Author Archives: Cecelia Lie

The Speaking Fellows Movie

Watch this new video about the Speaking Fellows Program, created by our very own Speaking Fellow staff!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Future Speaking Fellow, President, Queen of the World…

A 12-year-old girl advocates for teens’ right to preregister to vote. Think we can preregister her to come to Barnard and become a Speaking Fellow?

Leave a comment

by | November 13, 2013 · 4:36 pm

Nancy Duarte: The Secret Structure of Great Talks

From the “I have a dream” speech to Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch, all great presentations have a common architecture. In this talk, Nancy Duarte draws lessons on how to make a powerful call-to-action. (Thank you, Adrianne Isaacson, BC ’14, for sending this along!)

Leave a comment

by | September 30, 2013 · 10:46 am

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on TedxEuston: We Should All Be Feminists

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes how she went from calling herself a “feminist” to a “happy feminist” to a “happy African feminist” to a “happy African feminist who does not hate men, and who likes lip gloss, and who wears high heels for herself but not for men.”

Leave a comment

by | September 5, 2013 · 11:52 am

“The Fight of Public Speaking” by Claire Bouchard

The following post was written by Claire Bouchard, Speaking Fellow (BC ’15).

What could pubic speaking and martial arts possibly have in common? One is a sport that focuses on precision and concentration in order to deliver the best and most deadly hit as efficiently as possible, and the other is a mode of communication that focuses on connection with the audience and the skill with which one can deliver their message.

How does the martial arts world connect with the realm of public speaking? They are both performances. As a member of the national United States karate team and a speaking fellow of Barnard College this performance aspect is well known to me. When you’re standing in front of the judges overseas, about to perform a kata (form) in order to represent your country, your adrenaline starts running. All eyes are on you, time slows down, and you feel the pressure to begin. You take a deep breath, relax all of your muscles, and the game begins. You work through your kata; using full moves that you make sure are defined and take your time. Public speaking is not all that different from this set-up.  You enter the spotlight, all eyes turn in your direction, the chatter of the waiting room slowly dies away, and time slows down. You take a deep breath, relax your demeanor and the game begins. You start speaking through your outline, pausing when necessary, using your ability to maneuver between silence and language and deliver your speech.

Both kata and public speaking require the one performing the action to have a strong understanding of themselves and how to present themselves. The performances allow athletes and speakers to present certain aspects of their personality, in kata your ability to focus and in public speaking your ability to connect.

Performances are always a part of our lives; they are an opportunity to present yourself in a fashion that you approve.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Become a Fellow: Information Sessions This Week!

Interested in becoming a Writing or Speaking Fellow?*  Want to learn more about the programs before applying?  Come to our information sessions this week!

Friday, 3/8
217 Barnard Hall

Thursday, 3/7
217 Barnard Hall

At each session, Writing or Speaking Fellows will be present to answer any questions you might have about what it’s like to be a Fellow.  The administrators will also be there to answer any questions about the application process and training courses.

*Please note that only Barnard College 1st-Years and Sophomores are eligible to apply.  Download a Writing Fellow application here (due Tuesday, March 26th at 5:00PM) and a Speaking Fellow application here (due Friday, March 29th at 12:00pm).

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Active listening as a rhetorical choice: The discursive implications of “bad” and “good” listening

We know that body language usually communicates more than what you say, and identifying these physical queues is something we’ve been socialized to identify our entire lives.  We know that yawning, for instance, often comes across as boredom.  We know how to express good listening skills by maintaining eye contact and sitting upright instead of slumping down in our chairs and doodling in notebook margins.  In class discussions, professors have to be particularly apt at reading students’ body language.  They have to sense when a student is trying to jump into the class discussion but can’t quite get a word in.  They have to know the difference between diligent note-taking and avoidance of eye contact.  They have to know an “aha” moment from a complacent nod.

However, how much can we really control in these exchanges, whether it be on the part of the speaker or the listener?  How can we hold ourselves accountable for the messages we intend to communicate and those we don’t?

An important caveat to this question is that the speaker and the listener are both interpreting and communicating at the same time.  What we say, how we respond (verbally or silently), and the body language that accompanies both, all create a collaborative “text” for both the speaker and listener to interpret.  In this sense, “active listening” doesn’t just describe the actions we take to reassure the speaker that we are listening, but rather, characterizes the act of listening as a response, or a choice, that impacts the exchange in powerful ways.

While we can’t completely control how others’ interpret our ideas, we can leave less room for more egregious misinterpretations (particularly in the absence of words, such as when we are listening) by harnessing the power of the physical internally.  As previous posts have described, our body language changes the way we think.  Psychologists such as Amy Cuddy have been doing years of research that demonstrates just how powerful the link between body language and identity is.  As her TED Talk shows, striking what Cuddy calls a “power pose” — sitting up straight, lifting your arms in the air, doing jumping jacks, or simply uncrossing your legs to fill up more space — lowers cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases testosterone (the dominance hormone, which is usually the precursor to more assertive, confrontational behavior).  Slumping down in your chair, then, does more than send a message to the speaker that you’re bored or disinterested — it actually lowers the likelihood that you can be interested and engaged.

The infographic below (created by suggests, too, that small physical changes make a big difference.  But, what about moments when we don’t want to listen?  When is listening “badly,” consciously or unconsciously, a form of resistance, and what discursive impacts does that resistance illicit?

Body Language Infographic

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Get your own, personal Barnard Speaking Fellow. For free.

Beginning Tuesday, February 5th, every Barnard* student can meet with her own, personal Speaking Fellow to develop her public speaking and presentation skills.

Speaking Fellows are undergraduate Barnard students who have been specially trained to help students craft, prepare, and deliver presentations and participate in class discussions.  Speaking Fellows can work with students on a range of skills, such as:

  • How to organize and structure ideas
  • How to create a persuasive, well-reasoned argument
  • How to make key points in clear, precise ways
  • How to use visual aids
  • How to improve and polish delivery

To sign up for a one-on-one session with a Speaking Fellow, register an account online.  For more information about this and other Speaking Fellow opportunities, visit the Speaking Program website:

*Columbia students may also make appointments with Speaking Fellows if they are enrolled in a Barnard course or have permission from their Columbia professor/TA.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Writing Fellows Program mission, as stated by a Writing Fellow.

Follow the link to read “Writing Fellows – An Education of Liberation” by Jamila Barra, one of our Senior Writing Fellows and contributor to The Gadfly, Columbia University’s undergraduate magazine.

Leave a comment

by | December 4, 2012 · 3:14 pm

Theory Diarrhea: When crisis mode takes over

Thanksgiving is 3 days away.  You’ve been up since yesterday afternoon practicing for Mock Trial and the 14th draft of your senior thesis is due today at 6:10.  You just went to a discussion section where only 4 people showed up because most people only made it to page 617 of Middlemarch (about half of the assigned reading).  The fire alarm just went off in the middle of a meeting with your advisor and everyone evacuated before she could tell you whether to take Vertebrate Biology or Gendered Controversies.

This is about that time in the semester where you feel overwhelmed and deflated, both by the sheer amount of work you have to do and the level of analysis required of you.   It’s hard, if not impossible, to prevent this anxiety from affecting the way you work.  You start writing papers about readings you just couldn’t get to, disguising uncertainty with jargon and unnecessarily complicated sentences.  (If your papers are sounding anything like those on The Postmodernism Generator*… it may be time to take a step back.)

The only antidote to what I will call “theory diarrhea” — a slew of quasi-meaningful, qualified sentences hallmarked by disconnected allusions to canonical theories/ists — is a frank, casual conversation about your ideas.  By talking to someone about what you are trying to say, you ask yourself questions that force you to root your analysis in, well — reality.  What do you really mean when you use the phrase, “subject experience”?  What is the relationship between sexuality and consumerism, and where do you actually see that connection happening in the text?  How does Foucault’s biopower theory apply to you as a twenty-something student in New York City, at Barnard, in 2012?  The truth of the matter is that if you don’t know what you mean (and, consequentially, why it is meaningful), your professor probably won’t, either.

What you may find in this process is something you can carry throughout your life: the authority of not knowing.  No one wants to read a paper full of answers.  A paper is more likely to engage with a “multifaceted, consequential idea” (to quote Wendy Schor-Haim, Associate Director of the Writing Program) if your analysis grows from a question that cannot be easily answered.  This doesn’t mean you should approach a paper without having read the text at all — unfortunately, there is really no way around that part.  But knowing that you don’t have to have it all figured out not only takes the intellectual pressure off, but changes your relationship to the text, or whatever it is you are writing about.  Revealing how you, as a student, engage with the course material makes the whole thinking process more exploratory, giving you access to a more creative mode of thinking.

So make things easier on yourself.  Think about what you know, ask questions to deal with what you don’t know, and work from there.

*Before you start using essays created by The Post-Modernism Generator as secondary sources, please read the disclaimer: “The essay you have just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator. To generate another essay, follow this link.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized