Serena Zhu '19 Conquers Her Fear of Public Speaking and Presents Her Work As a UGA

Serena Zhu '19 shares her experience after attending the Annual NASPA Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This past Winter term, I had the extreme pleasure of presenting my work as an Undergraduate Advisor (UGA) for the Thought Project Living Learning Community at the 100th year anniversary of the Annual NASPA Conference. (The Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education was previously known as the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.) This opportunity was made possible, in part, through generous funding from the Rockefeller Center. My experience at the conference was immensely beneficial to my personal growth as an individual because it provided me the opportunity to conquer my fear of public speaking.

My role at the NASPA Conference was to present information, alongside my peers, about the success of the Thought Project, a student-led initiative to spark engagement, inquiry, and community at Dartmouth. However, my excitement to present was constantly overshadowed by trepidation when I realized I was one of the few undergraduates in attendance at a conference meant for student affairs professionals. To add to that, public speaking has always been one of my greatest fears; the mere thought of presenting in front of a large audience causes my body to feel weak and my heart to race. However, I have always been determined to conquer this irrational fear. Thus, although my explicit goal at NASPA was to inform NASPA educators of the Thought Project’s methods to inspire students to engage in dialogue and to facilitate the formation of alternative social spaces on campus, my personal goal was simply to present coherently.

Despite my expectations and fears, the presentation went smoothly. I still had to grip the podium to steady myself, but I managed to speak confidently and without faltering during the entire presentation. As a result, I was able to contribute to the presentation by conveying the Thought Project’s community building efforts. While this may seem like an uneventful or mundane achievement to many, this particular presentation marks a turning point for me. Attending presenting at this conference made me realize that I was more than capable of speaking in public, a revelation that has since been invaluable to my professional development and personal confidence.

In addition to learning to present with confidence, I learned about student affairs from professionals working at higher education institutions across the nation. Attending sessions about myriad topics opened my eyes to the diverse set of challenges plaguing students today. For instance, during a session, I learned about how student activism differs between college campuses. Through a panel of attorneys and student affairs professionals, I learned how to protect free speech on campus. In just 50 minutes, I learned 50 tips for assessment. Throughout the entirety of the conference, I was continuously learning. Now, I intend to spread the knowledge I gained from attending this conference throughout our campus. 

-Submitted by Serena Zhu '19, Rockefeller Center Mini Grant Recipient 

The Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences, as well as the costs of bringing guest speakers to Dartmouth. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.