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April 02, 2019

Reineke Helps Students With Public Speaking Skills

By Estella Dentinger

Juliann Reineke is helping students develop presentation skills to defend their thesis and explain their research — sometimes in three minutes or less.

Reineke, an associate director of the Global Communication Center at Carnegie Mellon, teaches from experience. She earned her doctor’s degree in English at CMU, and placed second in the university’s Three Minute Thesis Championship in 2016, a competition that challenges Ph.D. students to explain their research to a general audience in three minutes or less. She presented her ideas, drawn from 18th-century literature, on modern-day veterans reintegrating as civilians.

“I did it because I was terrified of public speaking and it forced me into practicing and developing skills I knew I needed,” Reineke said.

At the Global Communication Center (GCC), Reineke works with director and mentor Joanna Wolfe and special consultant Alex Hall to provide workshops for hundreds of students each semester. She also conducts training sessions every fall for about 25 students to serve as student tutors.

“The tutors provide a tremendous amount of insight into how we can make the center even better for the CMU community,” she said. “The most surprising thing I’ve learned was how tutoring can have a tremendous impact on the tutor’s own work. They have gained a better perspective of their own work and skillset by going through the training, and working with people in different disciplines.”

Reineke advises students not to be afraid to write, revise, write and revise, again and again.  

“I used to think that having to revise was a failure on my part, that I didn’t get it right the first time. But I’ve realized that the more you invest in the drafting process, the better your ideas become in the end.”

Reineke said revisions can often lead to “a-ha” moments. 

“A student and I were working for a very long time to figure out her presentation for her dissertation defense, and after her delivery everyone on the review committee praised her for how great the presentation was. That was a great thing to see,” she said.

Working with students has affected her own research in designing scientific posters. She also is co-authoring a textbook about tutor training.  

“I love working with students on their projects. A lot of the projects are so far from my own research, but it is intellectually stimulating. I learn so much from the interesting work that the students are doing,” she said.

Reineke hopes that when people think of the GCC, they see a resource to help them better communicate and develop their ideas.

“We pride ourselves on being able to have an idea-focused session so that students aren’t just getting grammar support. We help people figure out exactly what they want to say, and different ways they can say it given their audience and genre.

“What’s so special about CMU is the level of work that students are creating. Every student is committed to communicating their ideas as well as possible,” she said.

Outside of work, Reineke likes knitting and crocheting, and is an avid kayaker. In the summer months, she enjoys kayaking a few times a week on Pittsburgh’s three rivers.

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