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ETSU Speech and Debate Team brings home top awards

Contributed • Updated Mar 8, 2019 at 5:19 PM

In the last month, East Tennessee State University’s competitive Speech and Debate Team has brought home awards for state champion, first place, top speaker, quarterfinalist, third place and more.

The team attended the Tennessee Intercollegiate Forensics Association State Tournament hosted by Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City in February. Over 100 students from 11 state schools competed in the tournament, including Carson Newman, Belmont University, Tennessee State University, Volunteer State Community College, Middle Tennessee State University, Pellissippi State Community College, Walters State Community College, Bryan College, Tennessee Tech University and University of Tennessee, in addition to ETSU.

ETSU junior Braden Trent of Johnson City was awarded the Top Novice Speaker and Novice State Champion awards by the International Public Debate Association. IPDA’s mission is to “provide an opportunity for individuals to develop their advocacy skills in a forum that promotes appropriate and effective communication,” according to the organization’s website (www.ipdadebate.info). ETSU sophomore Julie Hartung of Manchester received a Novice Quarterfinalist trophy in the same event.

“This was our first year doing IPDA debate,” said Laughton Messmer, director of the ETSU team. “We did it because our students wanted to try something new. I was blown away by our students’ performance. TIFA was really big this year and this was one of the biggest tournaments for IPDA in the state. To have that big of a tournament and have our students be that successful, I was really proud of them.”

The winning streak continued when, on March 2, the Speech and Debate Team attended Bryan College’s parliamentary debate tournament. ETSU brought home first place in the Four-Year College Team Sweepstakes.

In addition, student debaters Tim Muncy (Marion, Virginia), Michael Goforth (Kingsport) and Trent won multiple third-place awards across several individual and team events, and John Davis (Kingsport), Joey Watson (Boone, North Carolina), Taylor Dennis (Jackson) and Hartung brought home three additional awards. Also participating were Gowri Tumkur of Johnson City and Joshia Smythe of Bristol, Virginia.

When asked about his experience on the ETSU Speech and Debate Team, Trent said, “I’ve always loved the sport and the competition that comes with debating, but also the learning, the friends and the people you meet.

“The team is a unique experience here on campus. Not only do you get a lot of academic growth, you get leadership development, and you also get a real tangible skill you can use later in life. Being able to speak in front of people and articulate your points coherently is something that will help you throughout your life.”

Hartung said that her experience on the team “vastly exceeded” her expectations. “There is a real sense of developing your speaking style and being able to convey information in a way that is both compelling and interesting, where people want to listen to what you are saying and think you are making excellent points, even if it’s something you learned about 20 minutes ago,” she said.

“We teach students some of the fundamentals that are essential in any job environment — how to speak eloquently, how to speak spontaneously, being a critical thinker and a quick thinker,” Erin Messmer, assistant director of the team, said following the competitive events.

Laughton Messmer added, “We want our students to get the kind of experience that will help them in their future endeavors, to be comfortable with speaking, to be confident and to exude confidence.”

ETSU Speech and Debate is housed in the Department of Communication and Performance and meets every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Campus Center Building, room 208A. Students interested in learning more about the program are welcome to attend.

For more information on TIFA, visit http://tennesseeforensics.org/. 

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