Eleven superb student speakers from across disciplines and courses, six judges, and fifty-nine audience members participated in this year’s annual Festival of Speaking & Listening, held in person for the first time since 2019.

The 2022 Festival kicked off with the “Speaking Science to the Public” Contest on Tuesday, April 19 in the Torian Room. A terrific slate of speakers and an audience of thirty students, faculty, and mentors engaged in a robust discussion during Q/A. The contest's judges were Dr. Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, Dean Terry Papillon, and the Rev. Warren Swenson. This year’s contest speakers included:

  • Haley Hubert, a senior Environment and Sustainability major, who presented “Evaluating Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Extraction by Well Trajectory.” Hubert’s faculty mentor is Dr. Eric Keen (Environmental Studies).
  • Nelson Tyer Jones, a senior Environment and Sustainability major, who presented “Net Neutrality: Urban Sewanee and a Sewanee Student’s Carbon Footprint.” Dr. Keen also mentored Tyer Jones.
  • Annie Masterson, a junior double-majoring in Biology and Politics, who presented “What Species Would Provide Indicators of Success of Woodland Restoration on the Plateau?” Her faculty mentor is Dr. Jon Evans (Biology).
  • Samantha Morgan, a senior Biology major, presented “Discussing the Negatives and Positives of Accutane,” with support from her faculty mentor Dr. Chris Shelley (Biology).
  • Tyler Reese, a junior Neuroscience major, who presented “The Impact of the Gut Microbiota on Human Behavior.” Reese cited Dr. Katharine Cammack (Psychology) as his faculty mentor.
  • Jackson Webb, a junior Biology major, presented “What Evidence is There to Support the ‘TNC Pine Savanna Hypothesis’ for the Cumberland Plateau?” Dr. Evans is Webb’s faculty mentor.

After tough deliberations, the judges announced Nelson Tyer Jones as the 1st-place winner, Annie Masterson as the 2nd-place winner, and Tyler Reese as the 3rd-place winner.

Speaking Science to the Public Contest Winners, Finalists, and JudgesSPEAKING SCIence to the Public Contest Speakers, Finalists, & judges
BACK ROW: Rev. Warren Swenson, Haley Hubert, Nelson Tyer Jones, Tyler Reese, Dean Terry Papillon, Dr. Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, & Jackson Webb; Kneeling: Samantha Morgan & Annie Masterson

The Public Speaking Contest, held on April 21 in the Torian Room, featured five finalists from across 2021-22 sections of RHET 101: Public Speaking taught by Dr. Melody Lehn, Dr. Sean Patrick O’Rourke, and the Rev. Warren Swenson. The judging panel included Dr. Robert Gaines (Rhetoric), Dr. Karen Yu (Psychology), and Mary Watkins (C '22), the 2019 winner of this contest, which drew twenty-nine audience members this year. Our 2022 contest speakers included:

  • Kenedi Clinton, a sophomore studying Biology and Civic and Global Leadership, who delivered “The Drivers License, But Not by Olivia Rodrigo.”
  • Aiden Kennedy, a sophomore studying Politics, who delivered “The Ethics of Kneeling During the National Anthem.”
  • Sloan Rogers, a first-year student studying Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies, who delivered “Why Cross Examination Should Be Removed From Courtrooms In Rape and Sexual Assault Cases.”
  • Mitch Shakespeare, a sophomore studying Environment and Sustainability, who delivered “Democracy, Domestic Terrorism, and Confederate Monuments.”
  • Will Stacey, a first-year student studying English, who delivered “Detrimental Social Media Designs.”

The judges had the unenviable task of selecting winners from this impressive list of finalists, and announced Sloan Rogers as the 1st-place winner, Mitch Shakespeare as the 2nd-place winner, and Will Stacey as the 3rd-place winner.

Public Speaking Contest Winners, Finalists, and JudgesPUBLIC SPEAKING CONTEST WINNERS, FINALISTS, & JUDGES
Back row: Dr. Karen Yu, Dr. Robert Gaines, Mary Watkins (C'22), Aiden Kennedy, Kenedi Clinton, & Sloan Rogers; Kneeling: Will Stacey & Mitch Shakespare

Each semester, all RHET 101 students work intensively in the first several weeks of the course with Sewanee’s expert Research Help Librarians Linnea Minich, Heidi Syler, and Courtnay Zeitler to deeply research a public controversy across disciplines and databases, to become familiar with duPont library’s resources, and to learn how to vet sources for credibility and appropriateness. Minich was on hand at the Public Speaking Contest this year, and observed the following: “Being there for the beginning of the research process at the start of the [RHET 101] class, and now seeing that research come to fruition, is really exciting.”

Congratulations to all finalists and winners, along with their faculty mentors! And many thanks to the judges and supporters who participated in this year’s Festival.

Applications for the 2023 Festival will open in early January. Email the Festival Co-Directors Dr. Sean Patrick O’Rourke (sporourk@sewaneee.edu) and Dr. Melody Lehn (mjlehn@sewanee.edu) with questions.