Academic hosts virtual Toastmasters series to encourage discussion and debate during lockdown

Fri 24 July, 2020
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A lecturer and Toastmaster from the University of Bedfordshire has been the driving force behind a new roundtable event series to help encourage public discussion of current global issues, and allow people to virtually connect with like-minded individuals from Rotary and Toastmasters clubs across the globe.

Based at Bedfordshire’s Business School, Dr Violet Cuffy – Senior Lecturer in Tourism & Events Management – recently acquired the status of a Distinguished Toastmaster. This esteemed position is the highest education and leadership training award distributed to members within Toastmasters International, with only 1% of the international membership achieving this accreditation.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation which has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders.  Boasting 358,000 members worldwide, the organisation has taught public speaking and leadership skills through a network of more than 16,800 clubs in 143 countries since 1924.

Dr Violet Cuffy received this respected status in recognition of her attainment within the formal education Toastmasters programme and leadership roles along her Toastmasters and Rotarian journey, after being a member of Edinburgh’s Capital Communicators (2014-16), Luton Communicators (2018-19), Cornerstone Communicators (2019-20) in Markyate, Luton Speakers Club (2016-present) and the Rotary Club of Luton Somaries since this year.

To celebrate this milestone and mark the end of her term as 2019/20 Toastmasters Area Director for a division within the East of England district, Dr Cuffy chartered the International Orator Toastmasters Club in June 2020. This initiative is a hybrid of professional leaders from across the Toastmasters network which she hopes will attract academics, doctoral candidates and other Higher Education staff who are seeking to advance their public speaking and leadership skills within an informal, yet structured network.

One of the first projects she launched as President of the International Orators was a signature monthly event series – The Making Connections Roundtable Show. The ‘Making Connections’ idea was developed in response to the ‘Rotary & Toastmasters Team Up’ (a global alliance between the two international networks) and these Roundtable Shows will offer guests and viewers a virtual platform for intellectual discussion and debate around current issues of global significance.


Considering how the University could benefit from the Making Connections series, Dr Violet Cuffy said: “It’s a great example of how events have transitioned online in compliance with the necessary sector shifts, as a direct response to the pandemic.

“I believe these online events can serve as a valid source of professional development for both our staff and postgraduate students. Importantly, the monthly roundtable debates can serve to provide internship and industry experience for undergraduates studying courses such as Events Management and Media Production. I’m also exploring possible broadcast collaborations with the University’s Radio LaB team in the future.

“It’s an opportune platform for featuring and raising the profile of the University’s outreach work as well. We are open to new members and encourage staff to get involved in these Roundtable Shows to highlight the fantastic community work Bedfordshire does across the board.”

June’s topic focused on the response to the challenges and global impacts of Covid19 with a look at the work of frontline healthcare workers and carers.

July’s Making Connections Roundtable Show is scheduled to question youth leadership in the face the Covid19 crisis. Guest speakers will include Amine Bejhih from the University of Bedfordshire – a Business Intelligence & Analytics PhD student and co-founder of the Post Graduate Research Society – as well as other international and UK-based youth leaders.

The next event will be streamed live via the Making Connections YouTube channel and Facebook page from 7pm on 25th July 2020. Dates of future roundtables will be announced via Facebook and Dr Cuffy’s Twitter feed: @Drvvcuffy

To find out more or to get involved in future events please contact:

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