC during our posted hours that they cannot get help. They can,” Voso said.

If students find that they cannot commit to the listed available timeslots, they now have the option to submit their videos of pre-recorded speeches or outlines via e-mail for review.

“Students may email the Public Speaking Center (publicspeakingcenter@highline.edu) their outlines or practice speeches by video and receive feedback within 24 hours, or 48 if it’s over the weekend,” Voso said.

The Public Speaking Center didn’t serve as many students in spring or summer as it did live in previous quarters, Voso said. Some professors removed the presentation portions of their courses when possible. Another factor may have been accessibility issues for students.

“There is something blocking students from using tutoring resources that does not exist when we are open in-person,” Voso said about difficulties in adapting to the virtual setting.

“I thought that adding the e-mail for help option would help address any access issues…so far though that e-mail for help addition has not addressed the blocking issue to the degree that I had hoped,” she said.

But the center is still there for students who need it.

“I definitely recommend all students to take advantage of the services offered by the students at the Public Speaking Center. It can make a big difference in the outcomes of your grades,” Hatch said.

For students who may think they couldn’t benefit from the center’s services, Voso encouraged them to reflect on speakers that resonate with them.

“The speakers that move them with their words and singers that move them with their voices have all had voice training,” Voso said. “I wonder what we can do for their voices.”