Forensic Team completes impressive climb



Bloomsburg University’s Forensics Team drew extra attention this year for good reason. Coming off a very successful fall season that featured back-to-back tournament wins, the team picked up where it left off for the spring semester.

“We’ve been so successful this year, because our leadership started to take a content-based approach at meetings,” said Katie Rose, a dual political science and mass communications major. “We make effective use of our meeting times (twice a week for at least an hour each but usually longer), and most everyone on the team is willing to step in and help other members improve their events.”

The team came back for the spring semester just as strong as they left, placing second at the annual CFA/Harold Cox Wilkes University Speech and Debate Tournament. Every single BU student competing received at least one award.

And then just before spring break, the team won the Collegiate Forensic Association’s (CFA) 2019-20 Welch-Strine Cup Championship Sweepstakes Award at the CFA Beach Tournament in Ocean City Md. The award recognizes the Collegiate Forensic Association’s most accomplished speech and debate team for the 2019-20 academic year. This is the first time BU has won the prestigious award since its inception in 2005.

In addition to winning the overall CFA Team Championship, six BU students won both “Year-Long” and “Runner-Up Year-Long” Awards for being the best speaker in their particular event for the 2019-20 year. It’s the most BU students ever recognized by CFA for year-long awards.

Additionally, BU won the second place Sweepstakes Award out of eight schools at the CFA Beach Tournament. Ten out of 15 BU students won a total of 24 speech/debate awards. Notably, Bloomsburg won the first through fifth place in After-Dinner Speaking and won the first, third and fourth place awards in Parliamentary Debate out of a total of 17 Teams at the tournament.

“I’ve always wanted to give public speaking a try, but I never quite found the right opportunity,” said Lindsey Garnel, a communication studies major, who was initially attracted to testing her public speaking skills after hearing about an annual Speakers Forum in her interpersonal communication class. “I decided to go for it, try out, and write a speech on mental health. I was selected to speak at the forum, and I really enjoyed the experience!”

Garnel, who has earned 10 awards so far this season to include three third-place finishes in After-Dinner Speaking, has seen her confidence in public speaking continue to grow. In fact, she says the team has had a greater impact on her too.

“I’ve become more confident,” Garnel said. “My experience at Bloomsburg has changed in a good way. I feel the team is like a family to me. Forensics has helped me find my way and my home here at Bloomsburg.”

Rose — who has earned 17 awards this season to include four third-place finishes, as well as a second-place finish in Communication Analysis at the Randolph-Macon tournament — has also seen personal growth because of the Forensic Team, particularly regarding her academic interests.

“I have two majors, and speech and debate ties into both,” Rose said. “Learning how to properly debate has helped me make better contributions to class discussions in political science courses, and overall made me more aware of the world around me. I’m now a more confident public speaker and communicator. Through competing, I continually hone writing and broadcasting skills needed for my future career in mass comm.”

This past fall, the Forensic Team garnered a level of success its hadn’t seen in 15 years, according to Neil Strine, director of BU forensics and executive director of the PA High School Speech League. The key highlight — victories in consecutive speech and debate tournaments.

BU won the Randolph-Macon College CFA Tournament with 15 of 16 students competing winning at least one award. In total, the team brought home 38 awards to include five first-place awards. Three weeks later BU won the Collegiate Forensic Association’s annual Holiday Tournament with 12 of 13 students competing earning an award. In total, the team left with 27 awards.

“I was nervous about joining the team to compete with my speeches,” Garnel said. “I felt new to speaking and was worried about how I would do on the team. Everyone has been helpful in helping me become a better public speaker. I’m proud that I placed fifth in my informative speech and first in my after-dinner speech, especially at my very first tournament. I can’t wait to further improve my public speaking as the season continues!”

Looking back at this season and her overall experience with the team, Rose says she owes a lot to forensics, including broadening her worldview and being open to alternative perspectives.

“I wanted to join speech and debate in high school, but for whatever reason I never did,” Rose said. “Right before my sophomore year of college, I met with Dr. (Neil) Strine since I was a transfer student and didn’t know how to add classes to my schedule. He mentioned the forensics team, and I was instantly sold.”

Strine sometimes jokes Rose was easiest person to convince to join forensics, she says.

“I’m so glad I joined!,” Rose said. “I like traveling with the team the best. We travel to other parts of the state, Virginia, and Ocean City, Md., each year. I’ve had many ‘firsts’ in terms of travel with the team — my first international trip when we went to Canada, and my first flight when we competed in Florida.”

She adds, “Without my involvement in forensics, I wouldn’t have been afforded those opportunities to travel and see the world.”