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November 29, 2021

Runner-up in 2020 displays determination to win SVSU public speaking contest

Saginaw Valley State University student Evangeline Cruz placed second in the 2020 Sims Public Speaking Contest. She learned from experience and returned to win the 2021 competition with a presentation about discrimination against transgender athletes.

Cruz received a cash prize of $400 for claiming top honors in the 32nd annual contest. The communication major from Detroit participates on SVSU’s competitive speaking team. She chose her topic, “The ban on trans athletes,” because she is a member of the transgender community.

“I have firsthand experience and witness the discrimination and agendas attacking members of my community,” she said.

Five other finalists in the also were recognized. Claire Harris, a communication major from Delton, Michigan, won 2nd place and a $250 award for her presentation, “Harmful Messages in Children’s Literature.” Nysir Minney-Gratz, a communication major from Easton, Pennsylvania, was the 3rd place winner with “Becoming a Mentor.” He received a $150 cash prize.

Finalists in the competition, each earning a $75 prize, were:

  • Mikayla Hoose, a history major from Frankenmuth, who presented “Missing Indigenous Women.”
  • Jordan Kryscynski, a psychology from Armada, who presented “Gender Dysphoria Within the Transgender & Non-Binary Community.”
  • Hope Kuenker, a criminal justice major from Bay City, whose presentation was “Admissibility of Re-victimization in the Courtroom.”

The Sims Public Speaking Competition was established by Lawrence (Larry) and Linda Sims to allow students to hone their oral communication skills. Students write and present a five- to eight-minute persuasive speech on a topic of their choice.

“This year’s Sims competitors brought forth timely, relevant topics and displayed a strong demonstration of preparation,” said Linda Sims. “We endowed the competition decades ago to encourage SVSU students to find their ‘voice’ and hone their public speaking skills. The importance of communication and our commitment to community service have underscored this action.”  

Amy Pierce, associate professor of communication at SVSU, and Ryan Rigda, a lecturer of communication, organize the competition, which consists of three rounds. Fifteen students competed in the first round.

“I have been involved with the Sims Competition my entire tenure at SVSU, and each year I am amazed at the talent of the students in the final round,” Pierce said. “There is nothing more valuable than being able to stand up in front of an audience and advocate for something important to you. These are skills we use every day, and they are the same skills that contribute to civic discourse and policy change. I am so proud of our students for choosing challenging topics that make us think about the world we live in and how we can make it a better place.”

Judges for the competition’s final round were:

  • Donald Bachand, president of SVSU
  • Deborah Huntley, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at SVSU
  • Marc Peretz, dean of SVSU’s College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences at SVSU
  • Marcia Moore, associate professor of communication at Delta College
  • LaToya Peoples, associate director of Career Services at SVSU

The Sims Public Speaking Competition began in 1981. It is co-sponsored by SVSU’s Department of Communication and is open to all SVSU students. The competition is endowed by Larry and Linda Sims, long-time donors to the university. Linda Sims served as executive director for communications and external affairs at SVSU, retiring in 2019. She is also a former chair of SVSU’s Board of Control. Prior to joining SVSU, she served as executive director of community services at Consumers Energy. Larry is the retired president and CEO of the United Way of Saginaw County.