Forensics team takes 2nd in tourney


The SVSU forensics team placed second in the 2018 Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League (MISL) Novice States Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 17, at Hillsdale College.

SVSU’s forensics team was one of seven Michigan university teams that competed at the novice tournament, which was only open to those who have competed in fewer than six previous tournaments. Three of the SVSU students placed first in their individual categories, and all seven on the team placed fifth or higher in their categories:

Kelley Gray, a communication major, won first place for Programmed Oral Interpretation and placed fourth for Impromptu. Darious Henry, a communication major, won first place for Prose. Tiler Jewell, a creative writing and communication double major, won first place for Informative and placed fifth for Persuasion. Jenna Brown, a secondary education major, placed second for Prose. Jill Castle, a communication major, placed third for After Dinner Speaking. Jeremy Flood, a communication major, placed fourth for Extemporaneous Speaking. Jayla Gaskins, a communication major, placed second for both Dramatic Interpretation and Programmed Oral Interpretation.

The forensics team is a competitive public speaking team founded in 2000 through funding from an SVSU Foundation grant. The team is coached by communication professor Amy Pierce, who founded the team.

Students can choose to compete in categories from three different genres: public address, limited preparation and oral interpretation.

After two preliminary rounds, the top six students compete in the final round. They are judged on delivery, argument and source strength, creativity, literary merit of piece and speech organization.

In total, 11 students have competed in the forensics team this season. The team attends four tournaments over the school year, and each student usually competes in at least two of these tournaments. Nine students have qualified to compete in the forensics team’s next big competition, the National Forensics Association Championship Tournament at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh from Apr. 19-23.

Jewell, a fourth-year creative writing and communication double major student and winner of the informative category, is finishing up her second year of competing on the forensics team. Jewell was on a forensics team in high school and has competed in six tournaments on the SVSU team.

“I love the people on the team,” Jewell said. “Not just on our team, but on every team. After going to a few tournaments, you recognize faces and know who each other is. You find out what everyone likes and what everyone is interested in based on their topics, because most of us choose topics that we like and that we’re really interested in. I get to learn about a whole lot of different stuff. It’s all really fun. It’s a really nice family environment.”

Jewell said that Pierce helped her research to find a new and innovative topic to speak on. Jewell’s winning speech focused on the topic of a liquefaction, a cremation process using alkaline hydrolysis. The liquefaction method cremates bodies with water rather than fire and is an alternative to burials or fire cremation.

“In forensics, you really want to have innovative and cool topics,” Jewell said. “Our team tends to go for the edgy stuff recently.”

The forensics team will be competing in the MISL States Tournament on Saturday, Mar. 10, at Eastern Michigan University. Pierce said the students are working hard to prepare for the next tournament.

“Some students are adding new material and events to debut at the state tournament,” Pierce said. “Others are incorporating judge feedback from the most recent tournament, reviewing written critiques and making revisions. All students are polishing their delivery and perfecting their memorization in order to present the best performance possible.”

Jewell said she is continuing to improve her speech and hone her techniques before the next tournament.

“You get quicker,” Jewell said. “Practice makes better. It just gets better the more you do it and the more tournaments you go to.”

Pierce said she enjoys seeing her students apply their learning in their classes as well as outside the classroom.

“The tournaments provide an opportunity for academic debate and foster an environment of inclusivity,” Pierce said. “SVSU students contribute to this dialogue and serve as ambassadors for our university. Knowing the benefits of competitive speaking, it is rewarding to me to be able to help provide students with an opportunity to participate in such an exciting academic activity.”