Holt Wins Speak Off; Six Finalists Eligible to Compete for $10,000 Prize

From left: Matthew Weber, Rolanda Turner, Ben Tarkoff, Christian Holt, Kamryn Gaskin, Shawn Essex.

Christian Holt, a junior from Trussville, Alabama, took home first place and The Oscar Newton Award of $200 at the 2017 Speak Off, a public speaking competition hosted by the College of Communication and Information Sciences Nov. 7 in Russell Hall.

Holt won for his informative speech comparing and contrasting the benefits and experiences of a four-year institution and a community college. He was among six finalists who presented informative speeches originally prepared for their class, COM 123 Public Speaking, a core curriculum course in communication studies.

“Winning the Speak Off was an incredible honor,” said Holt. “Competing was a lot of fun. All of the speakers were truly fantastic and deserve recognition in their own right.”

For second place, Ben Tarkoff, a sophomore from Orinda, California, spoke on the topic of lying and deception, including the overwhelming presence of deception in everyday life and the way society rewards and rejects lying and deception.

In third place, Matthew Weber, a junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, presented an overview of maps, discussing the history of maps, types of maps and common issues and distortions that arise from two-dimensional maps representing a three-dimensional world.

The audience was polled and selected Rolanda Turner, a junior from Pell City, Alabama, as its People’s Choice award recipient for her speech on the importance of sleep for the health and well-being of the human body.

Other finalists were Shawn Essex, a sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida, and Kamryn Gaskin, a sophomore from Westtown, New Jersey.

All six Speak Off finalists are eligible to compete in the 2018 Holle Award for Excellence in Public Speaking contest on April 28, which awards a $10,000 cash prize to the winner.

The department of communication studies is a part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences and was named a Program of Distinction by the National Communication Association in 2016.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.