Kariotis Kotsonis pictured with students the NJCA's Annual Conference in April 2019.
Angela Kariotis Kotsonis, instructor within the College of Communication and the Arts, is a firm believer in the power of communication, and she's always brainstorming new ways to interact with different audiences given her background in dramaturge.
Most recently, Kariotis applied her teaching capabilities in two new ways. In April, she facilitated a workshop during the New Jersey Communication Association's (NJCA) Annual Conference, and later in May, she hosted the first Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Festival on the Seton Hall University campus.
During the NJCA Conference, Kariotis led "Creating Inclusive Classroom Learning Experiences," a workshop exploring how to create community and inspire trust in the classroom through somatic practice and physical movement.
"Understanding how to create an inclusive space is definitely a hot topic, and people want to learn these methods," said Kariotis. "My workshop sought to help educators understand how to build inclusive environments and teach them the techniques needed to build empathy and create dialogue."
A sampling of techniques – or "games" – offered during her session included "Mapping the Room," a gamified approach that encourages conversation by asking the audience where they stand on a specific topic or issues. Participants are asked to rise out of their seats to "stand" on any by placing themselves on a figurative line between two extremes (e.g., I agree or I disagree). The location of the participants "allows you to see where people literally stand on an issue," noted Kariotis.
Both students taking Oral Communication and Martin Luther King Leaders gathered together to speak on topics of their choice during "Speak with Conviction."
To further bring her techniques to life, Kariotis invited four of her students to attend the conference and participate in the workshop. They shared their experiences with the audience, commenting on how the techniques were non-invasive, yet allow their classes to feel interconnected.
Bringing student voices into conversations about current issues was also the driving force behind Kariotis' inaugural Dr. Martin Luther King Oratorical Festival, presented by the Communication program and the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Program.
Titled "Speak with Conviction," the event provided a space for students to bring their points of views forward through the art of oral communication. The evening began with a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, a Martin Luther King scholar, followed by a series of speeches from students taking COST 1600: Oral Communication. Afterward, Kariotis led an open-forum discussion during which attendees offered their perspectives and thoughts on the topics presented.
Students and faculty gathered for the first Dr. Martin Luther King Oratorical Festival held in May 2019. Image credited to Marie Leon of The Setonian.
"The collaboration allowed these two programs to work as a conduit and connect these groups and people together," said Kariotis. "Throughout the session, there was a palpable feeling in the room that came from the audience sharing their perspectives and offering their voices."
Looking ahead, Kariotis will continue the partnership next year; while specific timelines are not available yet, the event will take place in April 2020 to commemorate the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
For more information about the event, readers are invited to view a video about the event, shot and edited by undergraduate student, Quinton Tramm.