by Mike Ingram, Ph.D., Professor of Communications and Director of Forensics
I fell in love with forensics in high school and have cherished a lifelong love affair with speech and debate.
I have spent 12 of my 26 years at Whitworth coaching the intercollegiate speech and debate team. Students research and prepare speeches on important social, technological and political topics of the day. They inform, persuade and entertain audiences of professors, peers and academic community members. Students debate both sides of political and philosophical issues, learning more about the requirements of evidence and foundations of arguments. And they select poetry and prose from classic and contemporary literature to perform with characterizations designed to convey a particular meaning.
Forensics contributes to the pursuit of intellectual excellence. Healthy competition at speech and debate tournaments pushes students to research for more and better information, to practice and polish their verbal delivery skills, and to advocate for positions they believe in with passion and reason. The activity helps students develop sound habits and enhanced abilities as better communicators. By participating in forensics they showcase the essence of the liberal arts. They develop a broader knowledge base and critical thinking skills to aid in the search for truth. And with two students winning a national championship in debate in 2012, and the team winning the National Christian College Forensics Association’s national tournament in 2013 it is clear that our team demonstrates excellence on a national stage.
The skills in argumentation and persuasion have prepared scores of Whitworth forensics students for graduate school, professional careers and positions where they speak for a living. The training in critical thinking and persuasion is empowering and life changing. Whether they work for businesses or nonprofit organizations, churches or schools, community groups or trade associations, they are using their training well.
This fall a group of forensics alumni came back to campus armed with stories of how forensics has served them well in their professional lives. One man recalled struggling in his first year on my team. He did not win any awards and considered dropping out of forensics altogether. But he persevered, worked hard and won many awards in the following two years. Today he is a successful attorney in our state with a record of winning many court cases and serving his clients well. Forensics taught him about thinking, speaking and life.
As a teacher and coach, there is no greater joy than seeing my students succeed both in debate rounds now and across their lives.