Students compete for public speaking prizes


SVSU undergraduate students performed in the annual Sims Public Speaking Competition on Friday, Nov. 2.

Sims is a public speaking competition open to all students and is sponsored by an endowment funded through Lawrence and Linda Sims.

For the competition, students gave a five- to eight-minute persuasive speech about a topic of their choice in front of judges in Brown Hall. This year, the judges for the two preliminary rounds included 14 communication alumni. Six winners from the first two rounds then headed to the final round in the Marble Lecture Room in Wickes.

“Students received a rank, first to sixth place, and a rate, 70 to 100, from each judge,” said Amy Pierce, a communication professor and Forensics Team adviser. “Speeches should be well organized, researched, written, supported and delivered.”

This year, 40 students entered the competition from a wide range of majors.

Zachary Peterson, a supply chains manager sophomore, entered the competition again after winning first place last year. This year, Peterson’s speech pertained to high school sports.

“The hardest part of preparing was writing the speech and finding a good topic,” he said. “Once I’ve got something I’m passionate about, it flows.”

Tiler Jewell, a fifth-year communication and creative writing major, competed in the competition for the third time this year.

“All sorts of students sign up and talk about something that they have a lot of heart in and that they’re passionate about,” she said. “It’s good hear about a lot of these topics and different viewpoints on them.”

Jewell said she was grateful for the assistance Pierce gave her while preparing.

“Dr. Pierce is always a lot of help every step of the way,” she said. “She has taken time to read and revise my speech several times, as well as watched me practice to give me some much-needed feedback. She definitely pushes me to do the best that I can do in every competition, and that’s something I am very thankful for.”

Pierce enjoys planning the Sims competition and helping students prepare their speeches. She has been involved with planning the event since 2001.

“One of the things I enjoy most about being involved in the Sims competition is seeing the collegiality and enthusiasm displayed by students on the day of the event,” she said. “Performing in a public speaking competition is stressful for even the most seasoned presenter, but seeing students encourage one another, engage in civil debate and connect with alumni is rewarding.”

Provost Deborah Huntley, Dean of the College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences Marc Peretz and Dean of Students Sidney Childs judged students in the final round.

At that point, six students competed for the first-place cash prize of $400. Three finalists won a $50 cash prize each.

Communication senior Alexander Belknap’s speech was about a universal income to alleviate poverty. Occupation therapy freshman Sarah Enge discussed antibiotics and superbug prevention. Elementary education freshman Jenny Wisniewski talked about capping the costs of insulin.

Third place went to communication senior Simone Vaughn for a speech titled “No Place Like Home,” which advocated for homeless shelters for teenagers in the Tri-City area.

Political science senior Daniel Visnovsky won the second-place prize of $250 with a speech about transgender rights and Title IX.

The grand prize of $400 went to communication senior Courtney Perrou for her speech on the need for intersectionality in feminism. She called for the recognition of the struggles of African-American females throughout history and present-day life.

“This is my first time ever participating in Sims,” Perrou said. “It’s my first year in forensics. … I almost feel a sort of guilt. In my speech, I talk about how we’ve been piggybacking off the marginalized, and here I am. I’ve won speaking about a group that has been silenced, so it’s definitely a mix of feelings.”

Perrou worked with several communication professors who helped her perfect her topic and speech.

“My coaches spent hours working with me (the day before the event),” she said. “When all six of us contestants were sitting there waiting for the results, whoever wins, we said we couldn’t even be mad because we all did amazing. I am so proud of the first years and those students who aren’t communication majors. For them to come out here, it’s great.”