At the Anderson University commencement ceremony on May 5, senior Mark Sipka will be the first AU student in more than two decades to graduate with a major in speech communication. In the past, the university had offered this major but had removed it due to lack of interest in the field. Only the speech minor remained. With the last catalog, however, the faculty in the Department of Communication Arts determined that the necessary classes were available, and the major should be included once more.
Sipka majored in theatre arts and English education during his freshman and sophomore years, but as an aspiring actor, he found speech communication to be the most helpful on his path to Los Angeles. It has rounded out his ability to present himself and understand the various elements of public speaking that will be necessary in his post-graduation life.
Sipka had fulfilled the majority of his liberal arts requirements during his first two years at AU, allowing him to dedicate the bulk of his attention to his communications classes. Sipka’s professors were also willing to exercise some flexibility and work with him to arrange his schedule in such a way that allowed him to complete the speech communication major in just four semesters. “It was challenging, but it was a good fit,” said Sipka. “It saved me these past two years.”
Speech communication is not solely for individuals looking toward the entertainment industry. It can be a helpful skill for students planning to study law or enter the political field, as well as those who hope to be consultants or sales representatives.
“It has many benefits,” said Dr. Virginia Chapman, professor of speech. “You learn to think in classes like Appreciation of Rhetoric where you have to take apart speeches and see why they’re effective. You learn to argue well. It develops your human skills with courses like Interpersonal Communication, and it’s a good general basis for graduate school as well as many careers.” Students are also required to be part of the debate team, where they put those skills to use in public argument.
Dr. Donald Boggs, professor of speech and broadcasting, noted the importance of being able to make an effective speech. “At the core of what we do is this great tradition of speech communication,” he said. The major is built to provide a comprehensive education along the communication core, intended to prepare students for a future career demanding of them the ability to speak convincingly and with authority. “It’s about having the box of tools and knowing which to use, and how to use them.”
This set of tools will serve Sipka well. As an actor, he has to understand the inner workings of communication if he is to portray various characters. Creating a believable persona requires more than reciting lines correctly. It includes body language, tone, diction, and the right delivery. “You have to understand that person well enough to know how they function and what their reaction would be,” said Chapman.
Sipka has had experiences outside his major that have helped to hone his acting skills. He participated in a variety show in Dunn Hall called Shodunn during his sophomore year, in which he performed a comedy routine. He started a regular comedy show, Business Casual, with friends Trent Bruce and Andrew Stewart, and has done solo stand-up shows in Indianapolis. Sipka also presents the morning announcements in chapel on Tuesdays every week. His speech courses have helped him be successful with these extracurricular activities. “You use those skills whether you think about it or not,” he said.
— Amanda Bray is a senior from Sacramento, Calif., majoring in communication arts and writing. Amanda is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.