Friday, February 03, 2006

Learning more than forensics   


What did you do last weekend?

Unless you are a part of Concordia's Forensics team, you probably didn't go to places like Iowa, Texas or Florida. Did you?

Concordia's 34 member Forensics team has been busy lately. Very busy. Last weekend speech and debate students were in all of these places.

Among a number of their accomplishments, the Concordia speech students placed 6th while in Florida, and debate student Dan Faltesek was given the "Debater of the Year Award," from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Concordia has a long history of being a nationally successful program, according to Kimberlee Palmer, the team's communications officer. But what does it take to be a part of the program? And what exactly do they do?

Forensics is made up of both speech and debate, but are two very different things, said Palmer. Students that participate on the speech team speak in one of three genres: Public address, interpretation and limited preparation.

Debate students, on the other hand, are given a resolution to discuss.

Debaters compete in teams of two: One team is affirmative and the other is negative. After six to eight preliminary rounds teams are judged on if they win the round, and how many speaker points they receive.

Concordia competes on local, regional and national levels, and usually ranks in the 20 teams in the nation. With over 12 hour competitions, and an eight month long season, forensics has the longest season of any other collegiate activity. Senior speech student Mike Wang said that once you start, it's hard to stop.

"You go to a couple of tournaments, and it gets addicting," he said.

Wang, who is from a small town, didn't have speech and debate at his high school. He was intrigued as a freshman at Concordia and decided to join.

It didn't take Wang too long to learn that forensics was no average after-school activity. In fact, at his first competition as a freshman the judge asked him to stop. He wasn't prepared, but the experience motivated him to work hard.

Now he said, "I don't like losing."

Wang said that he was able to improve through the coaching he has received, observing his peers and through critiques of his performances.

"It's all about confidence," he said.

The confidence that these students acquire through their involvement in forensics has positive effects on their school work, as well as their competition scores. Wang, who plans to attend law school after graduation, feels that his ability to analyze things has improved, as well as his writing abilities.

Kimberlee Palmer, agreed and said that she has developed a number of skills through her experiences with forensics.

"It's surprising how many people simply don't have basic public speaking, argumentation, critical thinking and writing skills even at the collegiate level, and forensics definitely emphasizes these skill sets."

The speech team's director of individual events, Todd Holm, strongly believes that involvement with forensics is beneficial to students. Holm is in the process of paperwork that will approve him to do a study about how involvement in forensics prepares students for graduate school.

While forensics may be helpful with school work, the strenuous and lengthy schedule theses students endure leaves them missing a lot of class. Wang said forensics is a very large commitment, and that it's tough having a full class schedule.

However, it seems that the social aspect of it all helps to ease the pain of missing so much class. Every month, both the speech and debate teams have a "culture activity," which can be anything from going bowling to playing poker.

For some members of Concordia's forensics team, socializing with teammates doesn't only include friends, but family too.

Sophomore Emily Faltesek debates with her partner and brother Dan.

"It's really awesome. We get along really well," she said. "It's something that we will share later in life."

Early in high school, Faltesek played intramural basketball and baseball, which she said "went awful." When she joined speech and debate, she felt a sense of belonging and was happy to be doing something she was good at. She describes forensics as "intense intellectual competition."

Faltesek said her brother encouraged her to come to Concordia, and that he's helped her become a much better debater. She looks forward to her brother returning to Concordia after graduation to help coach the team.

With such great success and quite a prestigious reputation, one may think that joining Concordia's forensics team would be quite difficult. However, they are very welcoming to anybody that is interested.

"We want to embrace everyone; we have lots of levels of abilities," says Faltesek.


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