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Global health students define their voice with help from Shakespeare and Yoga

October 28/2015

A group of 11 global health students channeled their inner Shakespeare earlier this month at Finding Your Voice: Building Stronger Presence and Communication Skills, a communications workshop designed to help PhD students hone their personal brand message.

The workshop enabled students to develop leadership presence and improve communication skills using theatrical tools as a strategy to communicate more freely when giving talks, teaching classes and during interviews.

“Grad students are doing fascinating and important research, yet often fail to confidently and passionately communicate their research interests and findings,” said Jannah Wigle, a second year PhD student in the Social and Behavioural Health Sciences Division.

“This workshop helped to provide some tangible strategies that can be used to transform how we present ourselves and our ideas to more effectively engage audiences,” said Wigle.

Workshop participants were incredibly varied, from a seasoned Brazilian Jujitsu fighter to a sommelier-in-training, but everyone had one thing in common – a passion for improving global health.

While practicing breathing and postural techniques to better use their voices, students learned how to increase their sense of presence and ensure that their ideas are heard.

“Be more generous with your vowels when speaking. Lead with your thought and support it with emotion,” said Peter Van Wart, director of Toronto’s Classical Theatre Lab, who led part of the workshop with Nikki Bergen, founder of Elevate Retreats.

Professor Jillian Kohler, Director of DLSPH’s Collaborative Doctoral Program in Global Health, organized the workshop with support from Alissa Warner, Uttam Bajwa and the School of Graduate Studies, in response to student demand for more professional skill-building opportunities.

“We thought about what can we offer that is relevant and out-of the-box, and I think we achieved that with this workshop,” said Kohler, Associate Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Director of Global Health at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and the Munk School of Global Affairs.

“We know that facts alone rarely convince an audience to act.  For this reason, students that wish to become leaders in their field need to be able to convince both hearts and minds,” said Liam O’Leary, Graduate Programming Coordinator in the School of Graduate Studies who also participated in the workshop.

“Peter and Nikki were able to introduce students to skills and techniques that many students were unfamiliar with, but that they quickly picked up.  With these techniques and minor coaching, students were able to take a step towards becoming more effective leaders and change-makers,” said O’Leary.

The workshop received a very favourable evaluation, with many students suggesting it be offered over several weeks to a broader audience.

“I would definitely recommend this workshop to other grad students. As a doctoral student you often have to describe your research background and interests, however this workshop provided an opportunity and useful strategies to ensure that how I communicate about my research, reflect not only my knowledge on the subject but also my passion for working in my field,” said Wigle.