Learning to speak, speaking to learn: duPont’s newest facility

By Sarah Mixon C’21

Contributing Writer


At the start of the Easter semester, duPont Library will offer a new set of services coinciding with the Writing Center. Along with the new semester, the Center for Speaking & Listening (CSL) will open its doors. But what exactly does this mean and how can you use this facility?


The Center for Speaking & Listening was inspired by the Southern Association of Colleges and Kris Bruss’ “Eloquence Initiative” developed in 2005. With the Eloquence Initiative in mind, the plan for the Center for Speaking & Listening was added to the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).


The QEP is a five-year plan currently in its second year. The QEP signifies learning to speak and speaking to learn. In other words, it is “designed to improve students’ oral communication skills through the practice of public speaking in disciplines across the curriculum,” according to Sewanee’s website.


Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Women’s and Gender Studies Melody Lehn is serving as the assistant director of the CSL. When asked what skills she wished to impart onto students, she replied, “to cultivate critical and empathetic listening skills in any context.”


She emphasized that listening is also a large part of the CSL and is a skill she hopes many students can learn to develop. Sean O’Rourke, a professor of rhetoric, is the center’s director and hopes to “decrease B.S. and increase reasoned reflection and cogent argument.” Dr. Brandy Tiernan and Dr. Andrew Moser will assist Lehn and O’Rourke as speaking fellows to develop speaking-intensive courses for Sewanee students in the future.


The CSL will offer conference rooms and tutors during its hours to aid in presentations and speeches. The CSL will also introduce students to a new piece of technology called a SWIVL unit, designed to let a student watch his or her presentation. Though unsure of the acronym, O’Rourke describes this device as a “swiveling unit that follows and records you with your phone.”


With approximately 20 tutors currently in training, 12 will be active during the Easter semester. Simon Boes (C’18), one of the tutors in training, commented that “next semester, there will be a large group of motivated tutors that want to help the community’s presentation and rhetoric skills.” In regards to the goals of the facility, he stated, “it is critical for everyone to learn how to articulate and debate fairly and directly.”


The Center for Speaking & Listening’s hours will coincide with the Writing Center’s hours, Sunday-Thursday from 1:30-4:00 and 7:00-9:30. For more information on the CSL or QEP, visit www.sewanee.edu/qep/slc/.