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EWO student research explores public speaking issues

Bri Byram '16 was awarded the 2014 Mary Alice Muellerleile Student Leadership Award.
Bri Byram '16 was awarded the 2014 Mary Alice Muellerleile Student Leadership Award.
Photo by Rebecca Zenefski '10.

Bri Byram ’16 is a working mother helping to reshape the way St. Catherine University educates women in public speaking.

A double major in communication and women’s studies and currently a research assistant at St. Kate’s, Byram has been working on a long-term research project with Dr. Rafael Cervantes, chair of the University’s Communication Studies department, that will have a long term effect on the department’s public speaking curriculum. The research is underwritten by the University's Undergraduate Research Summer Scholars program.

She is conducting interviews with women, collecting data and documenting stories related to the issues women face with public speaking. After connecting this information with critical feminist pedagogy, Cervantes and Byram will create a scholarly paper entitled "Women's Voices," which they plan to co-present at a national conference.

“A study like this that is both qualitative and quantitative, one that concerns the very real struggles unique to women and public speaking, has never been done before,” said Cervantes. “This has the potential to shape the way communication curriculum is written in the future, and to help women of all ages develop their communication skills.”

Based on their research findings, Cervantes and Byram plan to redesign the course "COMM 1030: Speaking to Lead and Influence" by next year.

This project work is among the reasons she was named the 2014 winner of the Mary Alice Muellerleile Student Leadership Award that is presented to an EWO program student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to her peers and to the University, and who has been an advocate of the strengths and development of women of all ages. The award is named in honor of the first director of the Evening/Weekend/Online (EWO) program.

Byram also serves on the EWO Student Advisory Board, has been both a writer and performer in the student-produced "Catherine’s Monologues," and was also inducted into Lambda Pi Eta, the national honor society for speech communications.

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July 27, 2014 by Julie Michener

See also: Leadership, Students