Boosting self-confidence with the newly-chartered campus Toastmasters

This semester, SUNY New Paltz celebrated the chartering of the campus chapter of Toastmasters International, the non-profit organization that helps hundreds of thousands of members around the world refine their communication and leadership skills.

For chapter President Tariq Sanwarwalla ’18 (Economics), the moment represented the culmination of years’ worth of work – not only to build a Toastmasters chapter at the College, but also to build in himself the skills and self-confidence the organization promotes.

Sanwarwalla was born in India and grew up in Marlboro, N.Y. He came to New Paltz as a transfer student from Dutchess County Community College, and through contacts at the School of Business he quickly got involved helping establish a New Paltz Toastmasters chapter.

“We were a small group of students, but we had help from alumni, faculty and staff,” he said. “Once we got going, we pretty quickly got to 20 members, which is the minimum we needed to get chartered. Now we’re trying to lay the groundwork, so that the future leadership of the club can have something to stand on and improve from where we are today.”

The chartering is an important validation for a growing campus organization that welcomes not only students, but alumni, faculty, staff and community members as well.

“Even if your job doesn’t require public speaking, Toastmasters can help you develop confidence and a more professional way of presenting yourself,” said Anneliese Kniffin-Savchak, professional development manager at the College, who also serves as the chapter’s vice president for education. “I’ve seen people who were awkward, self-conscious speakers become much more polished in their presentations. The confidence carries over into all aspects of their lives.”

Toastmasters may be best known for helping its members practice public speaking skills, but it also offers its members an opportunity to develop as leaders. Through participation in group activities and challenges, members can earn Toastmaster credentials as Competent Communicators and Competent Leaders.

“It’s crucial to be a good public speaker in the business world, that’s no secret,” said Irene Berner ’11 (Finance). Berner, the founder of Berner Financial Services, a New Paltz alumna and current chair of the School of Business Advisory Council, helped form the College’s Toastmaster chapter.

“I’ve also made lifetime friends from my involvement with Toastmasters. We’re all there for the same reason and are very supportive of each other, and it’s a lot of fun to make strong connections with students and hear their fantastic stories.”

For Tariq Sanwarwalla, Toastmasters is an important part of a story that’s still being written. He’s branched out from his involvement with that club to become President of Finance for the International Student Union, and is looking ahead to continuing his growth as a communicator and a leader following his graduation next year.

“I’m very introverted, but being part of Toastmasters and becoming president has forced me to go outside of my own bounds,” Sanwarwalla said. “Going to meetings, putting in the time and energy to support the club and its members, being welcoming and facilitating as much as I can – those are the kinds of things that Toastmasters gave me, and that’s what I’m trying to bring to other aspects of my life.”

The newly-chartered SUNY New Paltz chapter of Toastmasters International meets every Wednesday while the College is in session, from 12 – 1 p.m. in van den Berg Hall room 112. Meetings are open to anyone interested in becoming a member or just learning more. Contact for additional info.