On public speaking in a second language, being inspired by other students’ talks, and why you should give Grad Slam a try.
On February 2, 2018, Alberto Sanchez Sanchez, a PhD student in Architecture, took first prize at Berkeley’s inaugural Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Grad Slam. His three-minute talk, “(almost) no one lives here: a genealogy of depopulation in rural Spain,” described how economic displacement turned Spain into a demographic desert. He also argued that rural communities should be more central to architectural research.
A licensed architect in Spain, Alberto has worked as a consultant for several architectural firms and public institutions. At Berkeley, Alberto researches rurality in modern Spain from 1939 to the present. In this Q&A, Alberto talked with Professional Development Resource Coordinator Linda Louie about his experience with Grad Slam and his recommendations to other grad students who might want to participate in the competition.
Thanks for talking with us, Alberto! Can you start by explaining why you decided to participate in the HSS Grad Slam?
I thought it was a great opportunity to share my research with a wider audience. I am studying rural depopulation in Spain, and I try to take advantage of opportunities like the HSS Grad Slam to raise awareness about this understudied phenomenon.
Is public speaking something that has always come naturally to you?
Speaking in public is intimidating at first – English is not my native language! – but I am always comfortable when I talk about my research, because it’s something I’m passionate about.
What did you learn from the process of participating in the HSS Grad Slam?
I had to think about my research from a very objective perspective: Is this important? Why? For whom? How could I explain its significance to someone who is not familiar with the topic at all? It was also a very inspiring experience, because I was able to see what people in other departments are doing. I honestly believe any of the participants could have won. Their projects were fantastic and attending their presentations was very enjoyable.
What advice would you give to other students thinking about competing in a Grad Slam?
First of all, I would encourage them to do it. I initially hesitated about participating in the HSS Grad Slam, because I felt I was not going to have the time to prepare the talk. I also felt a little self-conscious about my accent, and I even thought that my research wasn’t interesting enough. However, after participating I can tell that if you like what you’re doing, that shows and people appreciate it. It was a phenomenal experience.
Congratulations, Alberto! And good luck in the campuswide Grad Slam competition!