UIndy Speech and Debate Team wins an International Championship and High Marks at National Championship

UIndy Speech & Debate Team

UIndy Speech & Debate Team

The University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team earned high marks at two championship tournaments held virtually in March 2021. Craig-Anesu Chigadza ’21 (political science and psychology) brought home an international win, a first for the team, by winning the Informative Speaking division at the International 31st Annual International Forensics Association Speech and Debate Tournament. In addition, the team earned widespread accolades at the National Speech Championship culminating in an overall team ranking of 15th in the nation. 

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked learning-centered community that competes in speaking events to enhance student’s communication, research, and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor of communication, is the team director.

“The strength and dedication of this team really shined this year as we were forced to compete virtually. Our students not only survived the change in competition, but they thrived by delivering stellar results at two high-level championships,” explained Wideman.

Craig Chigadza

Craig Chigadza

Of his international championship Chigadza says, “The opportunity to represent UIndy on an international level is the pinnacle of my time here as both a student and competitor.” His award-winning speech informed the audience about a burgeoning movement to acknowledge inequities in representation at museums across the world. “During a time when our country and world is struggling with racial injustices, the opportunity to advocate for racial equity on a global stage is a chance I was given by the university to be a part of the change.”


“Our success at the National Speech Championship (NSC) speaks to the quality and dedication of our coaching staff. We are comparatively a smaller team on the national level, but we keep our eyes on quality not quantity. At NSC we had several students break into quarter, semi, and national finals, placing them within the top echelon of speaking excellence,” explained Wideman.

UIndy Speech & Debate TeamThe team will graduate two members this year. Craig-Anesu Chigadza (political science and psychology) and Kathryn Leigh (biology). The seniors would like to dedicate their success to every member of the greyhound community that worked tirelessly during this pandemic to make sure their education continued. 

Full results below:


International Forensics Association Championship

Craig-Anesu Chigadza ’21 (political science and psychology)-International Champion 1st place Informative Speaking, 6th place in Impromptu Speaking

National Speech Championship

Overall Team Ranking 15th Nationally
Craig-Anesu Chigadza ’21 (political science and psychology) 3rd place Interviewing Speaking

Semi Finalists (Top 12 in Nation)

Craig-Anesu Chigadza Informative Speaking and Impromptu Speaking
Kathryn Leigh ’21 (biology) Interviewing Speaking

Quarter Finalists (Top 24 in Nation)

Kathryn Leigh Rhetorical Criticism
Elise Paz ’23 (business and Spanish) Informative Speaking
Landon Owens ’22 (sports management) Programmed Oral Interpretation
Landon Owens and Alexandra Nickerson ’21 (political science and communication) DUO Interpretation
Craig-Anesu Chigadza Extemporaneous Speaking

UIndy Speech and Debate Team has Success Going Virtual

UIndy Speech & Debate team goes virtualThe University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team competed in their first tournament of the year and first virtual tournament ever in the 2020 T-Town Swing Tournament hosted by Tulsa Community College and Northeastern State University.

The team earned widespread accolades throughout the tournament, culminating in a second-place finish in individual events sweepstakes.

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked learning-centered community that competes in speaking events to enhance student’s communication, research, and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor of communication, is the team director.

“Learning during a pandemic presents challenges to all educators. However, this team’s resilience and dedication to the craft of public speaking means we can adapt and keep excelling during difficult times. It is essential we offer some sense of normalcy for our students, and competing, even virtually, offers that opportunity,” Wideman said.

Elise Paz ’23 (finance & Spanish) earned the title of tournament champion in communication analysis for her work exploring how obituaries have the rhetorical potential to shape public memory of these historic times. “Hispanics in the United States have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to their marginalized status and inability to access good healthcare and protective measures against COVID-19. In writing this speech, I was given the opportunity to shed light on this issue and give voice to those in need,” she said.

Team president, Craig Chigadza ’21 (psychology and international relations) speaks to his feelings about competing virtually: “As a collegiate competitor in speech and debate, the opportunity to be back on the circuit, competing even virtually, serves as reassurance that where there is a will there is a way. The feeling of being back with my university family is amazing,” Chigadza explained.

See a full list of team results below:

I.E. Sweeps: 2nd Place
Combined Sweeps: 3rd Place
Elize Paz ’23 (finance & spanish)-Tournament Champion (1st Place) in Communication Analysis
Landon Owens ’22 (sports management)-3rd in Programmed Oral Interpretation
Kathryn Leigh ’21 (biology)-3rd in Prose
Bhumibol Shakya ’23 (communication & psychology)-3rd in Impromptu Speaking & 5th in Informative Speaking
Collin Fausnaugh ’22 (supply chain management)-4th in Impromptu Speaking & 5th in Extemp Speaking

Speech and Debate team brings home high marks and persuasive speaking state champion

The University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team earned high marks at the Indiana Forensics Association (IFA) State Championship in February 2019 at Ivy Tech Community College-Indianapolis. The team earned widespread accolades throughout the tournament, culminating in bringing home the State Championship title in Persuasive Speaking.

Photo (L-R): Craig Chigadza, Reid Lorey, Sierra Roberts, Collin Fausnaugh, Kaylee Blum, Kathryn Leigh, Vanessa Hickman, Landon Owens, Shayla Cabalan, Taylor Woods, Roci Contreras, India Graves

Photo (L-R): Craig Chigadza, Reid Lorey, Sierra Roberts, Collin Fausnaugh, Kaylee Blum, Kathryn Leigh, Vanessa Hickman, Landon Owens, Shayla Cabalan, Taylor Woods, Roci Contreras, India Graves

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked learning-centered community that competes in speaking events to enhance student’s communication, research, and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor of communication, is the team director.

“Our success at the state tournament is reflective of a distinguished work ethic among the students and coaching staff. We are pleased that our efforts and skill were recognized at the state championship. I am particularly proud of this team’s ability to act as ambassadors for our university throughout the state,” Wideman said.

Craig Chigadza ’21 (political science and psychology) earned the title of State Champion in Persuasive Speaking. “Winning the state championship is a testimony to hard work, but ultimately I could not have done it without the support of my teammates and coaches who always challenge me to go the extra mile,” he said.

Chigadza’s win qualifies him to compete on a national level in the country’s oldest speech competition, the Interstate Oratory Association’s (IOA) Persuasive Speaking Contest held in April 2019 at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. IOA’s birth as an intercollegiate event was in 1874, and the organization is composed of approximately twenty state collegiate forensic organizations. The organization’s purpose is to conduct an annual competition in oratory. Participants in the contest are the top two finalists in each of the respective state contests. Participants in this contest will have their speech published in the organization’s annual publication, “Winning Orations.”

See a full list of team results below.

Team Sweepstakes – 3rd place overall

Persuasive – State Champion (1st) Craig Chigadza ‘21, 3rd Shayla Cabalan ‘20, 4th Vanessa Hickman ‘19

Prose – 3rd India Graves ‘18

Poetry – 3rd Taylor Woods ‘21

Impromptu – 3rd Craig Chigadza ‘21

Extemporaneous – 3rd Vanessa Hickman ‘19, 4th Craig Chigadza ‘21

Dramatic Interpretation – 3rd Roci Contreras ‘20, 6th India Graves ‘18

Novice Impromptu – 3rd Collin Fausnaugh ‘22, 7th Kathryn Leigh, ‘21

Rhetorical Criticism – 4th Melanie Moore ‘20

Novice Persuasive – 5th Kathryn Leigh ‘21

After Dinner Speaking – Sierra Roberts ‘21

Informative – 5th Melanie Moore ‘20

Programmed Oral Interpretation – 6th India Graves ‘18

Duo Interpretation – 6th Vanessa Hickman ’19 and Taylor Woods ‘21

Long Read Response – 6th Kaylee Blum ‘19

Novice Extemporaneous – 6th Collin Fausnaugh ‘22

Public Narrative – 7th Shayla Cabalan ‘20

UIndy Speech and Debate Team is tournament champion at Muskingum University

speechanddebate800The University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team earned a big win recently at Muskingum University’s Tournament in New Concord, Ohio. Overall, the team placed first, earning the title of tournament champions. In addition, two students earned top marks and were named tournament champions in individual events.

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked learning community that competes in speaking events to enhance students’ communication, research and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor, serves as the team director.

“Coming in to my second year as the director of the team makes this win even more special. It displays our continued growth and commitment to excellence,” Wideman said.

Shayla Cabalan ’20 (Communication and English) earned first place in the event of Radio Broadcasting. Of her experience with the team she noted, “Speech and Debate, in my opinion, is one of the most honorable ways a student can represent the university. As a whole, speech and debate involves speaking on important topics, starting crucial conversations, and creating a dialogue for change.”

Sierra Roberts ’21 (History and Social Studies Education) earned first place in the event of After Dinner Speaking. “Being a part of the team has taught me several valuable lessons, most notably it plays a vital role in preparing me for my future. As a future educator I will use many of the skills I have learned through teaching in my own classroom,” she explained.

In addition to Cabalan and Roberts’ success, the entire team turned in strong ranks. See the full results below:

Festival Storytelling
Kaylee – 3rd

Landon – 4th
Taylor – 5th

India – 2nd
Shayla – 3rd
Kaylee – 4th

Sierra – 1st

Broadcast Journalism
Shayla – 1st

Dramatic Interpretation
Landon – 2nd

Craig – 5th

Craig – 3rd

India – 2nd

Taylor – 2nd
Shayla – 3rd
Craig – 5th

Kay 4th
Mel 3rd

Speech and Debate team wins big at State Championship

The University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team won big at the Indiana Forensics Association (IFA) State Championship in February 2018 at Ball State University.  Three members of the team earned the honor of being named a state champion, and the team as a whole earned top honors throughout the tournament. The Greyhounds finished third in the overall team award sweepstakes category.

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked community that competes in events to enhance student’s communication, research and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor of communication, is the team director.


From left to right: Sierra Roberts, Vanessa Hickman, Ryan Jordan-Wright, Craig Chigadza, Melanie Moore, Taylor Woods, India Graves, Shayla Cabalan, Roci Contreras, Kaylee Blum, Hilary Bauer

“Our success at the state competition is reflective of the student’s hard work and dedication to honing their personal skills as well as representing the university well,” Wideman said.

Taylor Woods ’22 (communication) earned the title of State Champion in Novice Poetry Interpretation. “I joined the Speech and Debate Team as a freshman without any prior experience in the field,” Woods said. “I’ve grown so much since being on the team, which has helped me in a variety of areas in my life.”

Craig Chigadza ’22 (psychology) earned the title of State Champion in Novice Extemporaneous Speaking. “Being part of the speech and debate team here at UIndy has been life changing,” he said. “Not only am I developing an important skill in public speaking and critical thinking, but I am gifted a family away from home and a group of young men and women who are seeking to make an impact by addressing vital global issues.”

Hilary Bauer ’22 (studio art and political science) earned the title of State Champion in Novice Impromptu Speaking. “I was beyond thrilled to represent UIndy at the state championship,” she said. “The university provides us with the materials and opportunity to succeed at this level. I’m grateful for the support we receive as a team.”

See a full list of team results below.

Congratulations to all Greyhounds who competed: Sierra Roberts, Vanessa Hickman, Ryan Jordan-Wright, Craig Chigadza, Melanie Moore, Taylor Woods, India Graves, Shayla Cabalan, Roci Contreras, Kaylee Blum and Hilary Bauer

The team will travel to two national tournaments in March to finish out the competitive season.

IFA State Championship results:

  • Novice Impromptu– State Champion Hilary Bauer, 6th place Craig Chigadza
  • Novice Extemporaneous– State Champion- Craig Anesu Chigadza, 3rd Place Hilary Bauer
  • Novice Poetry– State Champion Taylor Woods
  • Varsity Persuasion– 2nd Place Shayla Cabalan, 6th place Vanessa Hickman, 7th place Melanie Moore
  • Novice Persuasion– 6th place Craig Chigadza
  • Varsity Poetry– 2nd place Roci Contreras, 6th place India Graves
  • Varsity After Dinner Speaking– 3rd place Vanessa Hickman, 5th place Shayla Cabalan, 6th place India Graves
  • Varsity Prose– 5th place India Graves, 6th place Kaylee Blum
  • Novice Prose– 3rd place Taylor Woods
  • Varsity Extemporaneous– 7th place Melanie Moore
  • Varsity Informative– 5th place Kaylee Blum
  • Program Oral Interpretation– 5th place Kaylee Blum
  • Duo Interpretation– 6th place Taylor Woods and Craig Chigadza




UIndy Speech and Debate Team is tournament champion at Owensboro


(L-R) India Graves, Craig Chigadza, Taylor Woods, Vanessa Hickman, Kaylee Blum, Ryan Wright-Jordan, Melanie Moore, Roci Contreras

The University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team turned in a strong performance recently at the 2017 24th Annual BBQ Capital of the World Speech and Debate Tournament hosted by Owensboro Community and Technical College. UIndy’s team placed fourth in the overall team award sweepstakes category, with individual students earning top three status in several categories.

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked community that competes in speech and debate events to enhance students’ communication, research and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor of communication, serves as team director.

“My primary goal is for students to cultivate their own voice through engagement in competition. The undergraduate experience is such an important time as students are not only learning about the world, but also about themselves,” Wideman said.

Shayla Cabalan ’20 (communication and English) earned top spots in After Dinner Speaking and Radio Broadcasting and second place in Persuasive Speaking.

“Public speaking remains one of America’s top fears to this day, so it’s pretty amazing that the speech team willingly faces that fear on a daily basis,” Cabalan noted.

Melanie Moore ’20 (computer engineering/computer science) won first place in Persuasive Speaking, fifth in Extemporaneous Speaking and seventh in Pentathlon. She is considering a career in web or app development.


Top left to right: Ryan Wright-Jordan, Vanessa Hickman, India Graves, Shayla Cabalan, Roci Contreras, Kaylee Blum, Craig Chigadza, Melanie Moore, Sierra Roberts, Taylor Woods, Hilary Bauer

“I think these experiences will help me in my career because engineers are always working in groups to complete a project. Communication is key in this situation because everybody has a key piece of the puzzle to complete and they all have to fit together perfectly,” Moore said. 

Students said they gain confidence as they develop their skills in all types of public speaking, including how to speak with limited preparation time. Wideman said other goals include developing written and oral performance skills, critical thinking and leadership abilities. All build confidence and enhance the team dynamic, she said.

“I believe that involvement in the speech and debate community is a rich and exciting place for students to explore themselves through their communication practices. At the end of the day, I want to see students graduate with the knowledge they need and the voice to represent that knowledge to the communities they encounter after graduation,” Wideman said.


Overall Team Award:  4th Team Speech and Debate Sweepstakes

Name:  Craig Chigadza ’21 (psychology and pre-law)
Awards:  6th place Extemporaneous Speaking

Name:  Hilary Bauer ’21 (graphic design and political science)
Awards:  5th place Radio Broadcasting

Name:  India Graves ’18 (communication)
Awards: 3rd Prose, 5th After Dinner Speaking

Name:  Kaylee Blum ’20 (archaeology)
Awards:  2nd Informative Speaking, 3rd Impromptu Speaking

Name:  Melanie Moore ’20 (computer engineering/computer science)
Awards:  1st Persuasive Speaking, 5th Extemporaneous Speaking, 7th Pentathlon

Name:  Roci Contreras ’20 (academic & career exploration)
Awards:  6th Persuasive Speaking

Name:  Ryan Wright-Jordan ’18 (psychology  and communication)
Awards:  5th Informative Speaking, Top Novice Impromptu Counseling

Name:  Shayla Cabalan ’20 (communication and English)
Awards:  1st After Dinner Speaking, 2nd Persuasive Speaking, 1st Radio Broadcasting

Name:  Sierra Roberts ’21 (history)
Awards:  3rd Persuasive Speaking

Name:  Taylor Woods ’21 (communication)
Awards:  5th Impromptu Weathercasting

Name:  Vanessa Hickman ’19 (business administration & management)
Awards:  3rd Extemporaneous Speaking, 2nd Impromptu Counseling, 2nd After Dinner Speaking, 5th Pentathlon

Audrey Cunningham reflects on 24 years leading UIndy Speech & Debate Team

Audrey Cunningham, front row, second from left, with the Speech & Debate Team in 2011.

Audrey Cunningham, front row, second from left, with the Speech & Debate Team in 2011.

The University of Indianapolis Speech & Debate team has been winning regional and national accolades for more than 30 years, thanks in large part to Audrey Cunningham, the former team director. For 24 years, Cunningham, who serves as Basic Course Director in the Department of Communication, has been coaching students to success behind the podium and beyond.

Cunningham has enjoyed helping students develop lifelong speaking and debate skills that are easily transferable to a variety of careers. The speech team is open to all majors, and the students Cunningham has coached over the years have pursued successful careers in a variety of disciplines, including public relations, broadcasting, law, school counseling and secondary education.

“We encourage different majors because it’s one of those skill sets that transcends everything,” she explained.

Cunningham noted that the most dramatic improvements tend to happen during a student’s first year.

“That freshman year, they are learning all the basics. A lot of times they can be more successful that year because there are tournaments they can compete in with other novices of the first year. They’re competing more on par,” Cunningham said.

By senior year, Cunningham said that students have acquired a broad range of speaking skills. The competitions stretch students’ skills by challenging them to compete in extemporaneous, informative and persuasive speaking, as well as prose, poetry, duo and impromptu formats. There’s even a category for after-dinner speaking. Students are required to discuss topics ranging from voter disenfranchisement to gun control.

“The more people participate, the more confident they become in their abilities,” Cunningham said.

Audrey Cunningham

Audrey Cunningham

Under Cunningham’s guidance, the team earned the University’s first team title in 1990 from the National Forensic Association (NFA). Over the years, UIndy’s team has placed several times among the top ten in the Team Sweepstakes in the NFA competition, as well as making frequent team and individual appearances in the top ten in state, regional and other national competitions. Students from UIndy’s team have also competed in an international tournament in London.

In 2013-14, Cunningham co-directed the team with Rebekah Gaidis ’03, assistant professor (and a three-year team veteran herself) who went on to serve as sole team director until 2017. Stephanie Wideman is an assistant professor and the current team director. Both Gaidis and Wideman have led the team to stellar state and regional performances.

Professor Cunningham’s dedication to the art of public speaking is an inspirational force in the Department of Communication. She ran the Speech & Debate team for over twenty years, and in that time she was able to build the team into a cornerstone of speech education at UIndy,” said Wideman.

A longtime southsider, Cunningham’s UIndy connections run deep. Her two children, Kathleen Cunningham ’11 (English) and Chris Cunningham ’09 (communication) are alumni. She also has plenty of Emerald Isle connections. Her husband, Brian, is from Ireland, and is a singer and guitarist for the Irish Airs. Audrey has served as president of the Irish Dancers of Indianapolis and emcees Indianapolis’ Irish Festival.

Speech team places first at invitational

speech-teamThe UIndy Speech Team won first place as a team on Nov. 5 at Owensboro Community College’s invitational speech and debate tournament.

The winners included:

Team Awards:
Individual Events Team Sweepstakes Tournament Champions
Team Traveling Trophy Winner

Individual Awards:
Individual Events Pentathlon Sweepstakes – Tournament Champion Vanessa Hickman, 2nd Brooke Abbott
Poetry Interpretation – 2nd Vanessa Hickman
After-Dinner Speaking – Tournament Champion Brooke Abbott
Dramatic Interpretation – 2nd Vanessa Hickman, 3rd Emma Rund, Top novice Dae’Ja Gaston
Prose Interpretation – 2nd Carolyne Wilhelm, 3rd Kameron Murdock, Top Novice Hanna McClard
Impromptu Counseling – 2nd Vanessa Hickman, 4th Brooke Abbott
Impromptu Speaking – 6th Kaylee Blum
Extemporaneous Speaking – Tournament Champion Jessica Carroll
Persuasive Speaking – Tournament Champion Carolyne Wilhelm, 2nd Jessica Carroll
Informative Speaking – 3rd Jessica Carroll, 4th Shayla Cabalan
Duo Interpretation – 2nd Kameron Murdock & Emma Rund, 3rd Vanessa Hickman & Brooke Abbott, 6th Dae’Ja Gaston & Shayla Cabalan
Programmed Oral Interpretation – 4th Brooke Abbott, 6th Kaylee Blum
Impromptu Weathercasting – 5th India Graves
Coach of the Year – Rebekah Watson Gaidis

Coached by UIndy alumna Dr. Rebekah Watson Gaidis, Assistant Professor and Director of Forensics in the Department of Communication, the team looks ahead to their final tournament of the semester on Nov. 18 at Bowling Green State University.

Senior spotlight: Taylor Woods ’21 (communication)

Taylor Woods Class of 2021Taylor Woods hit the ground running early in the communication department. During her UIndy career, she was named Outstanding Freshman in Communication and worked with UIndy Radio and TV. Her newscasts and field reports have awarded her with accolades and scholarships from the Indiana Broadcaster’s Association and the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists.

On-campus, she served behind the scenes on executive boards for the Black Student Association and Project Regalia. Her strong communication and leadership skills helped her with the opportunity to serve as a UIndy Presidential Ambassador, and many weekends were spent advocating with the UIndy Speech and Debate team, where she was named state champion in novice poetry interpretation. She is also the news director for 88.7 WICR-FM.

After graduating, she will be pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Learn more about her:

Where do you work and how does it tie in with your goals?

I have now been working part-time at WISH-TV for nearly a year. In this short time I have witnessed the station that I grew up watching, grow by leaps and bounds. The owner, DuJuan McCoy has expanded WISH-TV’s viewership statewide, and now launching a multicultural news network is incredible. I believe this multicultural platform is needed now more than ever to inform viewers about news in every ethnic community. It is empowering to work at a diverse station that is owned by an African American man. This helps pave the way for future broadcasters that look like me.

How has UIndy helped you prepare for your career?

I value my liberal arts education at the University of Indianapolis because of the small classroom sizes which allows me to have more one-on-one attention from my professors. The professors in the Communication department have prepared me for the broadcasting industry in so many ways. I had hands-on experience 5 weeks into my freshman year on air for UIndy Radio and TV. I’m thankful for that experience because it has awarded me with statewide broadcast journalism awards and scholarships. It has even offered me the opportunity to work as news director at WICR and intern at WISH-TV which is now my part-time job.

Who are some of your UIndy mentors and how did they help you? 

Professor Uecker gave me opportunities to grow as a journalist. He allowed me to deliver newscasts on air at the radio station during the summer of 2019. This was groundbreaking for me because I found who I was a journalist and I sharpened my storytelling skills. This pivotal moment was how I started being awarded with statewide scholarships and news accolades. I will forever be grateful for Professor Uecker’s advice because it helped me cultivate my multimedia journalism skills.

What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?

Absorb and soak everything up like a sponge during that first year. Try to join at least one club or organization if you can but don’t overwhelm yourself because you did come to college for an education. Get to know your professor a little better and go to those office hours.

Faculty/Student collaboration completes audiobook narration

Indiana VoicesIndiana is known as the Crossroads of America, but what many people might not realize is how many times over the years Indiana has found itself at the political crossroads as well. While names like Pence, Buttigieg and Coney Barrett have had the state in the political limelight recently, Indiana was a tense battleground state for much of the century spanning Reconstruction to the Civil Rights era.

Recently, in partnership with Indiana Voices of the Indiana State Library, faculty members Stephanie Wideman, Whitney Tipton, Katie Greenan; and student Kathryn Leigh ’21 (biology) completed a collaborative audiobook narration for “Campaign Crossroads: Presidential Politics in Indiana from Lincoln to Obama” which will be published this year and ultimately preserved by the Library of Congress.

Wideman, assistant professor in the Department of Communication and director of the UIndy Speech and Debate Team, was researching potential service projects for her team when she discovered Indiana Voices. “It seemed like a perfect fit,” she said. “When I contacted Linden Coffman, the director of the program, and learned about its role in our community, I knew this would be a beneficial collaboration for our students and the state of Indiana.”

Indiana Voices records Indiana-related books and magazines for patrons of the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library. The project is funded by a grant from the Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation and relies on volunteers to narrate and proofread the books.

“On the team, and in the Department of Communication, we pride ourselves on helping students find their voice,” Wideman said. “This project allowed them to use their voice in service of our broader community.” 

IMG-1461Leigh, vice president of the Speech and Debate Team, joined the project after Wideman mentioned it to the team. “I enjoy volunteering and books, so I figured it would be a perfect fit,” she said. “It became something I looked forward to every week. I loved working with Linden, but also knowing that I was doing something very beneficial, as our work is for those who are visually impaired.”

The project spanned most of a year, with narrators going to the Indiana State Library to record sessions roughly every two weeks to record their chapters. Once the task of narrating the 600-page book was completed the team set out to proof their audio recording. The final step was returning to the sound booth to fix any differences between the book and their audio recordings.

“This project allowed me to gain a new appreciation for the role of the state of Indiana in our presidential politics,” Wideman said. “While traditionally the state tends to lean conservative, at certain historical points the state has been in play during election season—such as when Obama visited the state before ultimately winning it in 2008.”

“‘The Crossroads of America’ takes on a new meaning for me now,” added Katie Greenan, assistant professor of communication who also worked on the project. “From Lincoln, Grant, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Johnson and JFK. The list goes on. Indiana was a battleground state and they all fought hard for it. I really appreciate Indiana’s rich history.”

Though this project began as an optional service project for the Speech and Debate Team, Wideman says that she is working on the possibility of future collaborations with Indiana Voices with the team, and possibly even in general communication courses. 

“I didn’t realize Indiana’s political history was so extensive,” Leigh said. “It was a very interesting and fulfilling experience, and I hope to do similar work in the future.”

1 2