Oratory Now is a student-driven, faculty-directed center for training and research in oral expression. It provides peer tutoring and professional development services, teaches a credit-bearing PE course, and collaborates with organizations across the institution to produce workshops, podcasts, curricula, and community speaking events.
Founded in 2014, Oratory Now grew out of student, faculty, and alumni requests for a return to the teaching of speech, and has been amplified by concerns about the quality of our civic dialogue. These twin goals, speaking well and speaking civilly, once the centerpiece of liberal education, continue to guide the development of Oratory Now.
The animating force behind Oratory Now is the peer coach – a fellow student who has completed at least 9-hours of training, including a classroom practicum. New coaches are trained by more experienced Head Coaches, who lead them through an oratory boot camp designed to teach listening, speaking and coaching. Returning coaches take a 6-hour recertification course each semester.
In its first year, Oratory Now revived a Middlebury tradition dating back to 1825, the Parker Merrill Speech Competition. It also began producing NER Out Loud, an annual collaboration with the New England Review, featuring the work of professional writers performed by students. In February 2018, Oratory Now founded a speaking award in honor of the late Professor John Spencer – the Spencer Prize in Oratory for First-Year Students.