Whitworth’s forensic team brought home multiple honors in the Pacific University tournament the weekend of Feb. 4. Those honors included both individual awards won by team members in speech and debate events and three Division II sweepstakes awards won by the team as a whole. A strong start
The team, which is the first at Whitworth since the program was disbanded in 1997, has performed beyond coach and Director of Forensics Mike Ingram’s expectations. He said his goal for the first year was to have students at a competitive level.
“We’ve really been more than competitive,” Ingram said.
“I’m really proud of the team’s accomplishments; their success is something that I hope all of Whitworth can be proud of,” Ingram said.
Freshman Sam Director, who was the first over- all speaker in the Junior category of International Public Debate Association debate at the Pacific University tournament and named a finalist for the Junior/Novice speaker of the year award, said he was impressed by the team’s showing.
“The fact that we were second in our division in our first year back was huge,” he said, referring to the team’s Northwest Forensics Conference sweepstakes title of second overall in Division II. They also tied for first in the debate category.
The tournaments that Whitworth attends are not separated by school size but rather by number of tournaments attended. Division II is made up of schools that attend fewer than eight tournaments a year. That means Whitworth students compete directly against students from larger schools.
“In the past, the debate team has won national recognition,” Ingram said, adding that doing well in the competitions can reflect well on Whitworth.
Although as a senior she will not be a part of the team next year, math and speech communication double major Rachel Busick said she enjoyed helping set the precedent of high achievement for future years of the debate team.
“It’s been a really great opportunity to build the foundation of the team,” she said.
“Epitomizing” liberal education
Team members said forensics is a broader competition than some may think.
“Debate isn’t only for public speaking,” junior Krister Johnson said. “Communications is relevant to every one of the majors that Whitworth has.”
With a variety of events, students can practice thinking on the spot with impromptu speeches, forming arguments and being persuasive with debates and speeches, or exercise a more artistic side of themselves with interpretive pieces.
Preparing for competitions of that kind allows students to go past learning the theory of communication skills into applying them.
“I think it epitomizes a liberal arts education,” Busick said.
Ingram describes debate as an avenue for students to work with ideas they are learning in classes and connect them through speeches.
“It’s a way to provide students with an academic co-curricular activity,” he said. While Whitworth has a number of activities available for students, Director found that debate has its own sphere to fill.
“It’s another area of liberal arts, just as necessary as athletics, and a little more applicable to future careers,” he said.
Attracting talented students
Programs such as the forensics team can help to attract talented students to Whitworth.
“Debate draws intellectual people,” Busick said. “It’s another way to go out and compete, and participate in something a little more intellectual.”
Director received a scholarship to participate on the forensics team.
“I wouldn’t say it was a deciding factor but it definitely influenced my choice,” Director said. “It sweetened the deal.”
Effect on students
For the students who do become involved in the program, being on the team can be influential.
“I hope it gives them a sense of community, just like they have on the basketball team or in the choir,” Ingram said.
For Busick, even the van rides are an important part of the experience.
“I get a lot out of the dialogues we have in the van rides,” she said. She described her teammates’ different areas of expertise as a factor leading to a rich and broad conversation.
“I wouldn’t necessarily get that outside of this experience,” she said.
Developing relationships with teammates was just one of the effects of joining the team for Director.
“I just reaped a lot of personal confidence and just general enjoyment,” he said.
Johnson said the confidence it takes to perform multiple speeches in front of strangers can be applied in other situations as well, including those that are likely to come up in jobs as well as in personal life.
“It teaches you to be more confident and assertive in all kinds of interactions,” he said.
Those benefits are not free; the students and their coach practice during their three hours of class every week along with one-on-one sessions for each student. But for Johnson, it is worth the effort.
“It takes a lot of time, but looking back at my experience here at Whitworth, it’s one of the most essential pieces of my education,” he said.
Story by Evanne Montoya Staff Writer
Contact Evanne Montoya at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographer: Megan Hinzdel Photo caption: Senior Travis Walker attempts to persuade his teammates with his speech during practice.