Freshman wins big in Rider rhetoric rivalry

By David Nugent

A freshman came out on top in Rider’s first Pearson Solutions Public Speaking contest, and took home a $750 prize Tuesday night.

Freshman Aleaha Jones beat out five other finalists after giving a five-eight-minute persuasive speech about mandatory minimum prison sentences. Pearson Higher Education sponsored the event.

“Everyone [who participated] was incredibly talented,” Jones said.  “I am really grateful to the Communications Department.”

Pearson Higher Education, the publisher of Rider’s Public Speaking textbook, Public Speaking: An Audience Centered Approach, teamed up with the Department of Communication and Journalism to provide students with an opportunity to show off their public speaking skills and take home monetary prizes, according to Dr. Myra Gutin, professor of Communication and one of the judges for the contest.

The first place winner received $750, second place was awarded $500 and third place was awarded $250. The competition was open to any current student who took Intro to Speech Communication in the fall 2011 semester or is currently taking the class.

Gutin said the University is grateful for Pearson’s support.

“The Pearson Company was very generous to us by providing cash awards for the top three winners,” Gutin said.  “We hope we’ll be able to do this again.”

Freshman Aleaha Jones was the winner of Rider’s first Pearson Solutions Public Speaking contest that was held in the Yvonne Theatre on Tuesday night. Jones took home $750. Six finalists presented a 5-8 minute persuasive speech judged by Dr. Gutin, Dr. Howard and Dr. Wang. To read a full story on the speech contest, be sure to visit


Junior Allie Triglianos placed second for her speech about preventing animal cruelty and sophomore Tara Ihnken won third for her speech against animal testing.

Triglianos said she was happy with the results of the competition.

“I was extremely excited and surprised that I won second place,” she said. “I thought the other competitors did such a fantastic job. To win second place amongst a group of people who spoke so passionately really means a lot to me.”

Honorable mentions were given to junior Jonathan Feeley, freshman Adam Rivera and Tamara Frater, a high school senior who took Intro to speech communication last semester. Each student was awarded a $25 gift certificate to the Rider University bookstore.

Judges for the contest included Dr. Gutin, Dr. Sheena Howard, an assistant professor of communication, who also co-chaired the event with Gutin, and Dr. Minmin Wang, professor of communication.

Gutin said there were several items the judges were looking for in the speeches, all of which are keys to the Speech Communication curriculum.

“In rhetorical criticism, we talk about the speaker, occasion and discourse coming together to provide a memorable moment for the audience — sometimes this is called the rhetorical situation,” she said. “Aleaha brought all of these elements together in her speech about mandatory minimums. The content of her speech had definitions, statistics, facts, logical reasoning and personal opinion. The research that she had done for the speech established her credibility. The speech had strong emotional appeals and anecdotes. The organization was topical and the arguments were arranged in ascending order of importance — she built momentum. Perhaps the most striking part of Aleaha’s presentation, it was entirely extemporaneous and flowed with smoothness and great dynamism. She did all of the things that speech teachers hope their students will do when they give persuasive speeches. Her presentation was wonderful.”

After winning the hefty cash prize, Jones said the money will come in handy in helping her to further her education.

“It’s all going toward law school,” she said.

Additional reporting by Rachel Stengel.


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