ETSU Speech and Debate Team excels

Published 11:35 am Thursday, March 21, 2024

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The accolades speak for themselves.   

Since last fall, members of East Tennessee State University’s Speech and Debate team have earned five first-place wins and seven second-place finishes at competitions and tournaments throughout the United States.  

A few of the students will be competing at the national level later this year.  

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“The incredible success of the ETSU Speech and Debate team is due to the hard work, competitive spirit and enthusiasm of each of its members,” said Donna J. Taylor, a lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies and Storytelling, as well as the team’s director. “It is incredibly gratifying to watch them put in all the hard work and then do so well in competition.”  

The skills and training imparted on ETSU’s Speech and Debate team match well with the university’s hands-on learning approach.   

Students enhance their communication skills and improve critical thinking abilities, as well as learn to work as part of a team and speak confidently in front of others – all valuable commodities on the job market.   

That has been the case for Justin Washington, president of the team.  

“This team has been a great place of personal growth for me. It has given me the skillset and Kristina Taylor, Ipinoluwa Akintola and Ijeoma Chukwu-Amaechithe confidence to not just articulate myself but also to be outspoken for what it is I believe in,” he said. “Not only that, but the memories and friendships I have built here have been integral to my college experience. Also, it’s just really fun.”  

The team participates in a range of tournaments each semester. Team members  all qualified for speech events and earned an invitation to attend the AFA-NST, short for the American Forensics Association – National Speech Tournament, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in April. 

“Being a part of the ETSU Speech and Debate team has been such a positive experience. I have learned important skills that I use often in my life and know will prove themselves invaluable to my future career,” said Taylor. “Not only this, but I have created friendships with team members as we create memories and have fun doing what we love together.” 

These students had to place in the final round (top six) at two tournaments during the year to earn their invitation.   

“One of the special things about Speech and Debate – like all competitive teams on campus – is how it pulls students from across majors, bringing them to learn and compete together,” said Dr. C. Wesley Buerkle, chair of the Department of Communication Studies and Storytelling. “I’m looking forward to seeing where these students are in five years. The skills they have and are building to present themselves and their ideas with confidence and professionalism is setting them on an exciting path.”  

In addition to Akintola, Chukwu-Amaechi, Taylor and Washington, team members include: 

Natalie Campbell, Issac Cartmel, Kylie Harrison, Jaylin Phillips and Kendall Robertson.