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Speech Team Adds New Voice to University’s Academic Competitions
Student's Passion Prompts Creation of New Squad That Seeks Coaches, More Members

team members posed together at TI Plaza

From left: Cameron Walker, Shannon Cotts, Hadia Zahid, Hareem Moeen and Erica Wong are members of the UT Dallas speech team.

When Hadia Zahid was captain of her speech team in high school, she liked having an outlet where she could speak her mind about issues that were important to her. She didn’t shy away from speaking out about racism, confirmation bias and sexual assault.

“I liked that I could choose my own topic in a way that expressed my opinion and brought awareness to issues affecting people,” Zahid said.

Now a business administration sophomore and an Academic Excellence Scholarship recipient, Zahid has organized a competitive speech team at The University of Texas at Dallas to give other students similar public speaking experiences that they don’t normally get in a classroom.

Join the Team

If you are interested in joining the UT Dallas speech team as either a member or a coach, email Hadia Zahid or Bradley Skiles.

The new team is modeled after the University’s debate team, but the two offer different experiences.

Unlike debate, where opposing teams are well-prepared to compete on a topic, speech consists of individual events, including public address, acting, reading and interpretation.

Some categories involve giving a memorized speech. Others require limited preparation, where the speakers have no prior knowledge of the topic and only a set amount of time to write a short speech.

Limited-preparation speeches can include impromptu — where students are given a topic and have seven minutes to prepare a four-minute speech — or extemporaneous speeches — in which competitors are given current events and have 30 minutes to put together a seven-minute speech.

On the other hand, public address is a category of prepared and memorized speeches that can be persuasive, informational or analytical. Interpretation involves a prepared delivery of prose, poetry, duo and dramatic speech.

The speech team gives students skills they will use for a lifetime, said Bradley Skiles, a manager in the Office of Information Technology and an adjunct lecturer who is sponsor of the team. Besides his work in IT, Skiles, who has taught college courses for 30 years, teaches a basic communications class at UT Dallas.

Speech is such a great experience; letting students present themselves with a prepared speech gives them communication skills and confidence. I can’t think of any other extracurricular experience that offers students a career skill. In the marketplace, communication skills are invaluable.

Bradley Skiles, an adjunct lecturer who is sponsor of the UT Dallas speech team

As an undergraduate, Skiles was president of the speech team at Ball State University. He became the national champion in extemporaneous speaking and state champion in several other categories. Skiles later coached a speech team at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

“Speech is such a great experience; letting students present themselves with a prepared speech gives them communication skills and confidence,” Skiles said. “I can’t think of any other extracurricular experience that offers students a career skill. In the marketplace, communication skills are invaluable.”

Students who are willing to put in the time for preparation and travel, and who want to become good at speech would enjoy being part of the team, Skiles said. Because they spend a lot of time practicing together, team members often develop lifelong friendships, he said.

“Teams get very close. There’s a lot of camaraderie. I’m still in touch with people from 30 years ago,” Skiles said.

Zahid, who registered the group last spring, is recruiting members and raising funds to help pay for the team’s travel expenses so it can participate in competitions across the country.

The team also needs coaches — faculty who participated in forensics in high school or college.

Public speaking “is a huge part of any job,” Zahid said, but most students do not get an opportunity to learn it in the classroom.

“The more you do it, the more your values are challenged, the more aware you are of the words you speak,” she said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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