Game design and development student improves soft skills in communication

My communication studies minor keeps me interesting
Syd Simonis, a communication studies minor, pictured at Harvey Hall Cafe.
Abbey Goers | May 2, 2019

Syd Simonis, a sophomore in the game design and development program at UW-Stout with a minor in art history, knows she speaks well in public and conveys her messages clearly. She always did well in Forensics in high school, earning many gold and silver awards. But even though she did well, she never made it to a final round.

“When competing against others, I always felt I missed the mark just that little bit,” Simonis said.

So, when Simonis won UW-Stout’s Public Speaking Showcase in spring 2018, she said it felt really weird, but nice to have her hard work recognized.

“It was this contrast in my experience of knowing I was a good speaker individually, but not being able to prove that in a competitive setting,” Simonis said. “When I won first place at the showcase, I was so surprised.”

Assigned to give an informative speech in Fundamentals of Speech, a class required for every student, Simonis chose anxiety disorders as her topic. Calling herself a ‘third-generation anxious mess’, she had to juggle between having a personal connection with her topic while remaining unbiased.

“My presentation was mainly verbal. I only had one slide, versus the others’ PowerPoints,” explained Simonis. “I covered the points of living with anxiety, symptoms and diagnosis, some statistics, and how to treat anxiety.”

Presenting speakers were judged on criteria such as organization, pacing, and voice. Simonis conveys all of these aspects of speech very well. In fact, Simonis presented her topic so well at the showcase, Dr. Jennifer Hawkins asked her if she would deliver her speech to the Health Communication class.

Declaring a communication studies minor

Recognizing her projects in GDD involve group work, Simonis decided to declare her minor in communication studies to improve her communication skills.

Communication Studies minors with Professors Paul Calenberg and Jennifer Hawkins, Harvey Hall stairwell, April 2019.
Communication studies minors with Professors Paul Calenberg and Jennifer Hawkins, Harvey Hall stairwell, April 2019. / UW-Stout

“I need to be able to communicate clearly with a lot of different people," Simonis said. "I need to learn the languages of other artists, programmers, musicians, business people, and marketers. I also want to be able to listen well and be a voice for others without speaking over them. Communication studies gives me the soft skills I’ll need in my career.”


Communication studies requires students to take classes outside of their major coursework and invites them to step outside of their comfort zone.

“It offers an opportunity to meet students outside of my program and to discover different perspectives," Simonis said. "Communication studies keeps my mind open and flexible. It broadens my horizon."

She remembers her GDD Program Director, Andrew Williams, saying during her first semester, to make interesting games you have to know interesting things and be an interesting person.

“My Communication studies minor keeps me interesting,” Simonis said.

Simonis believes communication has a ripple effect. Every word we say carries weight, so we must think critically before we speak.

“There is a nuance in our messages,” explained Simonis. “And some people’s voices carry more weight than others. I want to continue developing my public speaking skills. If I can get one person to take home my message, I’ve achieved my goal.”



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