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November 1, 2023

Past Winners Repeat Success in SVSU Public Speaking Contest

Sims Public speaking contest finalists

SVSU students showed off their public speaking skills Friday, October 27, 2023 competing in the 34th Annual Sims Public Speaking Competition. Altogether, 31 students competed in two preliminary rounds of competition, setting up a very competitive final round, which featured six passionate speakers. This year’s final round showcased two past winners, Evangeline Cruz, a senior Communication and Spanish Major from Detroit, and Nimnan Wuyep, a senior International Studies and Communication Major from Nigeria. In the end, Cruz came out victorious with her topic “Sexual Assault and LGBTQ+ College Students.” Wuyep placed second, with the topic of “Fostering Kindness in Cultural Diversity.” Megan Thiravong, a junior Mechanical Engineering Major from Minnesota rounded out the top 3 with the topic of “Inspiring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM.

Following the competition Cruz had this to say about her win, “Being allowed to share my message means so much to me. Many times, students like myself – part of the Trans and Mexican community – do not have an opportunity to share their voice, and I am glad the Sims allows everyone to have a voice and share their message.”

Amy Pierce, SVSU associate professor of communication, and Ryan Rigda, SVSU lecturer of communication, coordinated this year’s event. Both Dr. Pierce and Dr. Rigda were very excited about this year’s level of competition as well as the diversity among competitors and topics. “It always a great feeling to know that students feel passionate enough to share their concerns about our community,” said Dr. Rigda. Although it is not a requirement, many students in the competition choose to speak about issues related to SVSU or college life. This year’s finalists were able to share their speeches with SVSU President George Grant Jr., Associate Provost Dr. Brian Thomas, Dean of Arts and Behavioral Sciences Mark Peretz, and Retention Specialist Heather Kowaleski.

Other finalists included Xsandrie Guimba, a sophomore from the Phillpines, Emma Laviolette, a freshman from Lake Orion, and Symone Guy, a senior from Flint.

The Sims Public Speaking Competition was established in 1991. The inaugural event was organized, executed, and funded by the Communication Guild, the student club sponsored by the Department of Communication, and held on March 19. Twenty-four students competed. For almost a decade, the competition was student run; members of the Communication Guild spent fall semester fundraising to offer cash rewards, and participants were largely Communication majors. In 1999, the event became known as the Sims Public Speaking Competition when Lawrence and Linda Sims established an endowment for the Sims Awards for Excellence in Public Speaking. Recognizing the value of public speaking skills in their careers, the Sims wanted to encourage students to develop their own oral communication competency. Today, the Sims Competition is co-sponsored by SVSU’s Department of Communication and is open to all SVSU students. The competition continues to be endowed by Larry and Linda Sims, longtime supporters of the university.

List of finalists:

  • Evangeline Cruz, a communication and Spanish major from Detroit presented “Sexual Assault Among LGBTQ+ College Students.”
  • Nimnan Wuyep, an international studies and communication major from Jos, Nigeria presented “Fostering Kindness in Cultural Diversity.”
  • Megan Thiravong, an engineering major from Austin, Minnesota presented, “Inspiring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM.”
  • Xsandrie Guimba, an exercise science major from the Philippines presented “The Opioid Crisis in America.”
  • Emma Laviolette, an occupational therapy major from Lake Orion presented “Teaching Empathy in the Health Professions.”
  • Symone Guy, a political science major from Flint presented “Voting.”