For Students, By Students

On a Friday morning in Gerber Hall, room 215, Amanda Greenslet ’12 starts her theater class by asking students to warm up with some tongue twisters. “It’s like athletes doing stretches,” she says.

Francesca Sagripanti ’12

Francesca Sagripanti ’12

Amanda Greenslet ’12

Amanda Greenslet ’12

Photos: Ben Staples

Her students begin navigating a minefield of rhyme and alliteration. “One rich witch whose wristwatch itched, and the other rich witch’s didn’t,” they recite. Other twisters about a “cute king” and a “slick snake” follow. Greenslet asks for more. “Now, let’s go a little faster,” she says. “Enunciate every single letter.” The students repeat the lines again and again, gaining speed, trying not to let the consonants and vowels collide into each other.

Greenslet’s course, “Basic Theater Concepts Applied to Business,” examines vocal inflection and body movement to help students become more polished speakers. “You need to think about how you are presenting yourself to the audience,” says Greenslet, president of the Babson Players. Her class is one of the new Senior Seminars. The five-week seminars, which began in the spring semester, enable seniors to teach a course on a subject they’re passionate about. “This program is, in short, for students, by students,” says Rachel Reiser, assistant dean, academic planning and strategy development for the Undergraduate School. “It’s about learning for learning’s sake, and it’s a chance for students to share their passions with each other.”

The seminars have been met with enthusiasm. The family of the late Donald White ’50 made a generous donation to support the program, and 23 seniors submitted proposals for potential classes. Those proposals were pared down to a final five: “Apathy to Action: Passion and Movement,” “App Development for Entrepreneurs,” “Exploring Corporate Social Responsibility in a For-Profit World,” “The Food Truck Industry,” which was featured in a March article in The Boston Globe, and Greenslet’s theater class.

Nearly 70 students signed up for the seminars, despite the fact that they’re noncredit courses held on Friday mornings, a typically quiet time on campus. Such commitment shows how motivated and excited students are by the seminars, says Francesca Sagripanti ’12, who teaches the course on corporate social responsibility (CSR), a topic she became interested in while working as an intern on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, of which Babson is an academic partner.

More than ever, companies are beefing up their CSR activities, Sagripanti says. Her class explores different CSR projects, their effect on a business’s image and bottom line, and the nuts and bolts of building a CSR program (the course’s final project involves creating or improving a CSR initiative for Babson). To prepare to teach each class, Sagripanti spends about eight hours a week, a substantial but essential investment in time given how motivated her students are. “They ask hard questions all the time,” she says.

Back in Gerber 215, Greenslet’s students move on from tongue twisters. In one exercise, they act out PowerPoint presentations and delve into potential problems that can arise, from where to stand so as not to block the screen to what to do if the wireless clicker doesn’t work. They also examine effective presentations, such as Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford University commencement address, an absorbing speech despite its formal setting. “You have to hook us,” Greenslet tells the class. “You have to use your inflections and pauses to engage us.”

Greenslet has been involved with theater since middle school, and during her time at Babson, she has acted, directed, and worked on the business side of productions. She’s happy to pass on her theater knowledge in the seminar. “I’m having a blast,” she says.  —John Crawford

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