Junior Marci Kolb interviewed Paul Sandin during the previous academic year for a story she was writing for class.
She asked him what would happen to the Speakers Lab when he retired. In response, Sandin said, “The Speakers Lab is an evolving thing.”
Change is inevitable. However the sudden passing of Sandin, the previous Speakers Lab director, took many by surprise this past spring.
“Of course things are different,” said Kolb, a tutor recruiter and assistant manager of the Speakers Lab. “Professor Sandin has run the lab from the very beginning.”
However, because Sandin managed the lab using student tutors, the transition between directors has been smooth.
“When Mr. Sandin left, of course, he left abruptly,” new director Kristen Hoerl said. “The tutors, however, have done a remarkable job of keeping everything together and holding the fort down through the transition.”
Hoerl has previous experience that applies to her new role.
Hoerl earned her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a degree in communication studies. She also worked at the university as a writing consultant at a center with a similar structure to Butler’s Writers’ Studio and Speakers Lab.
Before coming to Butler, Hoerl was the director of the Public Speaking Center at Auburn University. There, she trained both masters and graduate students to teach public speaking courses across the university.
Student tutors and Hoerl have worked together to make changes in how the staff operates.
“The lab is still student-run,” Kolb said, “but we’ve been going to classes to teach about what the Speakers Lab is. There are both new students and professors, so many don’t know what the lab is and what it does.”
One of the newest public speaking professors said the Speakers Lab is a fantastic resource for students and thinks its feedback will only help make speeches stronger.
“In all of my previous institutions where I have worked, I have never had this kind of resource support for my students,” said Erin Ortiz, assistant professor with the organizational communication and leadership program. “I am looking forward to using it this semester.”
Student tutors are proficient in understanding both content and delivery, Hoerl said, and they know what to listen for when helping a student prepare a speech. They provide detailed comments and suggestions before a student delivers a speech in class.
“We have some expertly-trained students here who can provide guidance and feedback in a really useful, casual atmosphere,” Hoerl said.
Student tutors serve as a great representation of the audience that the students will be speaking to in class, Ortiz said. The students are targeting their key audience by organizing and practicing their speeches with the tutors instead of professors.
“The tutor gave me very constructive criticism, and I found the lab to be very useful,” sophomore Billy Krawzak said. He used the lab while taking Freshman Business Experience.
The Speakers Lab primarily serves students in both the College of Communication and the College of Business, Hoerl said. However, Hoerl would like the lab to become a resource for students across the university as well.
“I would like more students to know about the role of communication and public speaking and the value it can have for them,” Hoerl said. “Even if they don’t see themselves in a career that immediately uses public speaking, this will probably be a part of everybody’s career.”
Because of the legacy Sandin left behind, Kolb and others think the Speakers Lab will only grow from here.
“Things are not going to be the same,” Kolb said. “However, with a bigger staff and strong leadership, I only see the Speakers Lab getting stronger.”