UNI Forensics sculpts future leaders

The word "forensics" originates from contests held by the Greeks to develop and recognize the ability to speak. As the only school in Iowa to host both a debate and speech team, the University of Northern Iowa is preparing students to become future leaders of their communities.

UNI Forensics includes both speech and debate teams. 

The UNI Forensics organization includes both the speech and debate teams, which participate in intercollegiate speech and debate tournaments across the nation. UNI Forensics is the oldest organization at the university, dating all the way back to 1876.

Through the speech team, students gain public speaking skills by competing in events like improvised, platform and interpretive speech. The team usually has around 25 members and travels to about six tournaments each semester.

"The support system that forensics has provided me with has allowed me to be nationally competitive, successful academically, develop astute research skills and forced me to be social," said Harrison Postler, a senior on the speech team with multiple 1st place awards in different events. "I wouldn't be the same person without the speech team here."

The debate team consists of two person teams that compete in policy debate with a single topic that changes every year. Through debate, students learn how to research different topics and find evidence to support a certain case.

At each tournament, students get the chance to showcase their hard work in the face of scrutiny by judges and competitors. "I think it teaches students self-confidence in a really healthy way," said Kate Lavelle, director of UNI Forensics. "I'm glad we have students that can go back into their communities and take those skills to make the world around them better."

Many schools have teams for students interested in either speech or debate, but few cater to both. UNI Forensics is molding students into effective communicators, critical thinkers and engaged members of a democratic society.

The debate and speech teams won numerous awards during their tournaments this year, and Rebecca Buel, an instructor in communication studies and director of individual events, was awarded the 2012 American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament Outstanding New Forensics Coach Award. The award will be given at the national tournament in spring 2013.

For more information about UNI Forensics, contact Lavelle at 273-7200 or katherine.lavelle@uni.edu.