"Speaking and listening are ancient arts that, as their best practitioners understood, take a lifetime to master."

Make an appointment here.


The Center for Speaking & Listening is located in the former Wright Morrow Reading Room in the Jessie Ball duPont Library on the main floor in the Learning Commons. Located next to Cup & Gown Café, the Center features four semi-private practice rooms and open work space with tables, chairs, and outlets. The Center's beautiful, renovated space is designed to support students, faculty, and staff who may wish to prepare and practice individual and group presentations, poster presentations, interviews, debates, simulations, dialogues, language conversations, and other kinds of speaking and listening endeavors and projects. Come by and visit us!


The Center for Speaking & Listening is open during the following hours:

  • Sunday: 1:00-4:00 p.m. & 7:00-10:-00 p.m.
  • Monday-Thursday: 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., 1:00-4:00 p.m., & 7:00-10:00 p.m.

Sewanee’s Quality Enhancement Program (QEP), “Learning to Speak – Speaking to Learn,” has fulfilled its promise. The program, with roots in the 2005-2006 “Eloquence Initiative,” the 2012 Strategic Plan, and the 2013-2014 revisions to the General Education curriculum, was designed to foster improved speaking and listening practices, cultivate a richer appreciation for the spoken word as a critical and cultural resource, and deepen understanding of the rhetorical qualities of communication and community in a world of controversy and division.

At the heart of the QEP were four interrelated efforts: the Center for Speaking & Listening, the Speaking-Across-the-Curriculum Initiative, the Supportive Curriculum of courses in Speaking and Listening, and Extra-Curricular Activities (including the Sewanee Debate Union, DebateWatch events, and the Sewanee Festival of Speaking). The Center for Speaking & Listening opened in Spring 2018.


Sewanee’s Center for Speaking & Listening offers assistance to members of the campus community who seek help as they investigate, develop, refine, and practice oral presentations—speeches, addresses, arguments, debates, and dialogues—and as they seek to understand, through listening, those spoken discourses. 

But, in a larger sense, our hope and the mission to which we are dedicated is that Sewanee students will graduate as civic leaders ready and able:

  • To elevate the level of public discourse in our all-too-rancorous republic and to listen to one another even when we disagree;
  • To answer the bigoted and uninformed tweet with reasoned, informed, and considered judgment – to read and write, speak and listen as befits a liberally educated adult;
  • To meet defamatory utterances with passion, guided and directed by reason, but nonetheless forceful and clear and strong;
  • To speak truth to power even when the risk is great and the fear nearly paralyzing;
  • To pursue knowledge, to weigh evidence no matter how contradictory and complex;
  • To distinguish what is real from what is concocted;
  • To engage questions even when they are difficult;
  • To eschew the easy talking points of partisan propagandists and instead embrace the nuances and complexities always present in any worthwhile debate or discussion;

To understand, in the end, that there is no immaculate perception. That each of us will always have a somewhat different perspective on the world, its many issues and concerns, and the several routes forward. And that, while agreement on any of these points may be rare, constructive disagreement is a worthy goal of a liberally educated citizen in a republic.

Read more about the CS&L's mission in our Co-Director Sean O'Rourke's dedication speech "Wisdom and Eloquence," which was published in Vital Speeches of the Day 83.11 (November 2017): 344-45.

A Sampling of Rhetoric Courses


Sean Patrick O'Rourke, Co-Director
Melody Lehn, Co-Director