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Scholarship Winning Speeches Being Presented At SIU

A close up of a microphone in front of a crowd

College students are always looking for scholarship opportunities but Southern Illinois University offered something a little more interactive than an essay.

Over the last few weeks, dozens of students have participated in the Speakers Forum to give speeches in the hopes of earning a $1,500 scholarship.

Five finalists were chosen to each receive this prize and they are getting the opportunity to present their speeches publicly tomorrow.

The topic of each speech will be about disinformation and media literacy.

The day will start with SIU Freshman Dorian Sparks who is a healthcare management major.

Her speech is a broad overview of media disinformation with some jokes thrown in to lighten the mood.

“How do I know the truth when I see it? As I look through website after website I’ll start noticing some things. One: this website looks like it might have been made in a basement. Why is it dot cool guy and not dot org or dot gov and why isn’t there any resource at the bottom? This would cause me to question what is truth and my childlike state of mind would naturally spiral but this would also cause me to think maybe this isn’t true” Sparks said.

She says she wanted to include jokes because she likes laughing so she wanted to pass it along.

“I love laughing. I’m one of those people who will laugh at anything. I feel like whenever you hear about a speaker's forum you’re thinking more about serious speeches, like you're going to really intellectually have to put your mind in but it's okay to start laughing while you're learning. We forget that a lot of times, so I thought it would be good to have some jokes in there while being knowledgeable” Sparks said.

Following Sparks will be Luca Bulleri, a sophomore computer science major at SIU.

He says a big reason why he wanted to be a part of the speakers forum are the memories he has of the speech team he was on in high school.

“So when I heard about this I thought it would be a fun way to get back into it and do it again because I do miss doing that. Also the $1,500 was a pretty good motive for getting me up out of my chair” Bulleri said.

His speech focuses on how AI can cause a lot of disinformation in the media and he focuses on two main factors.

“There are two main ways that AI can be used to trick us, one of them being deep-fake technology. Which is recreating the likeness and audio of a certain personality. Also tools like Chat GPT that are used to create texts from prompts” Bulleri said.

Once his speech about AI is over, the audience will be diving deep into how conspiracy theories can drive misinformation.

This speech will be given by Isobel Hamilton, a freshman dental hygiene major at SIU.

“In Michael Shermer’s Book he talks about a study where the participants that believe princess Diana faked her death were also more likely to say that she was murdered. The same goes for Osama Bin Laden. People who believed he was already dead when the U.S. special forces attacked his compound in Pakistan, were also more likely to believe he was still alive somewhere” Hamilton said.

Hamilton also has a few conspiracy theories that she likes more than the rest.

“I’m gonna go basic with like JFK or Marilyn Monroe conspiracy theories. I just think they are very fascinating. It's just fascinating the amount of things that you can find because it's been such a long time so there has been a lot of ‘evidence’ that has popped up since then so I think it gives people the sense of being their own detective” Hamilton said.

The speeches will now dig themselves out of the rabbit hole of these theories to delve into a different topic, sports media.

The speech given by Anthony Mootry, a sophomore sports administration major at SIU, will be focused on how sports media can hurt athletes.

One example he gives is how the media covered Simone Biles sexual assault case.

“Imagine if that was you and you were turning on the tv and every time you look, somebody else is talking about something you don’t want to think about. It was hurtful but she pushed passed this, she went to the Olympics in 2021 and she competed on the world stage that year with the mindset that she was going to compete for all sexual assault survivors. That weighed heavily on her” Mootry said.

Moorty says the way he presents his speech adds a lot to its quality.

“Since I didn’t grow up in theater or I didn’t grow up in public speaking I just don’t have those references. I am not saying that it’s a good thing or a bad thing but it’s just different. It’s like how you were saying, I sound like I was just talking but since I sound like I am just talking, people will listen more. Since I add a lot of care and emotion to the way I present my speeches, I feel like that also aids” Moorty said.

The night will end with a speech about algorithms in media by Blessing Smithly, a junior psychology major at SIU.

“When algorithm’s personalize content for their users, this can potentially create something called a filter bubble. A filter bubble is what occurs when algorithms are so personalized that they effectively only show the content that aligns with and confirms a user's preexisting perspective. This may isolate the user from diverse and contradictory perspectives” Smithly said.

Smithly says she is passionate about this topic because she is close to someone whom these algorithms have affected.

“It’s just something that I am passionate about because I have seen it happen in the lives of people that are really close to me and maybe if they were a little informed or aware about the potential dangers of this sort of thing then maybe it could have been avoided” Smithly said.

The speakers forum will be Thursday at 7 p.m. in the SIU Student Center Auditorium and will be catered by Cristaudo’s.

Ethan Holder is a student contributor for WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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