takes pleasure in talking
Ever wondered if people really picture the audience naked when giving a speech? If so, a Toastmaster would be the person to ask. Kim Sweirenga’s answer to this question is never. “I think it is ridiculous,” she said, laughing. Sweirenga, 20, is an MSU senior and president of the Toastmasters Club 9595, one of four groups in the Wichita Falls area. At Toastmasters, people come together to practice public speaking. They share a common goal of pursuing better communication skills. Through constructive criticism, they gain confidence in speaking to an audience, Sweirenga said. “Everyone has the education credentials nowadays, but not the skills to present themselves effectively, which is what impresses employers and clients,” Sweirenga said. “This is what Toastmasters teaches.” Three million men and women of all ages and professions have already benefited from Toastmaster training according to the International Toastmasters Web site. Such gatherings also give people the opportunity to socialize, network, and meet local professionals, she said. Sweirenga said she joined Club 9595 for other reasons, also. She liked the chemistry and attitudes of the group and how they followed a schedule. “They are laid back and joke around, yet it is obvious that they are there to get something accomplished,” Sweirenga said. “It is a fun atmosphere, but you still learn a lot.” An international trade major, Sweirenga hopes the skills she will learn in Toastmasters will make her a better professional. “No matter if I am an ambassador, representative for a company or an adviser, these skills will help me speak with authority, read my audience, get my message across more effectively and overall be a better communicator,” she said. The definition of a good communicator varies. To Sweirenga it is someone with confidence and Toastmasters helps give people this. Sweirenga, who joined in April, has already taken an active role in the club. This is not required, however. If a person is scared of speaking they are not forced to do so, she said. Although they are encouraged to speak a little during a meeting, it is up to the individual how active a role he takes as a member, Sweirenga said. In order to overcome her own fear or nervousness, she convinces herself she is the expert on the material. Odds are the audience does not know it and cannot tell if she messes up. Toastmaster speeches are given on a multitude of subjects. They are not censored in any way. Sweirenga always tailors her speeches to the audience. She’s spoken on fingers and their uses and motions and different leadership styles. “My favorite speech I have given so far is on leadership styles and where people fit in with them,” Sweirenga said. Sweirenga is currently the only student in Club 9595, which meets at 7 p.m. Mondays at the New Life Church at 4007 Callfield. Two or three prepared speeches are delivered at every meeting. Table topics are also discussed, which include impromptu speeches. A word of the day, a joke or current event and evaluations are also given. Anyone 18 or older can join a Toastmasters Club. There is no MSU group, but is in the planning stages. On Sept. 17, a communication and leadership program was started as a mini program for students. The $20 program will last nine weeks, with the last week being graduation. Meetings are held every Wednesday at 3:30 at Buns Over Texas. Currently, five students are involved. “It is my ambition to create a club out of this group,” said Barbara Morgan, District 25 area governor and Club 305 vice president. Twenty people must be involved in order to create a club, Morgan said. If other students are interested, but did not get involved in the mini program, they can visit any of the four groups in the area, she said. A person can join a club at any time. It costs $18 to join and $3 every month. Ages and professions vary between the different groups. According to Sweirenga, the ages of the members in her group range from 20 to about 80. Professions of members also vary. Some are retired. Others are engineers, teachers and county commissioners. “A student should not be intimidated to join just because they may be younger than some or most of the other participants,” Sweirenga said. “Learning these skills now can help a younger person be more successful.”
Usage Exam scheduled for Thursday,
The next English Usage Exam will take place Thursday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. in Bolin Science Hall, Room 100. Students can pay the $15 exam fee at the MSU business office. On exam day they should take their paid receipt, an ID and a pen or pencil. The English Usage Exam is required by the university for any student seeking a baccalaureate degree. It is not a requirement by the State of Texas, but the state does require an exit level English exam in order for the university to maintain accreditation. “The purpose of the exam is to ensure that all the graduates can write a decent essay by the time they graduate,” Dana Barnett, assistant professor in charge of the English Usage Exam, said. The MSU Board of Regents decides what type of exam is given. The test is graded on a pass/fail basis. It consists of a multi-paragraph essay that a student must write demonstrating the ability prove a thesis and use grammatical skills. The essay is usually between 300 and 500 words. Because the exam is a requirement so a student who does not pass cannot graduate until the class Composition Skills is passed. “I know a lot of students complain about the test, but I think it is a good thing. You need to see that they can write an essay before they graduate (from college),” senior music major Laci Reed said. “I feel very strongly about this. I read my brothers’ essays sometimes. They graduated from high school making mostly As and Bs in English and yet they don’t even write a C paper at a college level.” The exam is graded by three MSU English professors. A fourth professor will be added after this year. Because of this addition the price of the exam will increase from $15 to $25. Barnett and Head of English Department, Thomas Galbraith would not release the names of the grading professors because of the harassment the grading professors might receive from students unhappy with the results of their test. The grade on the exam is based on a student’s ability to organize thoughts, use a consistent style and apply mechanics. Barnett said that most of the mistakes on the test are mechanical or the failure to give a thesis statement. “Anyone with a decent high school education ought to be able to pass it with flying colors. I had already taken a similar test—an exit level English exam—at a different university, but unfortunately it doesn’t transfer,” senior history major Heather Davis said. “It is just something you deal with if you want to graduate.” The test is designed to put a final check on students’ writing abilities before they receive their degree. “This is a check to make sure businesses don’t call us and say, ‘Why did you give this person a degree, they can’t even write an essay.’ That wouldn’t reflect too well on the university,” Barnett said. It is also to put a check on transfer students from other universities or junior colleges. “Over 50 percent of failing students are transfers,” Barnett said. For more information regarding the exam, contact Dana Barnett at 397-4201 or visit the English Usage Exam Web site at http://libarts.mwsu.edu/english/usagetest.asp. Paige Dickerson contributed to this story.