The Collegian
Saturday, April 13, 2024

The joys of speech and students

<p>Professor Linda Hobgood sits in her office at the Speech Center on the fourth floor of Weinstein Hall.&nbsp;</p>

Professor Linda Hobgood sits in her office at the Speech Center on the fourth floor of Weinstein Hall. 

Professor Linda Hobgood always knew she wanted to teach, but that isn’t the only occupation she has held in her life thus far. 

Hobgood has been working at the University of Richmond for well over 22 years, and during that time she has provided many remarkable resources for her students and colleagues. For starters, she implemented the idea of a speech center in 1996. 

“It began with a need that was obvious to me, but not to everyone else,” Hobgood said.

Hobgood said she had noticed that many professors were requiring students to use oral aspects in their presentations, but the professors themselves were not able to teach their students how to do this in a proficient manner. 

“I put together a proposal, and I ended up in the provost’s office with flip charts to show him what I had in mind,” Hobgood said.  

She did a workshop the summer of 1996 to test her idea with any professors on campus who would be interested in offering a course with an oral component, and it filled up immediately. The need for this idea of a practice place was an impetus, Hobgood said. 

Within three weeks, Hobgood was hired to pilot the program. When the center opened on Oct. 4, 1996, she said the center had 537 people sign up to use it, followed by 800 and 900 the following years. Ever since then, the Speech Center has never had fewer than 1,000 students sign up, and most recently they have never had less than 2,300 students, Hobgood said. 

This year, the Speech Center will graduate 18 senior speech consultants. Senior Joe Collins, who has been a consultant since his sophomore year, said Hobgood had had a tremendous influence on his college years. 

“She is very smart,” Collins said. “She is a really good teacher who is always there for you to the full capacity.” 

Although he will be graduating this spring, Collins said he hoped that more people would use the Speech Center in the coming years. 

“I think that every person who enters the Speech Center leaves better than when they came,” Collins said.

Hobgood could not stress enough how effective the Speech Center has been for her consultants. 

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“We’ve had speech consultants go on to law school, as well as students who used the Speech Center who have gone on to the White House,” Hobgood said. “It’s so fun to hear students who go on to similar things.” 

Hobgood was referring to similar things because she previously worked at the White House as well. Although she hoped to teach after graduate school, she was asked to be a part of two White House administrations and several campaigns.

“I grew up in a political family,” Hobgood said. “It was funny because I think there was a point at which I said, 'I’m never going to let my life be governed by what happens in November,' and that didn’t really happen." 

Hobgood attended the University of Virginia as a history major, but became entranced by her courses in rhetoric. She originally planned to attend law school, but after noticing how excited one of her rhetoric professors was to teach, she chose to go to graduate school in rhetoric. 

“I wanted to find out what made him so captivating," Hobgood said.

Hobgood said she had studied a lot of propaganda and inspiring speeches that had allowed her to get an inside look into the people who wrote and spoke them. She continued to point out how fascinating it was that speakers can affect their audience and tap into their emotions.

“How is it that words persuade people?” Hobgood said. “How is it that a message works on the mind the way it does?”

After graduate school, Hobgood became enamored with the history of politics in rhetoric, especially presidential rhetoric, she said. Her time at the White House was mainly during the two Nixon administrations, but she also worked with the Ford administration. After her time with the Nixon administration, she went back to graduate school “very sober-minded” following the Watergate scandal, she said. 

“It was very sad, and I saw a lot of good things that were being done that just got swept away,” Hobgood said. “I worked for the first lady, and that was a joy.”

Although she enjoyed her time working for the White House, she knew deep down that what she needed to be doing was something different. 

“It was like swimming against the tide to get back to teaching, which is what I really wanted to do,” Hobgood said.

Her wish was granted when she and her husband decided to move their family to Richmond, where she was asked to be a professor at UR. 

“I love what I do, and I love the combined nature of being in the classroom and working with the consultants,” Hobgood said. 

Hobgood said that no matter what she was teaching, she was always trying to help others nurture their good ideas.  

“We’re in a place where good ideas are championed,” Hobgood said. “At Richmond, we have the resources, the encouragement and every opportunity you can imagine to support students with their ideas.”

Hobgood said she thoroughly enjoyed working with students who were between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. 

“They’re the most exciting people in the world,” Hobgood said. “Watching them dream and inspire and hope. … If parents knew how much fun we have with their children, they probably wouldn’t let them go.” 

Collins has emphasized his praise of Hobgood as he realizes his time with her is slowly coming to a close. 

“She will drop whatever she is doing if you come to her with a question, concern or you just want to talk,” Collins said. 

Hobgood said it was a bit daunting to realize that her students are now closer in age to her grandchildren than to her own children.

“If I'm going to relate to my students on their level, I'm going to have to watch my grandchildren more closely and my children less in order to figure out what’s going on,” Hobgood said. 

Hobgood recognizes that although she has been teaching at the university for quite some time, she is still learning from her students every day.

“It’s also no secret that teaching at the college level keeps you thinking young,” Hobgood said. “Even while you're aging, you have one foot in youth.”

Hobgood said some of her favorite memories had come in the form of voicemails from former students and consultants. 

“I sometimes feel sorry for kindergarten teachers because they don’t often hear from their former kindergarteners,” Hobgood said. 

Hobgood said the voicemails tended to include a message of thanks or remind her of the lasting effect her teaching had on her students. Hobgood even got a call from a former student asking whether he could practice reciting how he was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him. 

Journalism professor Robert Hodierne summed up Hobgood effortlessly. She is someone who never loses any energy or enthusiasm, he said, as he praised her ability to always engage his first-year students.

“She is one of the more committed teachers around here,” Hodierne said. “I've had her come when I'm teaching an FYS to talk to my students about presentations, and I'm always impressed by how clever, imaginative and how quickly she engages [them] and keeps their attention for the full hour.”

Contact news writer Sophie Pilkington at 

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