Student Initiative - Minerva Speaker Society

Meet Jonathan Shamwana, Class of 2026 | APR 7, 2023

One of the ways in which Minerva students strengthen their community bonds and participate in extracurricular activities they are passionate about is through student initiatives (SI’s). Founding an SI requires students to construct their own program and gain the involvement of peers to participate in the events organized by the SI. Jonathan Shamwana, a Class of 2026 student, has channeled his passion for public speaking and improvisation into the Minerva Speaker Society SI.

With the ambition to “become better verbal communicators,” Jonathan shares, it becomes evident that the SI aims to not only improve public speaking skills and critiquing ability, but to “deepen friendships through storytelling and vulnerability.” With inspiration heavily drawn from the novel Storyworthy by Mathew Dicks, Jonathan wishes to pass on the storytelling skills he has learned from the text to fellow students who can then benefit from the ability to communicate in an engaging manner.

Many individuals can relate to that feeling of beginning an anecdote, and as you progress through the stages, you begin to lose sight of the intended message, monotony takes hold, and you are left searching for a humorous twist or turn to re-engage your audience. Through this SI, and its utilization of impromptu talks, ice-breaking activities, and pre-planned ted talk-style speeches, Jonathan hopes that those involved will grow to become confident speakers whether interacting in class or performing speeches to a large audience.

The Minerva Speaker Society runs two types of activities for its members:

Prepared speeches: Members craft a five-minute speech on a given theme that has been selected for the meeting. Each speaker is then evaluated by another society member, enabling students to critique their peers in a constructive, yet respectful, manner.

Impromptu speeches: Members deliver a two- to three-minute speech in which each individual is provided a different prompt. Again, related to the theme of that particular meeting, the member is given three minutes to prepare and each is evaluated on their tone, content, body language, and audience appropriateness.

With captivating themes such as “This is my Alcatraz” and “Strangers aren’t really strangers,” the SI’s monthly meetings provide an opportunity for students to come together and practice their oratory skills, whether they have prior experience or not.

“One of the central parts of Minerva’s pedagogy is the active learning model. Students are called upon, need to think on their feet, and debate with their peers. Speaking is something so ingrained in us that it seems nonsensical to practice it. But practicing it helps you flourish as a communicator, bettering your interactions with other individuals,” shares Jonathan.

If Jonathan’s ideas and ambition inspire you to further develop your speaking and critiquing skills, start your Minerva application today.