How one club overcame fear of public speaking and presented at a national symposium
A group of college students described as “introverted” recently formed the courage to present at a prestigious psychological convention. How did they get the push? After Dr. Andrea Woodell, the group’s advisor, developed a plan – to have them speak in front of the most disruptive audience Central Oregon Community College could muster.
Four members from the Central Oregon Psychology Enthusiast Club at Central Oregon Community College were asked to share at the Western Psychological Association Convention in Portland, from April 24-27.
For a group that has only been in existence for about a year and a half, the request was an unexpected honor, according to club advisor Dr. Andrea Woodell, an associate professor of psychology at COCC.
“It’s amazing how fast this thing has snowballed,” Woodell said.
But before the group got to the point of speaking at a convention, they presented to the “audience from hell.”
“What [Woodell] developed was a worst case scenario,” Morrison said. “We’re up there delivering our presentations, and we got professors throwing paper, and calling, and interrupting and asking absurd questions that no one would ever ask.”
Woodell gathered faculty, including Lilli-Ann Foreman, Tina Hovecamp, Owen Murphy, Matthew Novak, Sara Henson and others to challenge the students’ skills. Woodell would prompt the otherwise-respectful faculty to start being hecklers, by making them go to the back of the room, kick their feet up and distract the students. One was supposed to be texting, and another would spout off crazy ideas.
“I think the most challenging faculty issue was them not participating,” Hawkins said. “There was one teacher up on a table at one point saying, ‘This is baloney.’ … They did a great job staying on top, but it was definitely hard.”
Following the initial training ground, Morrison, Hawkins, Anaya, Sonnier and Damon Holland started presenting at new student orientations and Psych Night, as well as mentoring the students who started the Heroic Imagination Project this year. Now, the students just finished their largest public speaking opportunity: the Western Psychological Association Convention.
Woodell headed to the convention in Portland on May 26th with students Morrison, Hawkins, Anaya and Sonnier – for an unexpected public speaking opportunity.
“You usually don’t get to do that at this level; it’s unheard of for undergrad students,” Woodell said.
The four students presented on their experience with mindset studies, and Woodell shared about making the Heroic Imagination Project a reality on campus.
COCC’s model for implementing the project was unique. With Heroic Imagination, the cost to have the study come is generally expensive. Woodell worked to present an innovative fundraising model, then brought in ASCOCC and faculty, as well as the campus. This project also focused on giving back to the community by training any students interested, according to Woodell.
COCC is one of the first campuses in Oregon to implement the Heroic Imagination Project. And while the project had limitations, it was able to make an impact.
“It’s not a full study with research stats,” Woodell said. “It’s about how this thing works, and how other people can bring it to their campuses.”
Woodell and the students involved had a large audience to hear about their project. The 94th annual convention drew many people with prominent speakers – including the COCC project’s inspiration, Philip Zimbardo.
For students who have only shared the project with 200 or 300 people at max, the opportunity was “incredible,” according to Hawkins.
Now that Woodell and the students are back at COCC, they expect to see their club and the project expand.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth over the past year and a half,” Woodell said. “It’s just really neat to watch how the project has taken off.”