Integrating Presentation Skills into the YC Curriculum
As a student in Yeshiva College (YC), I have taken the typical classes that one would expect a student at a liberal arts college to take. These courses include classes that study diverse cultures, classes that focus on the natural world, and of course, perhaps the most well-known courses of all, the writing courses (such as First Year Writing). These writing courses are designed to teach students how to bring their writing up to college level. For me, the required writing courses are among the most integral classes that I have taken at Yeshiva College. They have taught me to communicate clearly, not just in person, but also in writing.
However, when one surveys the courses in YC, the thing that is most conspicuously lacking is the fact that there is no required speech/presentation class. When I first arrived at Yeshiva University, I did not really pay attention to this fact. After all, I figured that I had nothing to learn in that area. Unlike writing skills, which I felt I could improve, I believed that I knew how to effectively communicate in person.
A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine in the Sy Syms School of Business. He was telling me how he has a class called “Business Communications” where the students learn how to give elevator pitches, presentations, and how to generally present themselves in business settings. While this class is specifically tailored for the business students in Yeshiva University (as it is a course in Syms), I realized that the general idea applies, and is relevant, to all the students of our institution, including Yeshiva College. All students can benefit from a communications/presentations course which would focus on teaching a few key skills.
The first skill which students need to learn is how to present effectively. Regardless of career goals and, whether someone plans on being a doctor, lawyer, accountant, teacher, professor, computer scientist, or a banker, knowing how to effectively present will be a critical skill for career success. Additionally, having good presentation skills such as speaking charismatically, with a focus on a clear message, is not just important for career success. Knowing how to effectively communicate is a value in one’s personal life as well. A good liberal arts curriculum must teach students how to communicate ideas to an audience effectively and clearly, both in writing and in person.
The second skill which students need to develop is how to communicate effectively in various social contexts. Students of our institution navigate many different social settings with diverse sets of people. These range from the workplace, to community settings, to family settings, to different countries such as Israel. All of these different contexts require different types of communication, and students must develop the skills to adapt to the diverse settings that they will find themselves in. Therefore, this is a skill of utmost importance which should be taught as part of the liberal arts curriculum at Yeshiva College.
The problem with the course of action that I am proposing is that, no one in Yeshiva College has room in their respective schedules to take more required classes. The dual curriculum already leaves most students with more than enough work to keep them busy. Luckily, I believe that it is possible to integrate communications skills into the already existing YC core curriculum without needing to add additional courses. When Yeshiva College was forced to cut the First Year Seminar Course, rather than getting rid of it completely, they instead integrated it into other core classes by making certain core classes more writing intensive.
Just as writing skills are of fundamental importance and were therefore integrated into the core curriculum, the same thing should happen with presentation skills. Certain courses should be designated as “presentation intensive,” and should require students to give numerous presentations throughout the semester. This solution will keep students happy, because it won’t require a heavier course load, while simultaneously not requiring more money in the budget, and, most importantly, it will enable to student body to develop a very important skill-set.