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The Case for Oratory

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Oratory is a group experience, a give and take between speaker and audience. In contrast with other subjects like physics or philosophy or the political history of France, the best indication of how much you are learning comes from how your fellow students (i.e., your audience) respond to your work.

Dana Yeaton leads a warm-up exercise using tai chi.

Dana Yeaton leads a warm-up exercise at the start of class.

That’s why Dana Yeaton ’79 teaches oratory in a workshop format. One of the 125 courses offered on campus during the 2014 Winter Term, Oratory: A Speechmaking Studio was a class on a mission.

“This course wants you knowledgeable about the history of rhetoric. It wants you passionate to explore the world of ideas and put what you find into words. It wants you confident that when you stand up and speak those words, people will listen and maybe even be changed,” Yeaton said in the first class.

“And to do all that you need each other. As an audience, yes, and as fellow travelers who will question and challenge and console each other along the way. Your best work will very likely come from the desire to engage your classmates.”

The 22 students were required to give a speech on the first day of J-term and a speech the next day and a dinner toast and a critical response to Pericles’ Funeral Oration. There was a mini-moth, a rant, a “great speech speech,” and a three-minute speech adapted from a term paper that had been written for any other class. There was also a TEDx pitch, a scripted and memorized TEDx talk, and probably one or two more speeches. And every speech was videotaped and critiqued by fellow students.

Yeaton, a visiting assistant professor of theatre, believes that great oratorical skills come from understanding the basics of rhetoric, gaining an appreciation for what makes a great speech, mastering the physical aspects of public speaking (use of voice, posture, eye contact, etc.), and practice, practice, practice.

Cole Bortz, from Littleton, Colorado, delivers his mini-moth speech.

Cole Bortz, a first-year student from Colorado, delivers a speech.

During the second week of class, the oratory students delivered their mini-moth speeches, which were five-minute-long personal stories told live without notes. By this time members of the class were well versed in their public-speaking basics: approaching the podium (or stage) with confidence, finding a solid neutrality in their stance, establishing a moment of solidarity with the audience, and enunciating clearly.

The class split up for a mini-moth practice session, and James Clifford, a junior from Tiburon, Calif., picked a partner and headed into the hallway of the Mahaney Center for the Arts looking for a place to work on his speech. He chose a quiet spot under the stairs and launched into his mini-moth about why his friends on the ski team call him “The Fireman.” (Moth talks are based on The Moth Radio Hour, an NPR show, and moth performances have been popular at Middlebury for the past four or five years.)

Clifford’s true story was about how he bonded with other members of the team on an Alpine ski-training trip out West. It involved a pan of flaming nachos, the local fire department, billows of smoke, and, well, that’s how he earned the moniker of “The Fireman.” After practicing his speech and reviewing the feedback, Clifford returned to the classroom where he would present it to the class.

“Oratory has been one of the most valuable pieces of my Middlebury education,” Clifford later said. “Through this class I found my voice on the page and I found my voice at the podium.”

The case for oratory is on the rise at Middlebury. Yeaton is working with a group of administrators who are discussing how to make proficiency in public speaking an expectation within the curriculum. Their effort comes on the heels of President Ron Liebowitz’s observation in Middlebury Magazine that alumni are saying the College could do a better job preparing its graduates for the rigors of public speaking.

All eyes are focused on the speaker.

In oratory, all eyes are focused on the speaker.

Sophomore Premlata Persaud from New Jersey is confident that the oratorical skills she gained during Winter Term will transfer to other classes. “I find it difficult sometimes in seminars to express my ideas in a way that really convinces my professors and other students, but now I have a checklist of sorts to go through before I make an important statement in class.”

Heading into the 2014 J-term, Dana Yeaton had high hopes that his class’s enthusiasm for oratory would spread across campus. “This course is designed as a laboratory in which we will be teaching each other the art of oratory,” he told his students. “You will be reading, analyzing, writing, and delivering speeches; you’ll do physical and vocal training, and focus exercises.” And he also said the class would be “exporting” this model through a workshop series and at the Martin Luther King Oratorio in Mead Chapel, which Yeaton directed.

The professor’s hope took root when the oratory students offered a series of public-speaking workshops open to anyone wishing to improve their oral communication skills. During the final week of Winter Term about a dozen students from the Middlebury Entrepreneurs class showed up at the workshop, anxious to hone their oratorical skills for the final projects they would present in their class the next day.

For two hours the oratory students became the teachers: they formed small groups, discussed principles of oratory, analyzed the visitors’ speeches, and led training exercises designed to build their guests’ public-speaking skills.

In a spontaneous moment during class one January afternoon, the students decided to form the Oratory Society of Middlebury. The group made a circle in the middle of Room 232 and composed the oath Ethos, Logos, Pathos for membership in the Oratory Society, which is open to the Middlebury College community. The College would now have a student organization committed to conducting workshops, sponsoring public-speaking events, and advocating for oratory’s place on campus.

If anyone were looking for a sign that students had bought in to the importance of oratory as a group learning experience, this was it.

Tantra Workshop in J-term! @Middlebury College

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Tantra Workshop in J-term! @Middlebury College

“Tantra is the science of transforming ordinary lovers into soul mates. And that is the grandeur of Tantra. It can transform the whole earth; it can transform each couple into soul mates.” Osho, Philosophia Perennis, Vol. 1, Talk #8

Tantra is the practice of consciously creating connectedness. It is an ancient technique that comes to remind us that our bodies and what we do with them is sacred. Through sexuality we grow spiritually and get closer to not only our partners, but ourselves, and God. Tantra helps us heal and empower our relationships through expanding our consciousness and our ability to be present, open up and share.
Tantra is an ancient practice dating back to the fifth century, and as a meditation practice it has influenced Hindu, Sikh, Bön, Buddhist, and Jain traditions. It spread with Buddhism to East and Southeast Asia, and contains enormous cultural significance in central Asia. The tantra workshop aims to bring together open-minded students who are interested in learning about the practice of tantra and discuss sexuality and the act of love making from different perspectives, both from a philosophical and physical standpoint.
In addition to discussing tantric techniques and values, we will engage in some exercises and activities to awaken our senses and spread loving kindness through meditation, visualization, breathing. The workshop will not include nudity nor sexuality; rather, participants should be ready to appreciate the philosophical and cultural significance of tantra through an introduction to basic, non-sexual practices. Participants should be willing to go out of their comfort zones, and contribute for the creation of a positive and safe environment for conversation.


Applications due for J-Term internship credit by THIS SUNDAY, December 9th!

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

As the end of the semester approaches, so does the deadline to apply for credit for your J-Term internship. You can apply for academic credit through MOJO until this Sunday, December 9th.

One general distribution course credit is awarded upon completion of all required paperwork.

For more details on what to include in the application, head to MOJO and search Application for Credit, or contact Doug at internships@middlebury.edu.

Guess what those snow flurries mean…

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

That it was less than 32 degrees out this morning.

But more importantly, it’s a signal that J-Term is just around the corner!

Still not sure of your J-Term plans? What about an internship?

There are still some awesome opportunities in MOJO. As the snow falls in January, you could be:

  • putting your Spanish skills to use as an Advocacy Intern for the Vermont Immigration Project
  • participating in development and strategic planning for the Fit Kids Foundation
  • engaging with the local community at the Charter House Emergency Shelter
  • working in a classroom at the Peck School
  • or researching rural education in China for the REAP project.

For more information and to apply, visit MOJO today!

Guess what those snow flurries mean…

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

That it was less than 32 degrees out this morning.

But more importantly, it’s a signal that J-Term is just around the corner!

Still not sure of your J-Term plans? What about an internship?

There are still some awesome opportunities in MOJO. As the snow falls in January, you could be:

  • putting your Spanish skills to use as an Advocacy Intern for the Vermont Immigration Project
  • participating in development and strategic planning for the Fit Kids Foundation
  • engaging with the local community at the Charter House Emergency Shelter
  • working in a classroom at the Peck School
  • or researching rural education in China for the REAP project.

For more information and to apply, visit MOJO today!

Love languages? Linguistics? Teaching? A J-Term internship for you…

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Still not sure about your J-Term plans?

Interested in languages, linguistics or teaching? Speak Spanish, Chinese, Amharic, Hindi or Punjabi? Apply to be an English Language Learner (ELL) Program Assistant for J-Term! The Addison Central Supervisory Union is looking for interns to assist ELL teachers in development materials and resources in multiple languages for programs and parents. Interns would work about six hours a week during J-Term, primarily on the administrative end of the programs. Interns would create and translate newsletter templates, questionnaires and other forms.

Ready to get started? Head to MOJO and apply today!

Winter Term Internships: Deadlines extended to Oct. 21!

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The Christian Science Monitor.

Green Chemistry Program.

Democracy for America.

Ah, you ask, what could these three things possibly have  in common?

They are all offering winter term internships for Middlebury students! (The Christian Science Monitor has also probably written about both the Green Chemistry Program and Democracy for America, but that’s beside the point).

So riddle me this: what do the New England Review, Roots for Health and Senator Patrick Leahy have in common?

Check out these awesome winter-term internships and more on MOJO. Apply today!