Meet Our Staff: Best in the Nation!


Dr. Carl J. Brown

Position: Director 

Degree:  PhD in Interpersonal Communication

Favorite Speaking Tactic: Positive thinking is one of the most important things you can do before giving a presentation. Tell yourself that everyone in the audience woke up excited to hear you today and you are the star of the show. 

Most days you can find Director Carl Brown in the Speech Lab. If he is not doing paperwork, crunching numbers, or digging through research, he is likely chatting it up with the consultants. Carl earned his PhD from The University of Southern Mississippi and has been interested in the power of words for most of his life. He has been a competitive speaker, a debate coach, and a professor, but his favorite thing to do is, without question, lead the GV Speech Lab!


Jeannine Lane

Position: Graduate Student Director, Graduate Assistant, Graduate Researcher, & Consultant

Graduate Program: M.S. in Communication

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in Communication Studies

Favorite Speaking Tactic: I used to believe that effective public speakers didn’t get nervous. As soon as I learned how untrue that was, it became clear to me that nervousness is normal and is not indicative of one’s ability to speak well! Now I use this knowledge to embrace my nervousness and encourage myself to become a better speaker with every presentation I give.

In the Fall of 2016, Jeannine marched up to Carl and told him he should give her a job and the Lab hasn't been able to get rid of her since. She is obsessed with communication, and since working at the Speech Lab she has discovered her true passions for research, leadership, and speaking empowerment. Jeannine is the winner of the National Association of Communication Centers' 2019 Huddy-Gunn Graduate Paper Award and the 2018 Bob and Ann Weiss Undergraduate Paper Award for her research on staff relationship development in communication centers. When Jeannine isn't at the Lab working with a client or forcing Justin to take BuzzFeed quizzes, she can usually be screenshotting Instagram photos of raccoons, talking about her Hydroflask, or thinking about food. Jeannine's goal for every session is for the student to walk out feeling better about their speech than they did when they walked in, so come on in and work with her!


Justin Sims

Position: Graduate Consultant 

Graduate Program: M.Ed. in Higher Education

Undergraduate Degree:  B.B.A. in Marketing and B.S. in Sports Management

Favorite Speaking Tactic: If you have trouble looking people in the audience in the eye when speaking, look right about their eyes at their hair! It appears you’re making eye contact with them without actually doing it.

Justin is our sporty, dog AND cat loving, pizza enthusiast. He was the President of the GVSU Roller Hockey Club, and also served during his time as an undergrad on the GVSU Club Sports E-Board. In his free time, Justin enjoys golfing, bowling, watching Grey's Anatomy, and taking BuzzFeed quizzes with Jeannine at the Lab.

Josh T.

Josh Trussler

Position: Consultant 

Major:  Film & Marketing

Favorite Speaking Tactic: Preparation and Practice is the key to lowering speaking anxiety. The more you prepare and practice, the better you will feel while presenting. And remember, be confident!

He is a lover of off-roading, working on cars, and the outdoors! Josh hopes to someday work as a producer on commercials and movies. When he's not at the Speech Lab or traveling up north with his friends, you can most likely find Josh browsing the aisles of your local AutoZone.

Jenna Johnston: Consultant

Jenna Johnston

Position: Consultant 

Major: Health Communications

Favorite Speaking Tactic: When I struggle to keep my anxiety in check before presenting, I make sure to take deep breaths to slow down my heart rate and visualize myself crushing the presentation!

She is an animal lover (especially her orange tabby cat Tallulah) and you will find her strolling through gardens looking for dogs to pet. When she's not petting animals she's working at an Urgent Care clinic or brushing up on her Disney Trivia! Did you know Cinderella's missing glass slipper was the left one? In addition to working in the Speech Lab and Urgent Care clinic, Jenna is a member of the Humane Society and President of the Health Communication Coalition.


Scott Hilgendorf

Position: Consultant

Major: Marketing

Minor: Economics

Favorite Speaking Tactic: Definitely the four step breathing technique. It helps me focus on something other than my presentation and makes me more confident in myself. 

He is usually spending his time relaxing, watching movies, or playing on his Xbox. When the weather is nice you can find Scott outside playing disc golf, hitting the driving range, or working on his jump shot on the court. He loves striking up a conversation with people and will always try to keep that conversation going. 


Hannah Karwat

Position: Undergraduate Student Director, Undergraduate Researcher, & Consultant 

Major: Information Systems

Minor: Business

Favorite Speaking Tactic: Connecting to your audience is one of the most important things to do when you are giving a presentation. Just because you are an expert on the information, doesn't mean that your audience is. Make sure that the words you use and the visuals you choose help guide the audience to understand what you are talking about. Use a story as an attention getter to paint a picture for them to engage them right from the beginning. 

Hannah and consultant Dom Cassisi recently won the National Association of Communication Centers Bob & Ann Weiss Undergraduate Paper Award for their research on Communication Deficiencies in STEM students. When she is not studying or working at the lab, she can be found listening to Kanye West or Billie Eilish, drinking too much Dr. Pepper, learning how to code mobile apps, or watching Friends... "How you doin'?". 



Dom Cassisi

Position: Consultant & Undergraduate Researcher

Major: Advertising & Public Relations

Favorite Speaking Tactic: I love to practice positive visualization. Visualize what your body language will look like when you present, think about what tone you will use, imagine what it'll feel like to execute your presentation. I find this improves my confidence in public speaking and helps me focus on my speech more than anxious feelings. 

He is the President of his fraternity and part of the GV's National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) Team. Dom and consultant Hannah recently won the National Association of Communication Centers Bob & Ann Weiss Undergraduate Paper Award for their research related to STEM Students and communication deficiencies.  When he's not studying or at the Speech Lab, you can find Dom getting his money's worth at Fresh. His favorite TV shows and movies are Game of Thrones, The Office, Avatar, Happy Feet, and Holes. 


Avery Platt

Position: Consultant 

Major: Communication Studies and Advertising/Public Relations

Favorite Speaking Tactic: The four step breathing technique is a great way to lower your heart rate and change your mindset before your presentation. I find it so impactful that I do it all the time before interviews, class, and anything stressful to feel confident!

When Avery isn't at the Speech Lab, you can probably find Avery eating ice cream, talking about Jeannine, or eating ice cream with Jeannine. Avery loves traveling (ask her about her trips to England and Spain!), Christmas, mashed potatoes, and her dog Carl, who she named after Carl Brown because she wanted to work at the Speech Lab that badly. Avery is one of the friendliest people alive, so come make an appointment with her!


El Setera

Position: Consultant 

Major:  Theatre 

Favorite Speaking Tactic: I like to listen to calming music (mostly instrumentals) on my walk to the classroom to ensure that I am relaxed when I arrive. I also like to arrive as early as possible to get comfortable with the space and make sure I am prepared to present.

Fun fact about El, they have ambitions to be an international high school theatre teacher. They also love to travel and have visited more than 20 countries. They love to read, hang out with friends, and dye their hair new colors in their free time. If El isn’t at the Speech Lab, you can probably find them at the Performing Arts Center on campus working on the upcoming play (which you totally should come see!). 


Victor Carter

Position: Consultant

Major: Advertising/Public Relations with an emphasis in PR

Minor: Digital Studies 

Favorite Speaking Tactic: The four step breathing is a great way to focus on something other than your speech. It makes you focus on taking deep breaths and counting to four... and before you know it you are ready to kill your presentation!

An interesting fact about Victor is that Victor isn't even his real name! His real  name is Royal Victor Carter, but has gone by Victor ever since he could talk. He is constantly listening to music... which usually ends up being mainly J. Cole. When he is not working, studying, or jamming out to J. Cole, you can find Victor playing basketball in the rec, watching Netflix or playing on his Xbox. 


Greta Robbins

Position: Consultant 

Major: Marketing with an emphasis in sales

Favorite Speaking Tactic: While presenting I try to stand with my feet a little bit wider than usual. It gives off the same energy the power stance does before a presentation to decrease nervousness and forces you not to sway or move your legs. This calms your body and makes you feel more confident!

She is beyond excited to be working at the Speech Lab as her favorite thing to do is talk to people around her! If she's not chatting or hanging out with friends, she is definitely eating popcorn, watching Friends, running, or lap swimming. Greta has had a passion for working with kids since she was young and has been involved in the Kids in Motion club here at Grand Valley. Additionally, she volunteers with the Habitat for Humanity club for a weekend out of each month. 


Leah Kerr

Position: Consultant 

Major: Multimedia Journalism 

Minor: Advertising & Public Relations

Favorite Speaking Tactic:  I always try to go in smiling and remembering the illusion of transparency. Staying positive and light-hearted helps me get through.

If she isn't at the lab or studying, she can be found taking pictures (check her out), listening to rock, adoring her beautiful golden retriever Bentley or simply hanging out. Her achievements include binging Game of Thrones in less than 5 weeks and becoming a little more like her mother every day. 


Cassidy Johnson

Position: Consultant 

Major: Health Communication

Favorite Speaking Tactic: When I am anxious about a big speech I will go to the room before the class or when I have to present to get comfortable with my surroundings and find points in the back of the room to focus on to keep from looking down at my notes.

“Hello welcome to my channel! (In Jeffree Star's voice)... I’m Johnsca5 and turns out I'm not the worst public speaker! Like and subscribe."  Cassidy's hobbies are singing in the shower and acting like she know what she's doing at the gym. Cassidy is thrilled to be at the Speech Lab because she says loves to learn and cannot wait to get the chance to help someone else learn along the way too.

Jaclyn Sawdon

Jaclyn Sawdon

Position: Executive Assistant

Major: Psychology 

Minor: Sociology

Favorite Speaking Tactic: Doing the four step breathing before I am about to give my presentation but making sure to prepare well by scheduling appointments at the Speech Lab! 

Jaclyn is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet and the first face you will usually see when you come into the Speech Lab. After college she plans on pursuing a career as a Child Life Specialist. When not at the Lab, she is probably hanging out with her bestfriend/roomate Hannah either baking or watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Jaclyn loves writing her coworker's names in cursive, New Girl, and Madewell jeans. 

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