Catching up with public speaking award winner, Liz Power

By Jess Wind

Every year one student from each section of CMNS 235: Public Speaking is nominated by their class for the Rise and Shine Toastmasters award at the end of the semester. These nominees present an acceptance speech as their entry for the award and one exceptional speaker is chosen for the annual $600 prize.

Our most recent winner is Liz Powers, a Bachelor of Arts student with plans to major in psychology before moving on to a Masters in counselling. She’s prepared for it to take longer than the average four-year degree because on top of being a student and server, Liz is a mother of three.

Liz came into every class with a smile and enthusiasm that radiated to everyone around her. Liz’s speeches were relevant to her life, and that of her audience with a healthy dose of humour to draw her listeners in. Most memorably, Liz taught us how to bake cookies for her demonstration speech, and there were plenty of samples to go around.

I caught up with Liz to find out what it took to earn the nomination from her classmates, and the mark Public Speaking has left on her.

Talk to me a bit about your decision to take the class and your journey throughout the term.

So I took the class because I was told there was no final exam. I was just trying to balance out my course load and figure out how to do that with kids and going back to school because I was still really new to the process.

And then the process of learning how to write a speech and then how to execute it was actually far more interesting than I thought it’d be.

What did you think about being nominated, and then about winning?

I was actually very surprised. And then I was grateful and also ungrateful in that I was like “I don’t have time to write another one of these and memorize it,” but I thought, it’s good practice.

Winning the award was a nice confidence booster. It was almost necessary at that stage. When I got the email that I won, it was at a really difficult stage in my life personally with my kids and what not and that was just like a nice moment in what was a really chaotic couple of months.

How’d you plan for the final speech?

One of the memorization techniques that was mentioned in my psychology class was the memory palace. And so I used that to memorize my last speech which was so helpful.

I memorized the speech walking through my house from room to room and each space in my house had a different component of my speech. So when I was giving my speech it was a lot easier because it had a flow to it … I feel it made the process far less nerve wracking.

Do you find you’re more aware of speaking skills in others now?

I am more aware of my hand gestures when I’m talking, because when I started I looked like an aerobics instructor from 1980. Which is really appropriate being the size of my hair typically.

I went to the Tedx Chilliwack, and it was very interesting watching the different speakers because they work with coaches and some of them were so on point and I can tell [they’ve] really dialed this down. I was so impressed — things I probably wouldn’t have noticed before … but now when you understand the number of things that need to go into that. And then the moments where they would forget you could see them stop and close their eyes and look for it in their mind … I know what that moment feels like.

Do you have any tips for the next round of public speaking students?

In terms of memorizing, the memory palace was key for me. And the other thing that I think helped was … I practiced in front of my video recorder … and then I would watch it. And then I would do it again and I would watch it. I would see where I stumbled or where I missed and then I would try to make those pieces more memorable.

And I would also practice in my car, anytime I was driving anywhere, it was repeat, repeat, repeat.

Looking toward the future, Liz dreams of opening a bed and breakfast one day and possibly combining that with her counselling focus into a retreat centre.

I actually just love making people’s beds and cooking them breakfast and telling them about the community and all the cool fun things there are to do.  

 

Another (awesome) Writer in the House

By Mai Anh Doan

Jennifer Browne gets things done FAST. There is no doubt about that when you are her co-worker and witness the way she organizes her tasks and wades through the myriad of administrative requests of an ever-growing department. She simply puts it down to being a mother three kids.

But of course, we know there’s more to it.

What some of us don’t know is that Jen is a published writer with six books under her belt. Outside of her current full-time job as the Communications Department Assistant, she’s a professional writer, copy-editor, and event coordinator. Jen writes extensively about plant-based food, digestive health, and mental health.

Writing and publishing books to her is personal. It started with her personal interest in finding practical books to tackle everyday physical and psychological health issues. When she became frustrated and couldn’t find what she was looking for, she decided to write what she felt was missing in the bookstore. She also creatively involves her children in her writing projects. She co-wrote her latest book, Understanding Teenage Anxiety, with her oldest son while having her younger son photograph another book.

“How do you do it?” I asked Jen about her finding time for writing.

“I believe that health is a very relatable issue. When I interviewed people for my books, I could feel it in the tone of their voice. How they were (just like me) concerned about their own wellbeing and wanting to find ways improve it. They empowered me; I wrote everywhere including during my kids’ soccer games, ballet lessons, you name it. Anywhere I had five minutes of free time.”

And that passion fuelled her writing ferociously.

After completing her first book, Happy Healthy Gut, in 2014, she was asked to write a follow-up cookbook (Vegetarian Comfort Foods). After that, she immediately started not one, but two books, at the same time. Baby Nosh and Medicinal Tea came out in 2016 as the results of this creative craze. She vowed to herself to never write two books simultaneously again—until 2019. Two of her latest books, The Anti-Anxiety Cookbook and Understanding Teenage Anxiety, were released in the same year she started a new job in the Department of Communications here at UFV.

Since joining the department in March 2019, Jen has been more focused on her full-time role here, but she still keeps writing in the back of her mind. “Working in this environment constantly reminds me of how important communicating with the audience is—just like writing. If you put your students or your readers in the center and try to understand what they need, you’ll achieve leaps and bounds, for sure.”

“Would your busy schedule mean that we might not see another book of yours for quite some time?”, I attempted to fish information about her writing plan.

“I’m still learning a lot about this job, and I’m loving it, but I keep my creative juices alive too. I’ve been administratively coordinating the SiWC (Surrey International Writers’ Conference) to help writers develop professionally for seven years now. Being surrounded by these motivated and inspiring people at these events, I can’t help but think about my next book. I’d love to write some fiction next time around.”

Well, fiction or non-fiction, we wish Jen the best a new year as a new semester has just started. We are thrilled to have another writer in the house (or department, to be correct) that shares the same philosophy with our other members—connecting with and focusing on people.

Hannah Celinski dances her way to becoming a communications professor

Hannah Celinski is one of three newest faculty members to join our Department this Fall. She shared with us some interesting facts, and one boring one, about her life and her teaching in a conversation with Mai Anh Doan earlier this month.

Mai Anh Doan: Congratulations again on your new position. It’s great to see you again with your usual contagious energy and smile. I know that you’ve been teaching as a sessional for a couple of semesters here, but we didn’t get to chat much. Shall we start with your telling us a little bit about your professional background?

Hannah Celinski: I grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo, and after graduating from Sheridan College’s Music Theatre Performance Program, I worked as a professional dancer and choreographer across Canada and abroad on industrials, musicals, music videos, cruise ships, commercials, and notably on the workshop of the Broadway show Fosse with dance legend Gwen Verdon. I eventually moved to Abbotsford and became the owner of Aerial Dance & Acro Academy. I had the pleasure of teaching students from all over the Lower Mainland, and mentoring interested students through the process of becoming professional actors, singers, and dancers.

Hannah being caught at the West Coast Flying Trapeze Circus School, 2018

Mai Anh: That’s very impressive! I used to want to be able to dance professionally but soon realized that not everyone can pursue it as a career (there goes my dream ). How much of it do you bring it to your new position? Can you give us some examples?

Hannah: At UFV, I teach business writing, public speaking, and first-year courses for students learning to thrive in the post-secondary environment. My experience as a business owner allows me to draw from real-world examples to bring the material to life, and my work coaching students to successfully navigate a variety of intense interview settings is the bedrock of my public speaking course. I also relate the theory, textbook readings, and assignments to stories that capture incredible things that happened to myself, my friends, and my previous students. Storytelling has always been a feature of my teaching style.

Mai Anh: We also know that you are pursuing your PhD at the same time. What is your PhD about? How do you think your PhD study helps with you with your teaching?

Hannah: My PhD research is currently focused on what I call Legacy Learning and Legacy Instruction, which capture the role of exponential growth in the physical and cognitive processes of learning. I became interested in the topic while examining Virtual Reality (VR) as a vehicle for archiving movement. The current project has evolved to include the evolution of Learning Outcomes, and the importance of mindfulness in the classroom.

My research is deeply connected to my position, as it informs my teaching practice, assignments, and assessment strategies. For example, my previous experience with technology has resulted in an assignment that incorporates Virtual Reality, reflection, and team development strategies to serve specific Learning Outcomes for CSM 104.

Mai Anh: Given your creative background and your PhD project, what would you say is your most outstanding character(s) as a professor?

Hannah: I believe in student success. Each student approaches the material in their own way, for their own reasons. I am there to offer each student the tools they need to be successful in their own right. I cannot do the work for them, but I can certainly offer them my knowledge, support, experiences, and positivity so they can develop their own academic toolkit. My hope is that their kit serves them long after they have graduated.

Mai Anh: As we are entering a new semester, what would you advise students for them to do well in university?

Hannah: Go to class. Just be in the room. Attendance allows you to connect to UFV’s community, your instructors, and classmates. I encourage my students to attend everything they can because you never know where the conversation will go, what tidbit of wisdom will resonate with you, or who you will meet. My best assignments grew out of unexpected connections I made simply by being in the room, even when the topic did not seem to relate to my interests. Go to class.

Mai Anh: Excellent advice! Let move from students to the Department. What do you like the most about working at UFV’s CMNS department?

Hannah: Our department is full of like-minded instructors who support one another and see the potential for Communications at UFV. I am delighted to contribute to a department that encourages its instructors to expand their teaching practice and subscribe to Universal Design for Learning, while supporting contemporary assignments that stimulate student engagement and development.

Mai Anh: Finally, what’s the most boring thing about you? 😊

Hannah Celinski: I floss.

😊 😊 😊 Hannah, thank you so much for your sharing and for your time. All the best with the new semester and the new role!

Chatting with a conversationalist

 My first impression of Jeff was his carefree and loud laughter that had our classroom full of new UFV staff smitten. Jeff recently joined the University of the Fraser Valley from the Royal Roads University after decades of living and teaching in Turkey, the UK and Ireland and is quickly becoming an important member of the Communications team here.

“I am a conversationalist”

So said Jeff when we sat down for an interview for this blog. It seems so easy to have a chat with him about almost any topic. But this easiness comes from a deeper underlying philosophy that drives his way of interacting and teaching.

“I see myself as a conversational teacher. I like to be able to establish connections with students in- and outside of the classroom. I like to see the students making connections with themselves, with other students, with instructors, with ideas based on the common ground that we all share. I strongly believe that once connections are made, we bond and learn better.”

Sometimes, this common ground comes down to a simple thing such as being new to Abbotsford. In one of his classes, when students were quiet and shied away from answering his simple questions, Jeff decided to break the silence with a very simple request: Can you tell us how long you have been here? The realization that all students, and Jeff, had just been here for a couple of weeks, suddenly made them relate to each other, and as a result, conversations started.

When asked what he wanted his students to take away from his classes, Jeff said matter-of-factly: “That they realize that they are constantly communicating, no matter what”. This is very profound because through communication, individuals “get changed by the world but can also actively change that world.”

A researcher of rhetoric, border studies, cultural theory, and visual communication

Jeff came to the UFV with an impressive CV. He graduated from University of British Columbia for his Bachelor’s, moved to Ireland to do his Master’s, and then to the University of Leeds for his PhD in visual and textual analysis. After PhD, he made a transition to Istanbul, Turkey to teach English literature and communications.

At UFV, he continues his research interest in political communication. Jeff is currently studying audience response to the representation of political issues on the media. Jeff wants to examine the message as well as the “background noise” that are inherent in these issues, but that we sometimes take for granted.

As a student and scholar of visual communication, Jeff is, of course, image-conscious. He always wears a suit or blazer complemented by an Ivy cap while on campus. But you are more likely to recognize him with his contagious genuine laughter. So stop and have a conversation with Jeff the next time you’re on campus.

Abbotsford International: Dr. Mai Anh Doan

A warm Communications Department welcome to our new faculty member, Dr. Mai Anh Doan! Dr. Doan arrives with both practical and academic skills in Public Relations, Journalism, and Financial Communications.  Her broad international experience includes Vietnam, where she grew up and completed her BA in Journalism at Vietnam National University; some time in Sweden, where she went to secondary school; a stint in Australia for her Master’s and then New Zealand for her Ph.D.

She says her own international experience helps her empathize with her students in the classroom, and she stresses the importance of crossing bridges between theoretical and practical knowledge and skills. She is constantly asking, “How does what we do in the classroom apply to everyday life”, to motivate students to learn better?

Mai Anh did her MA in Communication Management at the University of Technology, Sydney, and her PhD at the University of Waikato, NZ, examining crowdfunding models for micro-investing.  After a successful stint as a journalist, and Public Relations manager for multinational corporations, she ran her own PR agency for several years.  She joined the Department of Communication at the University of the Fraser Valley this September and is already making an active contribution to the university and the community, serving on the board of organizers for an event to watch out for in the near future: Valley Fest.

Mai Anh’s international background is reflected in her deep understanding of communications.   “I think”, she says, with a quick, self-reflective nod, “that in a sense, communication is universal. If it’s based on respect, genuineness, mutuality, then it’s good communication, no matter where it is practiced”.