After being active for two years, The University of Southern Mississippi’s Forensics Society brought home several honors in a pair of debate tournaments.
The Forensics Society participated in the University of Louisiana-Lafayette’s Swing on the Swamp debate event, which was held Sept. 12-15. Ten colleges and universities from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas were represented at the event.
A team of nine Southern Miss students attended the event and ranked fourth in the Overall Sweepstakes. They finished ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas A&M and several other schools. In individual events, USM ranked fourth; in debate, USM ranked second.
“Attending this event was very special for my teammates and I,” said Kianna Mitchell, a sophomore broadcast journalism major. “The first tournament of the year is always the most fun. You get to see the friends you have made from other teams again and you get back into ‘debate’ mode.”
Brandon Hersey, a senior political science major, made a significant impact at the tournaments. Hersey received the second place debate speaker award and placed fourth in individual sweepstakes in the first tournament. In the second tournament, he placed first and second in impromptu speaking and extemporaneous speaking, respectively.
“Forensics for me is a rush,” Hersey said. “I love debating current events and hear[ing] new sides of arguments that I had never encountered before. I love it because even if I lose the round, I still end up learning something new and have that knowledge that will help me in the future.
The Swing on the Swamp tournaments were just the beginning. Specific members of the Forensics Society are preparing to represent Southern Miss at the 2014 World University Debating Championship in Chennai, India. Steven Venette, advisor for the Forensics Society, said that “receiving an invitation to attend the world championship is a great honor; we must work diligently to prepare so that we can represent the college and university to the best of our abilities.”
Though Michael Sims, a senior polymer science major, was unable to attend the first debate event of this school year, he will be one of two students attending the debating championship in India next year.
“This really is the opportunity every debater dreams of having!” Sims said excitedly. “Above all, I just want to help prove that despite Southern Miss being a small-town university in the deep South, we’ve got what it takes to hang with schools like Yale and Oxford.”
The success of the USM Forensics Society is impressive not only because of its invitation to an international competition, but because it is a young organization. According to Hersey, Southern Miss didn’t have a debate team for some time. It was refounded in 2011 after more than two decades of inactivity.
“Myself, Micheal Sims, Joshua Von Herman and Samantha Rayborn all competed in forensics in high school, and found it odd that the university did not have a collegiate team,” Hersey said. “My friends and I re-founded the team not only because we love the activity but we feel that civil discourse is one of the most important pastimes a young adult can engage in.”
Members of the Forensics Society will travel to San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas, to compete in the Bayou City Swing on Oct. 18-20.