There are some classes that students avoid because of their difficulty, some due to their length, and some because of time constraints. Only one class on campus, however, is avoided because it centers on the greatest fear known to man. Welcome to “Public Speaking,” Dr. James Chase’s Comm-226 class, where the common malady of glossophobia, also known as stage fright, is faced head on.
“I’ve had students cry up front before,” said Chase, who will be retiring at the end of the academic year. “One girl became Niagara Falls within twenty seconds of her first speech. But by the time she got to her final one, she stood tall and delivered a truly dynamite speech.”
Contrary to popular belief, the class is much more than throwing deer-like students into the headlights. Chase begins the quarter by giving a specific outline that offers step-by-step instructions. The speeches come next, with positive remarks from both professor and peers following each one. A one-on-one meeting with Chase is when students receive personal analysis and constructive criticism.
Prior to any speeches, however, Chase begins each class period with comforting and inspirational Bible texts. “When I came to PUC as a teacher, I thought, ‘How can I integrate faith and learning in a meaningful way, and have students be good people first and then good professionals?’” Chase recalls. His solution was to offer “communication insights,” usually from the book of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes.
It takes a special man to teach apprehensive students the art of presenting speeches before their peers—or convincing them to try. Chase’s relationship with public speaking at PUC began when he was a student in 1965, winning a school oration contest his freshman year. Eighteen years later, he was teaching the class at his beloved alma mater and has loved it ever since.
Besides the teacher, Comm-226 is special for its overwhelming optimism. It comes as a product of Chase’s personal philosophy: always give students something to live up to, never something to live down. “If I can help them rise to a higher standard without being embarrassed in front of their friends, that’s what I want to do,” Chase says. “I want to make a difference in the life of every student that comes into my class.”
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