Two senior members of The University of Southern Mississippi Forensics Society, Michael Sims and Brandon Hersey, represented the university in the World Universities Debating Championship in India Dec. 27 – Jan. 5.
“There were 340 different teams representing 60 different countries at this year’s tournament,” said Sims, a senior polymer science major. “Competition was exceptionally intense, with teams from Ivy League schools as well as institutions such as Cambridge and Oxford participating.”
Hersey and Sims were given this opportunity thanks to the USM Department of Communication Studies.
“The department saw an opportunity for us to go and we took it,” said Hersey, a senior political science major.
“They were the ones who applied for us and with the generous help of donations from alumni, they came up with funding for us to travel. I’m unbelievably thankful for all the work and effort they put in,” Sims said.
The two did better than expected considering their inexperience with the team debate format, which required them to compete together for USM.
“Our final standing was 227 out of 340 and honestly, we’re very pleased with that,” Sims said. “We still finished above quite a few American teams, some of which had quite a bit more experience than us in this style.”
“It was a new style for us. We had never competed in it before and we were up against the best of the best in the world,” Hersey said.
Sims and Hersey were not only able to gain new knowledge and experiences from the debates, but also from traveling to a country on the other side of the world.
“It was a bit of a culture shock for the first day, but then we quickly adjusted to a warm and deep culture of kindness and tolerance, the likes of which I have yet to experience in my travels,” Hersey said.
“Not only were we halfway around the world in a completely unfamiliar environment, but we were also part of the largest debate tournament in the world,” Sims said.
“It never really sunk in until we got back how unbelievable the entire experience was. Getting to experience a new culture firsthand, making friends from all over the world, and being a part of a truly global event are things I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Sims and Hersey, two of the founding members of the Southern Miss Forensics Society, hope to make this semester one of the best, considering they will both be graduating in May.
As for what is up next for the debate team this semester, Hersey had only one thing to say. “You will just have to stay tuned to find out.”