Q&A with Paul Sandin

On Feb. 21, lecturer Paul Sandin spoke with Marci Kolb, a student working on a profile for one of professor Kwadwo Anokwa’s introductory journalism courses. Here is part of the interview.

M.K.: What is your favorite Butler memory?
P.S.: One of them is the first year I was here. It was just kind of magical. I knew right away this was a place I wanted to work. The people I met—it was a lot different than it is now. It was much more of a community. But that whole year was kind of magical. Second was the NCAA run, the first year and just how incredible it was. It was cool for Butler to make it to the Final Four and then to the championship game. The heartbreaking, last-second shot. But that was incredible.

M.K.: What are your goals and ambitions as a professor?
P.S.:I think I probably have three or four years left to teach. So I don’t have a lot of new goals. My goal has always been empowerment of students— encouraging them, coaching them, trying to get them to think for themselves.

M.K.: What do you hope you leave behind when you leave Butler?
P.S.: A legacy of being pro-student and being very accessible. And being one of those faculty that students can always go to and talk to. I have a lot of relationships with former students even today. They will call up, and we will get coffee at Starbucks or have dinner or lunch or whatever. Usually, they call around specific changes in their lives. They just want to talk some things through. And that means more to me than just about anything.

M.K.: Tell me a little about your family?
I have been married almost 40 years. It will be 40 this year. My daughter is married and living in Virginia with her husband and their baby daughter, my granddaughter, who is five months old. Her name is Addie. My daughter’s name is Erin. My wife’s name is Laura.

M.K.: How did you end up at Butler?
Another professor up here, who also worked with me at IUPUI, said that Butler was looking for part-timers to teach speech class. It was required for all Butler students at that point. She said that I should really come up here to talk to somebody and getting on board. So, I did talk with Dr. Neher and Dr. Waite and then we hit it off very well and they offered me a chance to come up and teach part time. And that led to full time. And 16 years later, here I am.

M.K.: What are your goals and ambitions as a professor?
I think I probably have 3 or 4 years left to teach. So I don’t have a lot of new goals. My goal has always been empowerment of students. Encouraging them. Coaching them. Trying to get them to think for themselves.

M.K.: How did the Speakers Lab get started?
As a result of a Lily grant, an Eli Lily grant, a three year grant, to explore promotion of oral communication and there were two sides to it. One side was an assessment where we would come to grips with and assess what it means to give a good speech, what components which ended up being the 8 competencies which you are familiar with. The other side was starting an organization that would be able to have peers talk to peers how to do speeches, how to organize them, how to research them and how to deliver them. And so we started out on a very limited basis. When the three years were up, the grant from Eli Lily went away, the university very quickly moved to picking up the Speakers Lab budget in its own budget. Saw the value in it. And here we are today. And you are a part of that.

M.K.: What is the most important role of the Speakers Lab to you?
Encouragement and empowerment. I like it when our tutors work with students to the point where they feel like they actually can do it. And I think if they see tutors who are passionate about what they do, they become a little more enthusiastic about giving a speech. So it’s not a bunch of teachers working with students where there is an imbalance of power and authority. It’s peer to peer and that’s what makes it work. And that has set the model for dozens and dozens of other university labs and centers across the country. A lot of folks model what they do after us.

M.K.: What have you learned from being involved in Speakers Lab?
To give the students, to give the tutors enough training, give them enough power to help them learn responsibility of running a lab and then get out of there. So when we have four managers in here like we had yesterday, you’ll notice I didn’t really suggest doing anything. It came from everybody else. And as a result, students are much quicker coming up with things that I might have missed. And I think they are empowered. Not just the leaders, but the other tutors too.

M.K.: What is the Speakers lab getting into now?
You are probably more aware of that then I am. I am excited about the establishment of Speaking Across the Curriculum on campus. Most of the professors are going to be using Speakers Lab as their way to off-load some of their speaking assignments. That is they don’t have to sit and listen to every speech. They can send students to Speakers Lab and have them get trained. So I am excited about that. I am really excited about being able to make Speakers Lab at least bi-lingual and maybe even offer more services in foreign language. Both for people who have English as a second language and also for students who are having to give presentations in foreign language courses. I think that is a tremendous innovation, so I am excited about it.

M.K.: When you decide to retire, how do you hope that the Speakers Lab will continue because you have been here from the beginning.
I know, I know, I have thought about that a lot. I guess it will go the direction it will go. With a new director and someone else at the helm, they may have new ideas, you know I’m kind of old school. There may be somebody who has new fresh ideas, new directions to take lab. I guess that’s just the way it is supposed to be. I know I don’t want it to stay like it is. It has to keep evolving, keep changing.