Scientific Toasters Club aims to give 'wallflowers' a voice

October 16, 2014

A new club at the IU School of Medicine held its charter celebration recently in the Ruth Lilly Medical Research Library.

Randy Brutkiewicz, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate studies and a member of Toastmasters International, serves as the club's faculty administrator.

The club, Scientific Toasters at IUSM, is now an endorsed member of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organization devoted to developing communication, public speaking and leadership skills. During the celebration Sept. 25, Lucy Nickson, lieutenant governor of education and training for District 11 of Toastmasters International, formally presented the club's charter document and installed the organization's officers in their possession as well as presented an official certificate to the club's founding members.

The club, which is open to all, including students, postdocs and staff members at the IU School of Medicine, aims to provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills to build self-confidence and personal growth.

“We wanted to start this club because we know that many scientists -- and academics in particular -- are wallflowers,” said Randy Brutkiewicz, Ph.D., IUSM associate dean for graduate studies, professor of microbiology and immunology and a member of Toastmasters International. "It’s very difficult for many, if not most, to really get in front of and talk to an audience about their research, or even other things. The club is designed to help people to develop their leadership and communications skills to the point where they are much more confident in their ability to deliver effective speeches.

The founding members of the Scientific Toasters at IUSM were officially recognized at the ceremony.

"It's really an incredible organization," said Dr. Brutkiewicz, who serves as the club's faculty administrator. "I believe it's made me a better teacher."

The club is structured in such a way that every member can participate and contribute to the progress of the group by practicing public speaking on various topics. 

"Everyone gets a chance to speak," said Tamila Garbuz, a student at the IU School of Medicine and president of the Scientific Toasters at IUSM.

“Our goal mainly is to get people comfortable with public speaking, and that will benefit them in in their day-to-day life," said student Swati Mishra, vice president of public relations for Scientific Toasters at IUSM.

We try to get people to be consistent with their speeches, and we have projects that are included in our agenda, so you can start off with one topic and then move up."

Lucy Nickson, lieutenant governor of education and training for District 11 of Toastmasters International, presented the club's charter document.Photo By

Members of the club contribute to the group not only through their own speeches but by providing helpful evaluations to each speaker. The club meets each week and includes an agenda that guarantees everyone the chance to work on their comfort level while speaking in front of the group. 

"Our job is simple," Dr. Brutkiewicz said. "It’s to help make you successful."

A strong personal commitment to the club's mission, an alignment of personal goals with the organization's goals and regular, weekly participation in the organization's meetings are the best tools to improve the skills necessary to be an excellent communicator and leader, he added.

Organizers also pointed out that the club aims to attract participants from across the IUPUI campus; it's not limited to individuals at the IU School of Medicine.

"The club is really open to everyone at IU," Mishra said.