Brownson Speech & Debate wins big

On Feb. 12, five members of the Brownson Speech and Debate team returned triumphant from the Virginia is for Lovers two-tournament swing hosted by James Madison University.

Professor Catherine Zizik said in a statement, “Competing against teams from the University of Alabama, St. Joseph’s, West Chester University, Mount San Antonio College, Liberty University and others, the tiny Seton Hall team earned second place on each day.”

Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Rogalo.
The Brownson Speech & Debate took home numerous awards at the tournament hosted by James Madison U.

According to Zizik’s statement, co-captains Jocelyn Rogalo and Jonathan Thow each won several awards; Rogalo alone earned 10 awards, including First Place Overall Individual Champion.

“Freshmen Brian Sumereau, Aliezah Hulett and Olivia Klein all won awards [as well]. Brian rocked the freshmen house on Saturday, advancing to finals in Impromptu, Extemporaneous and After Dinner Speaking,” Zizik said. “Our freshmen Dramatic Duo team, Hulett and Klein took second. Olivia Klein also won awards in Prose and Poetry.”

This performance was a result of hard work, according to team Thow, a junior nursing major. He wrote in an email, “We’ve been preparing some of these speeches since August with constant redrafting and research. We spend roughly four hours a week working directly with a coach, another five hours doing individual work, and four hours peer coaching.”

Appearance and demeanor are vital aspects of a competition. Freshman communications and visual and sound media major Olivia Klein said via email, “It was important to me that I also had my suits dry cleaned and shoes cleaned before competing to make sure I was properly representing myself and the team.”

This competition is just one of many to come. “This was just another large competition on our path towards our national tournaments,” Thow said. “We compete roughly every other weekend across the country. In a couple weeks we are going to Ohio and then California. We finish our season with nationals in Colorado.”

According to Thow, the team values not only the awards won, but also the opportunity to speak about socially and politically relevant topics.
He said, “Each of our carefully crafted and researched speeches is designed to highlight under recognized narratives.”

Thow said that the Brownson Speech and Debate team “root[s] for the underdogs of our society” by bringing awareness to causes such as ecofeminism, sustainable burial techniques, flaws in the foster care system, and food donation, among others.

Thow gave an example from his own work: “I have a speech where I ask people to write thinking of you cards to incarcerated rape survivors.”
Thow added, “[T]he trophies are nice, but the best part is seeing that our speeches are impacting someone and forcing people to think about our world a little differently.”

Marie Leone can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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