North Texas Daily

Workshops fill learning gaps

Workshops fill learning gaps

March 27
22:41 2013

Melissa Wylie / Senior Staff Writer

Throughout the semester, the Toulouse Graduate School offers a number of workshops to help graduate students refine their professional skills outside the classroom.

Joseph Oppong, associate dean of research and professional development of the Toulouse Graduate School, organizes an average of 20 workshops a semester that cover topics such as public speaking and interview preparedness.

“The whole idea is that individual graduate programs are not able to offer everything the student needs,” Oppong said. “So the graduate school works with the programs to supplement, to add value, to do those things that the individual programs cannot do.”

While teaching necessary material, Oppong said most professors don’t have the time to help students develop their professional skills.

Oppong collaborates with a variety of facilities, including the Career Center, the Counseling Center and the department of dance and theatre to create workshops that cover a large area of professional elements, he said.

“How to Give an Award Winning Talk” is one of the reoccurring lectures, and is presented by Denise Perry Simmons, assistant vice president of UNT research development.

Each semester for the past four years, Simmons has given attendees advice on how to effectively communicate their research in a range of settings, she said.

“Are you going to be talking to a group of students at a local presentation or seminar? Are you going to be talking at a state or national conference?” Simmons said. “That sort of information is important in terms of deciding the kinds of information you’ll include in the talk.”

The workshop usually has an audience of 40 to 50 faculty members and students, and Simmons said the information provided can be applied in a number of academic areas, including sciences, humanities and arts.

“I think it’s a useful workshop and I do try to make sure the information in the workshop can be applied and that students feel comfortable contacting me if there are questions beyond what I’ve presented,” Simmons said.

Talking has always come naturally to Simmons, and she said her experiences have given her a collection of tips that she shares at the workshop.

Nervousness is the most common obstacle for presenters, but Simmons said being well informed and practiced allows for a smoother presentation, no matter the type or topic.

“Something I’ve found very interesting, and I still sometimes forget to do this, and it applies mostly to women, and that is to wear something with a pocket,” Simmons said. “There’s not always the benefit of wireless [mircrophones].”

Having a level of comfort while presenting is highly important and can be reached by using fewer props and really knowing the material, Simmons said.

A video of Simmons’s workshop, and others, is available on the graduate school’s website.

The graduate school’s next workshop, “IMPROVing Communication Using Improvisational Theatre – Part 1” will be at 3:00 p.m. on April 1. The location is still to be determined.

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