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No debate about it
Focus on forensics shows hard work, along with play

Nov. 12, 2004

By Emily Mullins

From one-on-one practices to Tuesday night meetings to weekend-long competitions, being a member of the Ohio University Forensics Speech and Debate team takes time and dedication. But for the students involved in the program, the work is worth it.

"It's fun to spend so much time with people who have such similar interests that they'd be willing to spend their whole weekend doing something academic," says Sarah Slavik, a sophomore communications studies major and member of the team.

The team gives students the opportunity to enhance their communication, public speaking and critical thinking skills in an academic and competitive environment. Each year the team competes in 12 tournaments against hundreds of universities all around the country.

"Last year we traveled all over Ohio to places like Miami, Ohio State, and Otterbein universities, and also to Western Kentucky, Michigan and Illinois where we had nationals," says Jayme Feldman, who is also a sophomore communications studies major and team member. The team has also been to New York and Boston.

Although being on the forensics team is beneficial to their majors, both students enjoy being on the team for numerous reasons.

"We both live pretty far from home and the team provides us with a family-like atmosphere," says Feldman.

The team's coaches, Katie Hatfield, Kris Stroup and Jerry Miller, also provide the students with support and guidance.

"I have enjoyed getting to know these students and sharing my life with them and having them share their lives with me," says Miller, the team's director and associate professor in the School of Communications Studies.

Over the years, the team has experienced some "tremendous successes" as well as some "competitive disappointments," in national and local competitions. They have regularly placed in the top 10 at the National Forensics Association Championship, as well as placed in the top 25 teams at the American Forensics Association.

"It is extremely difficult to place in the top 25 teams, but we did four out of the eight years we have been there," says Miller.

Recently, Feldman and Slavik have been recognized for their achievements in the Lincoln-Douglas style of debate, with Slavik winning first place at the Otterbein University competition, and Feldman being a quarter finalist at Western Kentucky University as well as winning semi-finalist and first place speaker at Bowling Green State University.

Along with regular practices and meetings, the members are required to prepare outside research to keep them informed and up-to-date on issues regarding their debate topic. Because of the extreme academic focus of this organization, students who participate can earn up to 24 credit hours during their college careers.

"Although it is as time consuming as a class, I consider it an extracurricular activity I get credit for," says Slavik.

Being the student ambassadors for the team, Feldman and Slavik organize activities and promote student recruitment. "Despite the hard work, it's worth it," says Feldman.

For more information about the Ohio University Forensics team, contact coaches Kris Stroup at ks143702@ohio.edu, or Katie Hatfield at KatherineLHatfield@yahoo.com.

Emily Mullins is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.

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