Practice makes polished: Moffitt helps students master skills for effective communication

Cal freshmen Chadwick Bowlin and Rika Pokala try out Moffitt Library’s new Van Houten Presentation Studio. (Photo by Alejandro Serrano for the University Library)

Berkeley students spend hour after hour inventing and building the next big thing. But what happens when they need to present their idea — or themselves — to a class, client or future employer? Will their pitch be a flop? Not anymore.

When the top floors of the Moffitt Library reopen on Nov. 2, students can practice public speaking, interviews and presentations in a newly-created space dedicated to just this. In the Van Houten Presentation Studio, students will use the latest technology to develop, practice, record and review their public speaking efforts.

The studio exemplifies the expanded role of the Library in the education of today’s students. This role goes beyond the traditional functions of collections and research assistance to meet today’s needs for flexible, collaborative, technology-rich study spaces that can support a wide variety of course projects and learning styles.

Barrie Roberts, who teaches public speaking, is excited about the new studio.“My College Writing colleagues and I are thrilled,” she says, “that we’ll finally have a place where students can experiment and develop their individual and group presentation skills, aided by cutting-edge technology.”

Margi Wald, who coordinates classes in the Summer ESL program, plans to direct students to the studio to practice their PowerPoint presentations and their pronunciation. She also envisions holding student panel presentations in the room, and is delighted they can readily review the videos in order to pinpoint areas for improvement.

It’s anticipated that the new studio will be used by faculty as well as students. Dr. Richard Freishtat, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), notes that the space will be valuable for instructors working to improve on their delivery of lectures. “The opportunity to video record ourselves and review the playback is a profound experience,” he says, “where we can notice effective things we did not realize we were doing, or notice explicit areas for improvement.” By then consulting with staff at the CTL, instructors can take on an entirely new perspective about themselves as a teacher from the student view.

The fourth floor Moffitt studio is named in honor of Peter Van Houten (’56, ’73). His recent $500K gift to the Library has helped to create Berkeley’s premier learning space for undergraduates.

Van Houten feels a particular connection to the Presentation Studio named in his honor. “I’ve always been passionate about helping people learn to express themselves in positive and productive ways,” he says. “I’m delighted that the renovated Moffitt is supporting this.”

The technology for the Van Houten Presentation Studio was provided by the Student Technology Fund.