Small but mighty, the Wayne State University speech and debate team fared well at the 2023 National Forensic Association Championship tournament at Bradley University.
The six-member squad from the College of Fine Performing and Communication Arts (CFPCA) battled teams with far larger rosters from 55 colleges and universities in 12 different public speaking categories. Led by senior Colin Murtagh, Wayne State fought its way to a 14th-place finish in the nationwide competition held in central Illinois, April 13–17.
“This is the Super Bowl of forensic tournaments,” coach Kevin Mardirosian, B.A. ’18, said.
The National Forensic Association (NFA) is an academic organization dedicated to providing leadership in intercollegiate speech and debate education in the U.S.
Murtagh drew rave reviews for his performance that led to a third-place finish in impromptu speaking. Orators from the University of Minnesota and Western Kentucky University finished ahead of Murtagh, Wayne State’s team captain.
“Colin kind of carried the team,” Mardirosian said. “He is such an energetic and charismatic young man. His energy was the thing that propelled us at the tournament. It was truly exciting to watch him succeed because it invigorated and inspired our students, and us as coaches, too. It was so exciting to watch him.”
Mardirosian said public speaking is challenging enough, but to do so spontaneously, like Murtagh, shows a talent.
“Impromptu is like flying by the seat of your pants,” said Mardirosian. “You’re given a prompt of some kind, whether that’s a quotation, a single word, or an ethical dilemma, and you get one minute to prep a whole six-minute speech. It’s on the fly and you have to give precise argumentations with points and examples. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do.”
The Wayne State team competed in 11 of the 12 categories including after dinner speaking, dramatic interpretation, duo interpretation, extemporaneous speaking, informative speaking, persuasive speaking, poetry interpretation, program oral interpretation, prose interpretation, and rhetorical criticism.
All six Warriors competed in prose interpretation, with senior Miranda Sadik finishing as a quarterfinalist. Freshman Leena Jandali took second place in the prose interpretation novice finals.
The NFA also recognizes octofinalists, which are the top 48 competitors in each of the categories. WSU had eight top-48 finishers. The WSU team also featured junior Hannah D'Hondt and sophomores Jenna Alamat and Kenzie Bisdorf.
According to Mardirosian, Wayne State is among five Michigan public universities that offer an established speech program to its students. The WSU coaching staff — including assistant coach John Burklow and graduate coach Jessica Carpenter — would like to see more students join the team and take advantage of the program.
“We get communications majors, whom you would assume, but we also get English majors and hardcore STEM majors — chem, engineering, bio, medicine,” Mardirosian said. “We also have people with theatre backgrounds, psychology and philosophy. It’s a testament to how universal the skills are for speech because every single time you go for a job interview, or you’re giving a presentation in front of an audience, those presentation skills matter and they are going to be celebrated regardless of what field you are in.
“Verbal communication, I think, has become far more important as time progresses with the inventions of social media and other forms of communication. Verbal communication will never be able to be replicated in quite the same way. The impact a person has to speak in front of a group of people is unparalleled.”
The 2024 National Forensic Association tournament will be held next April at Central Michigan University.
Wayne State finishes at the National Forensics Association Tournament, April 13–17:
Finalist: Colin Murtagh, third place
Quarterfinalist: Miranda Sadik
Octofinalist: Hannah D’Hondt
Octofinalist: Miranda Sadik
Octofinalist: Colin Murtagh and Miranda Sadik
Octofinalist: Colin Murtagh, Jenna Alamat
Octofinalist: Leena Jandali, Colin Murtagh
Octofinalist: Leena Jandali