A rhetoric minor imagined by students

How would you like to give speeches like Obama? Starting next academic year, you can take the RUG-wide minor in rhetoric. Students came up with the idea and helped shape the programme.
By Thereza Langeler / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Next academic year the RUG will offer several new minor programmes aided by funds that became available when the study financing system became a loan system in 2015. The government has given the money to educational institutes to spend on academic improvement.

The university council would decide what some of the money would be used for. Student party Lijst Calimero proposed a minor in rhetoric. Rhetoric literally means ‘eloquence’ and concerns itself with the art of persuasion.

‘It’s something everyone should learn, no matter their major’, says Calimero faction chair Younes Moustaghfir. ‘You need to know how to have a debate in politics, of course, but knowing how be persuasive in a meeting is just as important. Being able to convince people is an important skill.’

Message

‘How you get your message across can be just as important as the content of your message. Not all students get that’, says associate professor of history and philosophy Rik Peters. Peters will coordinate the rhetoric minor and liaise between lecturers, employees of the Educational Support and Innovation department (ESI), and students as they design the program. The fact that students are involved is fairly spectacular, Peters says.

‘It was one hundred percent the students’ idea: it was Calimero who came up with it. Because I also teach a course in rhetoric at the Honours College, they came to me.’ Peters talked to colleagues from various faculties who wanted to help shape the programme. Together with three students and the ESI employees, they designed a 30 ECTS minor package.

Practical

No more than a third of this will be theory, says Peters. ‘It’s going to be a very practical minor. The great thing about rhetoric is that once you’ve learned the concepts, you can immediately apply them.’ Whatever students learn in a lecture, such as how to influence your audience’s emotions, they can immediately practice this in their next seminar. In the advanced classes, students can select and invite a guest speaker themselves. ‘They could ask an actor, a politician, or a CEO. Whoever they want.’

The rhetoric minor will be available starting September 2019 in both Dutch and English. It doesn’t matter what your major is: the minor is available for all bachelor students. Younes Moustaghfir thinks people will be really interested. ‘Our contacts at study organisations were very enthusiastic.’

‘We’re expecting a fairly large influx’, says Rik Peters. ‘Many programmes require students to do presentations but don’t teach them how. But being able to do that well is really enriching.’

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