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Speaking out as an introvert: 70th annual Andrina McCulloch Speaking Competition

Speaking out as an introvert: 70th annual Andrina McCulloch Speaking Competition

You would think being an introvert wouldn’t help in public speaking situations. But for second-year mathematics student Alyssa Lewis, it led to a first-place finish at the 70th annual Andrina McCulloch Public Speaking Competition, held Feb. 14-16 at the John Deutsch University Centre.

Alyssa, who is on exchange from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica, made a riveting seven-minute speech dispelling some popular misconceptions about introverted people (they’re not dumber, they do have friends and they aren’t just shy, to name a few). She took home a cool $1,000 for finishing first among 35 contestants, including seven finalists who all received cash prizes.

The first round of the finals featured the same preselected speech from all the contestants. Their topic was the ethics of using human subjects in genetic research. The second round featured individually composed speeches, on topics ranging from food obsession to the decline of the English language.

Laurel Dault, Artsci ’11, came in second for her speech about relationships, and Raissa Killoran, Artsci’11, finished third for her speech on the legitimacy of public protests. They received prizes of $670 and $425, respectively.

Alyssa said she happened upon the competition by chance and entered on a whim.“It’s a great competition. [Public speaking] is a good skill to have and this is an awesome opportunity to learn it,” she said. “I would encourage people to come out and give it a shot; you get better with practice.”

Even so, she admitted she struggled to think of a topic for her final speech. “I couldn’t think of anything for a long time. I started writing it two days ago. Then I thought, I am an introvert and people ask me all the time why I don’t talk more,” she said with a smile, probably at the irony of her chosen topic. “So I thought I would talk about that.”

Dr. Judith Fisher, a drama professor who judged this year’s competition (and ran it from 1992 until 2006), said she thinks the competition advances the importance of English language skills on campus.

“It’s a great way to boost students’ confidence, and there’s a prize involved so there’s a payoff for hard work,” she said. “We’re losing those language skills, and it’s important we keep them.”

This year’s competition was notable for the personal nature of the finalists’ speeches, she said.
“All the finalists’ speeches were quite personal and relatable. That doesn’t always happen. They spoke for themselves rather than in the third person...we were learning about them.”

The competition’s other judges were Bob Burge, registrar at the Faculty of Education and Dr. W. Peter Aston, microbiology and immunology professor.

The Andrina McCulloch Competition started when Andrew McCulloch, BA 1871, MA 1874, died in 1929 and left Queen’s University securities to fund three awards, each in honour of one of his daughters. These resulted in the Roberta McCulloch Scholarship in English, the Frederica McCulloch Award in Latin, and the Andrina McCulloch Prizes in Public Speaking.

Did you participate in the Andrina McCulloch Public Speaking Competition when you were a student? Event organizers would love to hear from you, email jenn.stephenson@queensu.ca