Admission & Financial Aid > Karen Sindelar

Karen Sindelar
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Rhetoric
Director of the Speaking Center

Education
BA Public Communications and Communicative Disorders, Luther College, 1985
Estudio Busqueda de Pantomima Teatro (School of the Pursuit of Pantomime Theatre) Guanajuato, Mexico, 1985
MA Applied Psychology/Movement Therapy, Antioch New England Graduate School, 1989

What research or projects are you currently working on with Coe students?
My long term project has been the research and development of the Speaking Center on campus. I enjoy working with a small set of Coe students as speech consultants (Coe students of any major on campus who would like to help coach their classmates in oral communication.). Our current focus is on helping first-year students get a strong foundation with their oral communication skills so they can succeed throughout their careers. We also are exploring ways we can assist the special needs of international and exchange students on campus with their English conversations and presentations.

Secondly, I believe strongly in the benefits of using service-learning as a method of teaching and learning in the college classroom. I am a founding member of a national service-learning initiative in multicultural education called Communicating Common Ground. Teaching in the heartland of Iowa, "white privilege" is a concept that I hope my students learn to identify in my classes. Currently, I am working on a Teaching Tolerance Project from grants from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Campus Compact for creating teaching resources that promote diversity awareness. Public speaking students are creating on a trilogy of workshops with Truman Elementary fifth grade students and the African American Historical Museum. The first year we created workshops about the Harlem Renaissance, the second George Washington Carver's life, and the third Buxton, Iowa, an African American mining ghost town.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?
My favorite class to teach is Public Speaking because, let's face it, many people don't like to speak in public. A lot of students don't even like to speak up in a classroom discussion, let alone give a formal presentation. Even I get nervous sometimes. I really get a charge out of watching students face their fears and tackle that speaker apprehension. One way we do this by systematic desensitization. Students are required to speak in class every day. Another way is changing the location and audience of each speech, upping the ante with each assignment. Students teach a public speaking unit at a local elementary school, to give workshops at the African American Museum, give a community awareness soap box speech on the library lawn to the Coe community (hecklers welcome), present formal awards or tributes, give humorous after-dinner speeches at Charlies --  the coffee house of Coe College where they can invite their friends to listen. Watching the transformation in each of my students from their first speech to their final is amazing, satisfying and gratifying each semester. I tell my students that they will "sparkle" when they have succeeded in building their competence and character as orators.

Name your most memorable Coe lecture and what it meant to you.
Each time a Holocaust speaker comes to Coe, I highly encourage all my students to attend, and I go as well. I am moved to tears when I hear the personal stories from this time in history. It is an amazing gift to our personal knowledge and a privilege to hear first hand the stories from these speakers who survived as children of the Holocaust. This leads to deep discussions in the classroom, and rich text for writing reviews. This is the best demonstration of the power of speech that I can find on our campus. I've had the privilege to trace my roots back to Ostfriesland, Germany and have made three trips to Germany so far. I've interviewed a few of my German cousins who, in their teens, were drafted into Hitler's armies, some were prisoners of war on the Eastern Front, and others prisoners of war in the United States. These stories of the war are riveting. That generation of children and teens had such different lives depending on their ancestry.

What do you do outside of class?
I have two children, so middle school and high school music concerts, track meets, and other school events take up a lot of my free time. I also sing with St. Mark's chancel choir and a touring choir called the Iowa Festival Chorus. We tour various cathedrals in Europe every three years or so. The most recent was a trip to Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Czech Republic singing American spirituals and folk songs in June 2008.

What is your favorite getaway location?
I love to walk the trails of the Morgan Creek Arboretum in northwest Cedar Rapids starting when the cherry blossoms are in bloom until the last autumn leaf falls.

What is your favorite thing about Coe?
My favorite thing about Coe is the Wilderness Field Station in the Boundary Waters. How many colleges can tout a retreat to the border of Canada for residence life and C.A.P. trainings, and summer classes in nature writing, ornithology, or environmental law? And, there is the canoeing. Next to God and my family, I LOVE canoeing.

What is your favorite Coe tradition?
My favorite Coe tradition is the ringing of the Coe Bell. First-year students cue up and ring the bell on their way to the Opening Convocation of their first school year. At graduation, the faculty, in cap and gown, line up on either side of the bell as the graduates ring the bell and pass through the corridor of faculty and staff receiving smiles, greetings and well wishes.

What advice would you give a prospective student?
Strive to be well rounded. Travel abroad at least once. Make friends with the international students. Bring somebody of a different culture home with you for a holiday break - or go home with them. Volunteer. Speak up for what you think is right and true. Be involved in the life of the college. Take chances. Push your comfort zone. Try new ideas, new foods, new courses of study. Make sure you attend the arts events, guest speakers, issue dinners, and at least a sporting event each term. Burst the bubble of books and booze. Sparkle in the sphere of your life.