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SMU Forensics Team Competes in First Annual Lone Star Stampede

11-Member Team Learns About the Power of Speech

by Michelle Yoby (Corporate Communications and Public Affairs '10)

The following is a first-person account of Michelle Yoby's (Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, '10) experience at the First Annual Lone Star Stampede National Collegiate Forensic Tournaments.

Stand confidently, smile, and wait for the judge to give you the cue to begin. Every speech I gave that weekend began this way. I was competing in The First Annual Lone Star Stampede National Collegiate Forensic Tournaments, hosted February 19-21 by the University of Houston and Lamar State College of Port Arthur. This was the first competition I had participated in, and it was exhilarating because I had never officially competed for anything before and the adrenaline was swirling through my body. I was one of eight new members of the 11-member SMU Forensics Team.

The students included Leigh Armstrong, Rebecca Bryant, Alex Ehmke, Kelly Haser, Jessica Huseman, Grace Kelly, Alex Morgan, Christina Provost, Victoria Sharwarko, Danielle Storey and me, Michelle Yoby. Leading the team were SMU Forensics and Debate coaches Ben Voth and Chris Salinas. We competed against 11 other colleges and universities that weekend including Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University and Texas State University. SMU participated in seven of the 11 events, including extemporaneous speaking, persuasive speaking, communication analysis, impromptu speaking, program of oral interpretation, prose interpretation and informative speaking.

When we weren’t competing, we stayed in a large auditorium where we practiced our speeches, did homework or talked about the speeches we had heard throughout the day. There was quite a bit of down time during the day, which gave me the opportunity to talk to the more experienced SMU Forensics members.

Alex Ehmke, a sophomore who is majoring in political science, public policy, economics and history and has competed in numerous tournaments, told me that he likes being part of the forensics team for multiple reasons. “It has helped me so much with public speaking and communication skills, along with analytical abilities,” he said. “I've learned a lot about thinking on my feet and what the dos and don'ts of persuasion are. But finally, it's just been a lot of fun! It's been one of the most rewarding activities that I've done in all my time in education.” Alex competed in the extemporaneous and impromptu events.

Victoria Sharwarko, a junior majoring in Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, competed in communication analysis and impromptu. She said she started competing because she had a fear of public speaking and knew she needed to overcome that fear to be successful.

I didn’t compete in the second round on Sunday so I had the chance to tag along with Dr. Voth and Dr. Salinas as they judged some of the events. Since I wasn’t worrying about my own speech performance, I was able to fully focus on the other speakers and marvel at their talent. It’s hard to accurately express just how impressed I was by the students in these tournaments. They spoke with such passion and ease. At times I felt like I was watching an extravagant movie where the student was the actor, and as they spoke they pulled me into the reality their piece was creating.

Although we didn’t get first place, we did come out with several victories. In the first round we had four members place, and three of them were new to the team: Christina Provost, Leigh Armstrong and Kelly Haser. In communication analysis, Christina came in 7th and Leigh came in 5th. In persuasion, Kelly came in 6th. These were especially exciting victories because all three of these brand new members were competing against expert level competitors. The fourth student was Jessica Huseman, who placed 4th in persuasion. In the second round, Victoria Sharwarko placed 5th in communication analysis and Kelly Haser placed 5th in persuasion. Jessica Huseman placed 2nd in persuasion and 3rd in extemporaneous. Finally, Alex Ehmke placed 2nd in extemporaneous and 5th in impromptu.

Overall I can say that I enjoyed competing and now I finally understand what Dr. Mark McPhail, CCPA chair and my professor, has been trying to tell me all along about the power of speech. But for me, being able to watch the speeches was what truly made the weekend memorable. Being exposed to the world of forensics was an incredible experience because it gave me the chance to practice public speaking outside of the classroom. My only regret was waiting until my last semester of college to give it a try.

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