The Brownson Speech and Debate Team returned from their first tournament in early October with more than 20 awards.
They competed in the “Virginia is for Lovers” swing, co-hosted by James Madison University and George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The team normally competes in five or six tournaments each semester, along with the national tournament in the spring.
At each tournament, students can compete in 11 different events, which are separated into three different categories:
Limited Preparation, Public Address and Oral Interpretation of Literature. The competition begins with two preliminary rounds in which speakers perform in front of a judge and their competitors in a classroom. From there, the top six speakers from each event advance to the final round.
Jonathan Thow, a junior nursing major and the co-captain of the team, said that although only individual awards are received at tournaments, everyone must come together and work as a team. He said that each student must undergo three levels of preparation for a tournament.
“There’s a lot of individual work that has to happen first,” Thow said. “A lot of research has to happen to ensure that we’re writing speeches that are actually backed up by facts and not fake news.”
Thow said the team has peer coaching sessions where the students work together to review and improve each other’s work for the competitions. Then, the team will host individual sessions with the team’s five paid coaches, some of whom are professors at the University.
Aliezah Hulett, a freshman communications major, said that this is what makes the Brownson team so unique compared to other teams at the University.
“Other teams at Seton Hall have more team members and fewer coaches,” Hulett said. “We have individual coaching sessions, with coaches skilled in particular areas, and have fewer team members so that everyone has an opportunity to get their fair share of coaching time.”
Thow has been competing with the team since his freshman year, but his passion for public speaking and debate began his sophomore year of high school.
He won several awards at this year’s competition, ranging from first to fifth place in the persuasive speaking, impromptu speaking and prose interpretation events, and was awarded overall best speaker of the competition.
Hulett competes in dramatic interpretation, extemporaneous speaking and informative speaking. She advanced to the finals at her first tournament in dramatic interpretation, where speakers take a piece that is meant to be performed and transform it into a 10 minute, one-person play.
Tehyah Carver, a freshman biology pre-med major, said that through this program, she learned the true meaning and value of family and teamwork.
“My teammates are the siblings I have always wanted,” Carver said. “They are an amazing support system that I am truly blessed to have. The coaches are amazing mentors and role models for all of us. They truly encourage us to be the best humans we can be, and that is something that is awfully admirable.”
Liam Oakes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.