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Bornigia Takes Fear Out of Public Speaking

Bornigia Takes Fear Out of Public Speaking In front of an audience, Dr. Livia Bornigia, assistant professor of communication, encourages students to own their space. After all, your audience is only going to notice something went wrong if you behave as if something is wrong.

View a sample class with Bornigia and hear students share the benefits of public speaking.

As the rhetorical theory expert for the University of St. Thomas Communication Department, Bornigia teaches classes on public speaking, persuasion and argumentation, and propaganda.  She also brings in the study of her native Italy through a class on Italian cinema. Bornigia is a professional actor and director; she has appeared in many theater productions in the Houston area and has directed a number of shows.

“The concept of owning the space is something that comes from both my training in public speaking, but also my training as an actor and a director,” Bornigia said. “If you are fully present in the space at the time of your presentation, then absolutely nothing can go wrong.”

Bornigia said the ability for students to express their ideas in front of an audience in a way that is unapologetic yet respectful of diversity is essential for them to have a voice in our democratic society – the difference between being visible and invisible.

Bornigia said as a teacher, she loves to give students the practical and creative wings that will allow them to be successful in whatever their profession may be.

“I remember one student who started off very shaky and ended up being the commencement speaker at graduation, and then went on to have a career as a litigation attorney,” Bornigia said. “That made me very proud.”

Another student saw the benefit of her classes when he joined the seminary to become a priest.

“He wanted to thank me for the skills that he learned in both public speaking and persuasion and argumentation because he knew that they were going help him to reach out to his parishioners when the time came,” Bornigia said.

For many students, the one-on-one care and personal attention that Bornigia provides creates a sense of community at UST. She, herself, was a student at St. Thomas, and that same sense of community is what drew her to attend St. Thomas.

“I didn’t feel like I was just a number; I was a person with a name, and I got to know my teachers right away,” she said.

Bornigia Takes Fear Out of Public SpeakingAs a member of the Communication Department since 1996, Bornigia’s former teachers are now her colleagues. “It’s really wonderful, although it was a little intimidating at first,” Bornigia said.

Even timid students find a voice inside and outside of Bornigia’s class.

“I have had students repeatedly tell me during the semester and after the semester that they are much more comfortable understanding that they had a voice in society and that their ability to express their ideas in front of a group of people made them both active participants in society and help them fulfill their duty in society,” she said. “I think that’s a great achievement.”

To learn more about a degree in communication at UST, email Dr. Bornigia at or call 713-942-5907.