July 17, 2018

Effort supported by $250,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

TACOMA, Wash. – The University of Puget Sound will soon establish the Center for Speech and Effective Advocacy. Supported by a $250,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the center will provide a wide variety of opportunities for Puget Sound students and faculty members to gain greater confidence and experience in oral argumentation, advocacy, and persuasion.

“Our times demand strong abilities to communicate effectively across differences of belief and to teach argumentation skills courageously,” said Puget Sound Provost Kristine Bartanen. “We thank The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for the financial support that will make the center possible.”

The new center will serve both curricular and cocurricular needs and provide a collaboration space for a wide variety of campus classes and groups whose work requires compelling public speaking and communication.

“This center will help our faculty teach argumentation, public advocacy, and persuasion, and to make sure that all students who graduate from Puget Sound have those skills,” said communication studies professor Susan Owen.

“The idea is that the center will become something that is always tied to public engagement, the public political sphere, and thoughtful, deliberative advocacy,” continued Owen.

Similar to the university’s Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching, which utilizes a crew of student writing advisors and subject tutors, a core element of the Center for Speech and Effective Advocacy will be a team of student mentors who will help their peers write and rehearse speeches. A central focus of the center will be helping students learn to translate written content and academic or professional jargon into language better suited for oral delivery.

“For example, students in health sciences could consider their roles as communicators with patients,” explained Bianca Wolf, associate professor of communication studies. “They need to understand that role and be aware of the need to translate technical information into understandable language that will help patients better understand their situation and their options.”

The Center for Speech and Effective Advocacy will complement the work of Puget Sound’s first-year seminars in scholarly inquiry, writing center, and other academic programs and initiatives that support students in expanding their ability to organize and communicate information and ideas. Among the center’s other likely campus partners will be the university’s experiential learning department, as well as its three major civic engagement projects—the Race and Pedagogy Institute, Sound Policy Institute, and Freedom Education Project Puget Sound.

“Puget Sound students engage with the world from a place of justice and advocacy,” said Renee Houston, professor of communication studies and associate dean for experiential learning and civic scholarship.

“By connecting with faculty members in meaningful, community-based partnerships, and with effective advocacy skills offered through the new center, Puget Sound students will have the opportunity to advance their knowledge and become effective and responsible change agents in a dynamic world.”

The Center for Speech and Effective Advocacy will begin serving the campus community by spring 2019.


Press photos of the University of Puget Sound can be downloaded from pugetsound.edu/pressphotos.

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