Leaders in Action: Jaruwat Maendl
Members of the VOL at one of their meetings.
In the Fall of 2020, Jaruwat Maendl had a vision — to create a place on campus where students can enhance their public speaking skills in a safe, nurturing environment. This project was inspired by Toastmasters International, a speech club chapter that Maendl was a member of during high school that tremendously transformed his public speaking abilities. Upon entering the Buccino Leadership Institute in Fall 2019, Maendl noticed the lack of public speaking instruction within the Institute's curriculum. Since, public speaking skills and the ability to communicate effectively is essential for a well-rounded leader, Maendl decided to take this problem into his own hands. In his sophomore year in the Spring of 2021, he had the perfect opportunity to put his vision into action with the institute's IDT projects. For the first two years of the leadership program, the institute has implemented Inter-Disciplinary Team (IDT) projects into the spring curriculum. Each IDT team consists of at least one student from each cohort within the institute and offers students an opportunity to work with a diverse group of individuals on a project to improve the Institute or Seton Hall as a whole. Maendl first pitched his idea to improve the public speaking curriculum to the entire sophomore class in the fall of 2020. After his pitch, his peers voted him to be an official IDT CEO. This position granted him the ability to draft a team of his peers to assist him in bringing a public speaking initiative to campus. After a semester of work, the Voice of Leadership (VOL) was presented to all leadership students. The focus of this group: to offer students a time to receive constructive feedback for prepared and impromptu speeches. Associate Deans and students were excited by the team's proposal and VOL was chosen by Dr. Price, the Institute's director, to continue into the next academic year. As a result, the first VOL meeting took place on September 20th, 2021.
The unique structure of the VOL meetings allows students to practice delivering practiced and impromptu speeches to a group of their peers. During each meeting, members volunteer to fulfill specific roles that aid in the execution of the meeting. Inspired by Seton Hall's Pirate mascot, the VOL roles are nautical-themed, consisting of the Captain, First Mate, Quartermaster, Sailors, Deck Hands, Scout, Bo's'n; and the Navigator. Just as each of these roles are key to a successful pirate voyage, they are essential to a successful VOL meeting.
Each VOL meeting begins with a greeting from the Captain, who is in charge of running the meeting. The Captain then introduces each crew member and their role for the evening. The Captain designates roles that facilitate the meeting, such as the First Mate, who leads the feedback session. Throughout the meeting, the Scout keeps track of filler words (like "um"), the Bo's'n ensures each speaker uses the word of the day, and the Navigator tracks the time. The Captain then hands it off to the two Sailors, who both deliver pre-prepared speeches that address the night's designated topic. Following the speeches, the Deck Hands evaluate the speakers and give them feedback. When this portion concludes, the Captain hands the meeting off to the Quartermaster, who oversees the impromptu speech game for the meeting where anyone can participate. After this, the meeting wraps up with final feedback from the Captain and anyone else at the meeting. The attendants then vote on who had the best speech and feedback to offer, with awards given out to the top speakers and evaluators of the night.
Of all the activities that take place during a VOL meeting, my personal favorite is the impromptu speech games that draw on the personalities and immense creativity of the VOL members. One of the recent impromptu speech games on October 25th got leadership students in the spooky spirit. Given three Halloween-themed words, VOL members were tasked with creating a scary story incorporating each of the words. Wild, funny, and scary stories were told while VOL members practiced their impromptu speaking skills and expanded their vocabulary. So much laughter filled the room of Jubilee 132 that you would think the VOL was a party rather than a public speaking initiative! Skeptical that public speaking can be fun, then attend our next VOL meeting!
Jaruwat Maendl offers feedback to one of the members of the VOL.
In just a short time on campus, the VOL has made great strides in improving the public speaking skills of various leadership students from all academic years. Students who were struggling to deliver a one-minute speech at the beginning of the semester are now enthusiastically volunteering to be a Sailor and speak at the meetings. Director and creator of the VOL, Jaruwat Maendl, is incredibly proud of what the VOL has become. "Is The Voice of Leadership the public speaking program that I had originally envisioned two years ago? No, not even close. The VOL is leagues better than what I had imagined, and that's all because of my amazing team. It's been an honor working with them and watching them bring this idea to life by making it their own."
Part of that team is VOL Secretary Olivia Ransbottom, a Junior who was drafted by Maendl in the initial IDT project. Ransbottom commented on the success of the VOL, saying "while I was cautiously optimistic about the project, I could never predict how successful it would turn out! The initiative, though intricate and difficult to design, has successfully helped improve the public speaking skills of students from across the Institute." She notes that while she still has a fear of public speaking herself, seeing how other students have been able to grow has given her a newfound confidence. "Instead of being scared, I now look forward to the continued growth the VOL has to offer myself and any other Leadership student like me!"
Jaruwat Maendl, President; Olivia Ransbottom, Secretary; Cassandra Mirarchi, Strategic Communications Liaison; and John LaFrance, Meeting Coordinator, are all very excited for the future of the VOL. We have a dedicated group of students who attend every meeting and continue to grow exponentially within our biweekly meetings. In addition, the VOL is excited to announce that next semester all Seton Hall students can look forward to VOL workshops. These workshops will feature guest speakers and cover vital public speaking topics, including how to write and deliver informative and persuasive speeches. Members of the VOL are passionate about their content, program, and the ability of the initiative to create better public speakers. If you are interested in becoming the best leader you can be, the VOL encourages you to reach out to any of their members and attend their biweekly meetings at 8 p.m. in Jubilee Hall 132. Speak on!