As the eighth oldest institution for higher learning in the United States, Rutgers is celebrating its 250th anniversary on November 10, 2016. To celebrate this monumental milestone, I Am Rutgers will be featuring Rutgers’ most involved and accomplished students in a new series, “250 for 250.” This year-long series will serve as a reflection of Rutgers’ diverse student body and status as a premier national research university.
Experts estimate that glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, affects approximately 75% of the world population. Kaila T. Lim, a recent Rutgers graduate, wasn’t always a fan of giving speeches. Aside from the occasional school project presentation, Kaila never had much exposure to talking in front of large groups. It wasn’t until Kaila arrived at Rutgers four years ago as a first-year student that she had the opportunity to branch out and explore her interests. Kaila tried out clubs in all different academic and extracurricular areas — everything from the Rutgers Culinary Club to the Rutgers Pre-Law Society. Like the many other clubs she tested out, Kaila decided to attend a Rutgers Toastmasters meeting on a whim, wanting to see what the club had to offer. Little did she know this club would allow her to discover a passion for public speaking that she never knew she had.
Toastmasters is my core and I love it so much. I joined Toastmasters my freshman year and came out because the blurb, ‘public speaking, leadership development,’ peaked my interest. I wasn’t exactly sure what the club was, but I wanted to find out. I got to the meeting and I was immediately hooked – the president at the time, Amanda Lim, had such enthusiasm for a Monday night meeting and I was so absorbed by her authenticity. She truly wanted underclassmen to present speeches and she took her job very seriously. She inspired me to want to contribute and develop my own public speaking skills.”
Sophomore year, Kaila became a little more involved in the club, representing Toastmasters at events such as the Diverse Reverse Career Fair where she presented to recruiters and explained how Toastmasters shaped future leaders for success. By junior year, Kaila was elected president and aimed to grow the club and expand the club’s mission.
I wanted Toastmasters to be a place where someone who has never spoken in front of a group of people could feel comfortable enough to try it. Public speaking can happen with anyone, and it starts with confidence.”
Kaila began competing during her sophomore year. Upon winning the club level competition, she competed on a much larger stage as part of the Toastmasters International Area Level Competition, where she placed second. While this is an impressive accomplishment, Kaila has come to realize that public speaking isn’t all about the glory of winning.
I began competing in my sophomore year because I wanted to win first place. I wanted to win a public speaking competition. But the more I continued with the club, I wanted to compete to hopefully become a role model for the other club members. Also, when you participate in a public speaking competition, the judges aren’t the only ones listening — you are speaking to an entire audience as well. If I could present a message that would impact the audience — one that they would find insightful or inspiring — that would be the most fulfilling result I could achieve, much more than winning a prize. I always try to make sure my audience is able to take something away from my speech so they leave with more than they came with.”
In addition to competing on behalf of Toastmasters, Kaila also competed in an annual competition with the Rutgers School of Communication and Information in which she placed first and competed in the TedXRutgers Speechcraft in her junior year. After she presented, Rutgers students messaged her via Facebook saying they were inspired by what she said. This is what Kaila considers to be one of her biggest accomplishments and serves as her motivation to continue putting her best effort into each and every one of her speeches.
Kaila was selected to hold her own 45-minute workshop at the Toastmasters International District 83 Fall 2014 Conference, an opportunity through which she spoke about the importance of self-care and personal growth:
I titled my speech “Strengthen Your Willpower” and spoke about how willpower is ultimately a muscle. The more and more you practice, the stronger and stronger it will get. You can start on smaller scales. The stronger that you’re able to manage discipline, you can apply it to all other areas. Resisting partying to study an hour longer. Resisting online shopping. Good habits can apply to all habits to your life – the workplace, relationships. It was great to represent Rutgers at Toastmasters as the youngest presenter there.”
While Toastmasters has played a large role in shaping Kaila’s college experience, her interests expand beyond public speaking. Kaila graduated earlier this month from the School of Arts and Sciences with a degree in economics and a minor in philosophy. For Kaila, economics has always interested her because it explains choice from a micro perspective, as to why people choose good X over good Y, but also explains macro level events such as global markets and the recent world recession. Her choice to minor in philosophy, however, came about thanks to a Rutgers professor:
Philosophy came to me through Professor Colby. When I had taken it my freshman year it was stretching my brain like no other class. I think what I loved most about it was the mountain I climbed in that class. It was so challenging to read some of the most rigorous philosophers’ thoughts – such as Aristotle, Kant – but by putting in the extra effort with office hours and meeting with my professor one-on-one, I was finally able to understand it. I had such a sense of accomplishment that I never had in high school before and I wanted to continue with it.”
Kaila achieved a similar sense of accomplishment when she ran the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon in her junior and senior years, an experience that connected her with a larger running community and rekindled her love for long distance running:
The whole process of running the half marathon was like a mental breakdown for me. It challenged me as an athlete and as a human being by testing all my limits. This year, I found myself getting pretty emotional on the way from Busch to Livingston – there’s a downhill slope where you can see all the runners. Just seeing people of all ages, all genders, and all different ethnicities go towards this goal made me a little teary. It felt really good to be part of something bigger – running is an individual sport, but when you put us all together, there’s a different energy in the air.”
Reflecting back on her college career as a Rutgers alum, Kaila is proud of all that she has accomplished and the support system she has built over the past four years. As a half-Native American, half-Korean woman, Kaila worked to create a Native American Welcome Center to help other Native Americans experience a similar level of comfort as they begin their Rutgers journeys. She hopes that other students take advantage of all that Rutgers has to offer by exploring different academic subjects, extracurricular activities, and professional resources. For Kaila, Professor Reaves of the Rutgers Business School played a pivotal role in her professional growth and development.
I am really grateful for the time Professor Reaves invested in me. He coached me on how to interview, how to have one-on-ones with a recruiter, and how to get a business card as a student. Rutgers has some impressive faculty, but I think the issue for most students is that they don’t take the initiative to sit down with their professors or career advisors one-on-one. Office hours are great to talk about subject matter, but it’s also important to have conversations about professional growth because you’re in college to get a job. It’s great to get an A, but you also need to get a job eventually. Professor Reaves really helped me become more aware of my strengths and helped me improve my weaknesses.”
Kaila will soon begin her job with Sprinklr, a company that develops and markets a social software platform. She is excited to join their People & Places Team (HR) at their New York City Headquarters. If there’s one thing Kaila has learned throughout her time at Rutgers, it is how rewarding it can be to discover new interests and work towards developing these interests into passions:
If you find something you enjoy, really pour yourself into it. Make the effort to invest more than the bare minimum. Add a flavor of your personality into whatever you’re doing. Strive to leave your mark on the university, but more importantly, try to make a mark on other people and make a difference in the lives of others.”
We wish Kaila continued success as she begins this next chapter of her life.