Program helps students develop speaking skills

CSUN’s program, Student Panels for an International Curriculum and Education (SPICE) offers international students an opportunity to gain public speaking experience and gives the campus community a first-hand perspective of life in another country.

“The students that participate in the program are ambassadors to the campus,” said Yeprem Davoodian, activities coordinator for the International Exchange Student Center.

Through the SPICE program, international students participate in discussion panels held at local service institutions and local high school and college classrooms. The students’ presentations consist of first-hand accounts of their lives in a foreign country.

The SPICE program is also utilized in CSUN classrooms, Davoodian said.

“Department staff will call us and pose questions for us to give to our SPICE students,” he said. “The students then prepare their discussion based on these questions and go and present it.”

The presentations consist of three to four SPICE students speaking about their respective countries’ stance on a specific subject matter.

Davoodian said the program was created 20 years ago as a means to get international and exchange students more involved in campus life.

“It helps in breaking them (SPICE students) out of their shyness,” he said. “They learn about public speaking and how to better voice an opinion.”

Sidhu Vedula, 24, said he had very little public speaking experience before entering the SPICE program.

The engineering graduate student added that SPICE has been a “gift” for the international students on campus.

“We’ve been able to develop communication skills that will prepare us for job interviews,” he said. “I know of some students who have received internships as a result of SPICE.”

The SPICE participants are chosen through a selection process that requires perspective students to complete an application, Davoodian said.

He added the program recruits exemplary students that have a GPA of at least a 3.0 and be in good standing with the university. He said they must also be under the F-1 or J-1 Visa program at CSUN.

“They are essentially representing the university and the country,” he said.

Rashi Bhatnagar, a nutrition and dietetic major, said through the SPICE program she was able to discuss the foods and culture of her native Thailand with her peers in the family and consumer science department.

“I’ve been able to get to know a lot of the faculty and have gotten some really positive responses,” she said. “ Not only have I grown in public speaking but I’ve also become more confident.”

Bhatnagar said that often times SPICE panelists also receive an education on their own cultures through the research they do in preparation for their presentations.

“In doing research on your own home country, you’ll learn something you didn’t know before,” she said. “We’re always learning.”