Toasting Five Years of Public Speaking at JSOM


Toasting Five Years of Public Speaking at JSOM

Members of JSOM’s Toastmaster’s Society’s celebrated the group’s fifth anniversary at its Oct. 23 meeting. Chapter President Cheng Nie (far left), a management science doctoral student, and chapter advisor Dr. Maria Hasenhüttl (far right), a JSOM senior lecturer, presided over the party.


If the present and next generation of Jindal School graduates seem to have an innate ability to “own” any room they present in, Toastmasters may well deserve the credit.

This Means Business

Dr. Maria Hasenhüttl started the first JSOM chapter of the public speaking society soon after she joined the school as a senior lecturer and assistant coordinator of the Organizations, Strategy and International Management Area. Celebrating its fifth anniversary this fall, JSOM Toastmasters now boasts multiple groups within the school, mostly comprised of business school students.

“It’s taken off particularly because business students recognize the importance of public speaking to their future success,” Hasenhüttl, says. “There’s no way to avoid presenting, for the most part, if you want to get ahead.”

First Club President Alexandra (Alex) Black Loper, a 2012 MS and 2011 BS in Accounting alumna, is building a career as a senior tax associate with Hein and Associates in Dallas.

Alexandra (Alex) Black Loper

First chapter president Alexandra (Alex) Black Loper, BS 2011 and MS 2101, speaking at a meeting in 2011.

“I had the chance here to jump in at the beginning and mold it into something we liked,” she said back in 2011. “It’s a casual environment, but it still teaches you to think on your feet. That’s important for when you go out into the workforce.” Recently, Loper sent congratulatory anniversary wishes and added that she was honored to have contributed to the founding and growth of the chapter. “It gives me great pleasure,” she said, “to see the club continues to thrive with a dedicated membership. It is my hope that my experience as past president has left a lasting legacy for the chapter as I experienced such personal growth and a true appreciation for the importance and challenge of leadership.”

Cheng Nie and Maria Hasenhüttl

Cheng Nie and Maria Hasenhüttl

Success stories abound.

Current Club President Cheng Nie was drawn to Toastmasters through building leadership skills is also part and parcel of Toastmasters.

Gaurav Shekhar, a graduate student in information technology and management, has found that part extremely beneficial to his skill set. “For speakers, they have a mentor, also someone checking the speaker’s grammar during a speech and people in other roles that help,” he says. “They’re all important to the success of the speaker, but it teaches you to be a leader, to be a part of helping this person get to their goal. I know I’ll be even better now in helping someone with a project where they need my leadership.”

Meet the One Who Started It All

Maria Hasenhüttl

Maria Hasenhüttl

For Dr. Maria Hasenhüttl, senior lecturer and assistant coordinator of the Organizations, Strategy and International Management Area, it wasn’t just words that concerned her. “I came here in 1992 from Austria. I realized it was a huge culture shock, and I was afraid to open my mouth,” says Hasenhüttl, who brought Toastmasters to the Jindal School when she was hired. “I was partly concerned about my accent. At the same time, I knew if I was going to make it in this country, then communication was vital. That’s what made Toastmasters a great fit for me.”

Still, Hasenhüttl hesitated — until a memorable speech contest. It wasn’t her performance but seeing the person next to her participate that made the difference.

He had a stuttering problem.

“It made me realize that if he wasn’t going to let it stop him, then why should I let my accent?” Hasenhüttl says. And she didn’t.

“The group was so supportive — I even eventually did speech contests and became an officer,” says Hasenhüttl, who earned her MBA in 1995 and her PhD in international management studies in 2008 from JSOM.

A highlight was finding a sense of humor she didn’t even know she had. “One contest I decided to have fun with the word ‘alien,’ ” she says. “I used my permanent residency card, which said ‘alien’ on it. So I decided to compare it to actual aliens we think of — strangely shaped from another planet.”

The comparison netted her a second-place finish.

But the far bigger reward has been no longer feeling on the outside when it comes to communication.

“What I learned is these skills can be developed by many people,” she says. “It starts with committing to improving.”