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Club advisors: HPU's unsung heroes
by Crystal Silva, '03

Not only is Marianne Luken a communication instructor here at HPU, she is also the unofficial spokesperson, cheerleader, and faculty advisor of the academic club Polyglot Toastmasters at HPU.

Polyglot Toastmasters at HPU is a chapter of Toastmasters International. According to the organization’s official Web site, the mission of a Toastmasters club is to “provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills.”

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According to Luken, the mission of the HPU club is to “improve confidence and skills speaking in front of a group, and have fun doing it!”


Luken never really volunteered to be the faculty advisor of Polyglot Toastmasters, which started out as a faculty club in 1992. HPU’s academic vice president at the time asked a faculty member to form a club for the faculty to improve their public-speaking skills. Slowly, though, faculty attendance started to wane, and students were let in to keep the group large. Before long, students outnumbered the faculty. This pattern continued until Luken, a Toastmasters International member since 1991, was the only faculty member left. The students then asked her to become the club’s advisor.
It was Luken who came up with the name Polyglot Toastmasters, made up of “poly,” meaning “multiple,” and “glot,” meaning “tongues.” The name “celebrates and recognizes the diversity at HPU,” Luken said.
Luken treasures her position as advisor, and credits the students as the best part of her job. “I love to see people as they grow and change in positive ways as a result of the club,” she said. Luken also remains close to many alumni who were active in the club, receiving letters and e-mails from students all over the world on their new whereabouts and careers.
Being a faculty advisor isn’t all fun, though. Luken has to delegate responsibilities wisely, and sometimes has trouble juggling all the work that comes with being advisor and communication instructor. “The time involved sometimes takes away from time to be a teacher,” she said. For example, Luken must chaperone all club activities, which takes time away from other tasks. “Sometimes I come to classes with papers not graded, or go to committee meetings not as prepared.” The biggest drawback, however, is losing students to internships, jobs, or graduation. “It’s like Sisyphus,” she said, referring to the Greek story of a man doomed to spend eternity rolling a huge boulder up a mountain, only to have it just inches from the top roll down to the bottom “I spend a lot of time in recruitment, telling other faculty members to send their students over, meeting students on the Mall, only to lose them later. I can’t accommodate everyone, even though I really want to.”
Despite all the hard work, Luken maintains she could never disappoint the students by quitting.

Polyglot Toastmasters meets every Wednesday from 12 to 1 p.m. at UB 1100. Typically, a meeting involves three to four impromptu speeches and two prepared speeches. “Every meeting is guaranteed to be fun!” assured Luken.

For more information call 544-0875, or e-mail Luken directly at


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