A group of Fordham graduate students gathered at the Lincoln Center campus on Feb. 5 for a crash course on public speaking.

In the Ignatian Public Speaking workshop led by Robert Parmach, Ph.D., director of Ignatian mission and ministry, students learned about the finer points of “SPATE”—stance, projection, articulation, tone, and eye contact.

“We want to help graduate students develop skill sets that link to their Jesuit education,” said Parmach. In his introductory remarks, he invoked a lesson from St. Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, reminding students that “developing the interior life … animates our spirit and connects us deeper to God and others.”

“Think about it,” he said. “The way you hold yourself in front of an audience demonstrates the kind of person you are and your character … The techniques we teach you provide ways to use your body and voice to motivate, lead, and transform others. It joins the mind, body, and soul to empower others and yourself along the way.”

In the workshop, the students practiced speaking in front of each other. Each was handed a written prompt, then given three minutes to digest it and a minute to summarize it for the group.

Robert Parmach leans in to speak with three students seated
The workshop was attended by students from the Graduate School of Education, the Gabelli School of Business, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, and the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

Lisa Cummings, a student at the Graduate School of Education currently teaching at the Orchard Collegiate Academy, said she felt “uplifted” by the workshop.

“I’ve been able to gather some useful tips, and it’s motivated me to try to create a workshop for my own students,” she said.

Asked to identify the one area of SPATE she felt she needed the most improvement, Cummings picked articulation. She recalled a mistake she made as an undergraduate at SUNY Morrisville.

“I had the opportunity to speak at my graduation, and I turned that opportunity down because of my fear of not being able to articulate myself well enough,” she said.

“That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and having passed up that opportunity, I really have made it a point to push myself to overcome that fear.”

A woman seated to the left holds her hands up and speaks to a man standing off to the righ
Lisa Cummings, left, offered advice to Jay Vaghani after he summarized a prompt about the singer Sting.

Jay Vaghani, a Gabelli School of Business graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in quantitative finance, likewise found the workshop pushed him beyond his comfort zone. For his speech, he was given a prompt describing how the artist Sting reacted to a negative review of his music.

Vaghani, a native of Surat, Gujarat, India, who moved to the United States with the goal of transitioning from engineering to finance, has been hesitant to speak in public since he was a child.

He found it useful to focus on his tone and articulation. Although he was unfamiliar with Sting before reading the prompt, he said the short time he was given to prepare was paradoxically helpful because it forced him to focus on the content he’d be delivering and not the anxiety he felt.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “I look forward to doing another one.”

Students seated in a circle listening to a man standing in front of them.
The workshops began last spring and are a partnership between Robert Parmach and Michael Taylor, student success coordinator at the Graduate School of Education, and Veronica Szczygiel, director of online learning at the Graduate School of Education.

Patrick Verel is a news producer for Fordham Now. He can be reached at [email protected] or (212) 636-7790.