Any student, faculty or staff member at the University of Southern Mississippi wanting help polishing his or her oral communication skills need look no further than the recently expanded Speaking Center on the Hattiesburg campus.
Located on the first floor of Cook Library, the Speaking Center provides free tutorial service for those seeking assistance with any speaking project, including formal presentations, discussion skills, interviewing or campus speeches.
What began as one small room in 2006 culminated in a grand opening celebration of the new facility on Sept. 17. The expanded center features a main lobby, workshop space, individual practice rooms and research and consulting space.
“The new space brings needed, additional rooms for students to hone their speaking and presentation skills and does so in a professional, welcoming environment,” said Julie Howdeshell, director of Quality Enhancement at Southern Miss. “The center is symbolic of the university’s recognition of the importance of communication skills and its commitment to student success.”
The center’s upgrade represents a textbook case of supply meeting demand. When the 2005-06 school year ended, the center had conducted just 41 individual consultations. By the end of the 2008-09 session, that number had skyrocketed to 1,306 (including consultations at the Gulf Coast center).
“When we first opened we were limited in how many students we could see,” said Dr. Wendy Atkins-Sayre, Speaking Center director and assistant professor of Speech Communication. “With the expansion of our physical space, technology, staff and hours we are now able to work with more individuals.”
One unique aspect of the Speaking Center is the practice space, which allows users to go in on their own or with a consultant to practice with visual aids and record themselves on video. Lauren Smithhart, a junior English Education major, has already taken advantage of the Speaking Center’s resources on several occasions.
“The center is very beneficial and helps me organize my speeches,” she said. “It also helps me feel more comfortable when speaking in class.”
Associate Provost Bill Powell said the Speaking Center expansion illustrates the university’s ongoing commitment to student achievement.
“With a range of services complemented by excellent facilities and technology, the Speaking Center constitutes another dimension of the university’s efforts to enhance student success in their studies,” he said.
For the fall semester, the center is open on the Hattiesburg campus from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday and 2-5 p.m. on Sunday. To learn more about the center call 601-266-4965 or visit www.usm.edu/speakingcenter/. To learn more about the Gulf Coast facility visit www.usm.edu/speakingcenter/gc.htm.
The recently expanded Speaking Center located in Cook Library at the University of Southern Mississippi provides peer consultation services as well as private rehearsal opportunities. (University Communications photo by Stephen Rouse)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.