Bolstered by wins in 29 consecutive competitions, Pellissippi State Community College Speech and Debate Team is gearing up for its first national competition in March.
“Reaching a national tournament brings me great pride and validates all of the hard work that these students and past competitors have done over the course of the past seven years,” said Assistant Professor Shaquille Marsh, who coaches the team.
Pellissippi State will compete at the National Novice Competition in Charlotte, N.C., March 3-5. The team just returned from state competition, earning 12 awards at the Tennessee Intercollegiate Forensics Association tournament at Belmont University Feb. 18-19. Seven Pellissippi State students took home individual awards while the team was named top community college in Debate, top community college in Individual Speech Events and top community college overall.
This weekend Pellissippi State Speech and Debate Team members will welcome almost 100 of their peers from throughout the Southeast to the 5th Annual Tennessee Valley Invitational on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus. The Feb. 25-26 tournament will include competitors from across Tennessee as well as from Clemson University.
“Debate competition allows students to discuss and debate complex and sensitive issues in a productive and civil manner, while Speech competition allows students to showcase their talents and individuality against great competition,” explained Charles Wilhite, vice president of Pellissippi State Speech and Debate Team.
In a tournament, two-person debate teams are assigned a topic and a position to argue, either in the affirmative or the negative. The teams have 15 minutes to research and formulate their arguments, and then individuals on the teams take turns debating their points and counterpoints in a 40-minute round.
“It’s really about persuasion,” said Instructor Jesse Cragwall, one of five faculty advisors.
Students have no choice about whether to argue for or against a topic, regardless of how they feel about it. That’s why it’s important for students to remember that they are attacking the arguments, not the topics themselves.
Meanwhile, speech competitions incorporate a wide range of styles and topics. Events such as Dramatic Duo and Slam Poetry showcase performance skill while events like Persuasive Speaking and Program Oral Interpretation require research, analytical and speaking skills.
“Speech is an outlet to tell your story and write your own narrative,” said 15-time award winner Casey Looper.
The 5th Annual Tennessee Valley Invitational will be held 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, and Sunday, Feb. 26, in the Ned R. McWherter Technology Building on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville. Tournaments are open to the public, and Pellissippi State Speech and Debate Team members would love to have a supportive crowd to cheer them on.
To volunteer to judge or staff the tournament, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.