A chart is hanging on the wall in Ann Lawson’s office. It has a list of names on one side. On the other side are 11 columns—one for each tournament the forensics team competed at this year. The chart is full of circles that have been drawn with a red marker. Each represents a trophy a member of the forensics team won in the past school year.
This year, there are quite a few red circles. 62 to be exact.
The forensics team recently wrapped up a successful year in which team members brought home a total of 62 trophies—“the most numerous trophy count in recent memory,” according to a press release.
When asked about the team’s performance this year, however, Lawson—who is director of forensics and an instructor of communication arts—was quick to point out that she doesn’t measure success in trophies.
“I don’t like looking at forensics like you do a sport, with a ‘winning season’ kind of analogy, because we’re an academic pursuit,” Lawson said. “So we could have a successful year with no trophies.”
For Lawson, things like the growth of each team member as a speaker and a person are a better indicator of success.
“It’s not necessarily trophy count that [determines] success, but that is a legitimate measure to tell the world,” she said.
Lawson said this year’s team bonded well in spite of the fact they came from a variety of different backgrounds. Going beyond merely consisting of communication arts majors, this year’s team even featured a zoo biology major—sophomore novice competitor Sarah Varnell.
“It was a great team as far as mixing personalities and … different people from various majors,” Lawson said.
A tremendous amount of turnover from last year provided a significant challenge for this year’s team, which featured only three varsity students out of a total of 12 members. Sophomore intervention specialist major Paige Nagy led the way with a number of 1st-place finishes.
Lawson said she’s used to having a high rate of turnover on the team, however—and she knows next year will be no different.
“[This year] was great, but I already know four people who aren’t coming back next year,” she said. “It’s a constant rebuilding.”
Lawson said having to constantly find new members who don’t have a lot of experience puts the team at a disadvantage when they face other colleges, whose students have often been involved in forensics since high school. However, Lawson also enjoys being able to help students learn and grow as communicators.
“On the other hand, I’ve had some great, great students over the years who have done really well and won lots of awards who, if I had only taken people who did it before in high school, would have never been on the team,” she said.
Junior communication arts major Taylor Hazlett was one of the novice competitors on this year’s team. Although she has experience with speech and debate in high school, Hazlett said the college level is a step-up in terms of competition.
“The competitors who were involved really put a lot of work in,” she said.
In spite of the challenges, Hazlett said she enjoyed being part of the Forensics team.
“I had a really good time, which I figured that I would,” she said. “The people on the forensics team are really great, and I made a lot of friends.”
Sophomore psychology major Amanda Maxwell was one of the returning members of this year’s team. She said the camaraderie between team members was ultimately what inspired her to come back for a second year.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun because we have a really good community with our team members,” Maxwell said. “And that’s really what brought me back: having that community.”
For Maxwell, the highlight of the year came when the team traveled to California over spring break for the National Christian College Forensics Invitational. Maxwell lost her voice the day before she was slated to compete. However, she still ended up placing 5th in one of her events.
Maxwell said she was convinced to join the forensics team during her freshman year when she had Lawson as a professor. One day after giving a speech in class, Maxwell said Lawson “basically cornered” her and urged her to attend a meeting. She did so and shortly thereafter became a member of the team.
Maxwell said Lawson is concerned with more than simply being successful at tournaments, though.
“She wants us to do well, but she definitely promotes a Christ-like attitude through what we do,” she said. “She wants us to be an example to other schools of what it’s like to follow Christ through our spoken words.”
Jesse Peek is a staff writer for The Aviso.