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Brownson Debate Team in a classroom.

Brownson Speech and Debate Team

Seton Hall University's Forensics Brownson Speech and Debate Team is known for its tradition of rhetorical excellence, stemming back over 75 years. The team travels across the United States to compete in a wide variety of speaking events. While forensics typically refers to investigation, the term uniquely applies to the team's ability to dissect language and craft messages to perform on stage.

Students compete under four main categories: Limited Preparation, Public Address, Oral Interpretation of Literature and Parliamentary Debate. Students who compete in Limited Preparation perform Extemporaneous Speaking and Impromptu Speaking. Students who compete in Public Address perform After Dinner Speaking, Persuasive Speaking, Informative Speaking and Communication Analysis. Students interested in Oral Interpretation compete in Prose, Poetry, Program Oral Interpretation, Dramatic Dup and Single Interpretation of Drama. Students interested in Parliamentary Debate compete in groups of two, arguing either in favor of or opposed to a position and resolution.

The team travels across the nation during competition season (October through April). On the East Coast, most regularly scheduled tournaments are held between Massachusetts and Virginia and as far west as Pennsylvania. The team is directed by College of Communication and the Arts' Associate Professor of Communication, Catherine Zizik.

Mission Statement

The Brownson Speech Team fully supports Seton Hall University's mission to foster academic and ethical development of students and to prepare them to become leaders in their professional and community lives. The team flourishes as a competitive, academic, co-curricular activity dedicated to the advancement of logic, argumentative skills, advocacy, creativity, rhetorical excellence and performance artistry through undergraduate intercollegiate forensics. This enriching activity spans the growth of leadership, determination, hard work and effective communication. Further, this activity increases students' awareness and critical evaluation of current political, social, economic and cultural issues.

Highlights and Achievements

  • Team finished the 2017-18 season with approximately 310 awards, including 56 first place recognitions over 18 competitions.
  • Students ranked first overall in speech in the National Christian College Forensic Association National Tournament (March 2018). 
  • Co-captains, Jocelyn Rogalo and Jonathan Thow, each took home 15 first-place awards.
  • There were 12 students on the 2017-18 team, averaging a 3.68 GPA.

2018-19 Tournament Schedule

Fall 2018

October 6-7, 2018
Virginia is for Lovers Swing
George Mason University/James Madison University (Fairfax, VA)

October 13-14, 2018
Carolyn Keefe Invitational/SNAFU
West Chester University (West Chester, PA)

October 27-28, 2018
Ed Leonard Memorial/SNAFU
Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ)

November 17-18, 2018
SNAFU Charity Ball Swing
Duchess Community College (Poughkeepsie, NY)

December 1-2 2018
Off-Broadway Swing
Nassau Community College/Hofstra University (East Garden City, NY)

Spring 2019

January 12-13, 2019
Hell Froze Over Swing
University of Texas/Bradley University (Peoria, IL)

January 19-20, 2019
Richard J. Ernst Invitational/SNAFU
Northern Virginia Community College (Alexandria, VA)

January 26-27, 2019
University of North Carolina-Charlotte/SNAFU
University of North Carolina-Charlotte (Charlotte, NC)

February 2, 2019
New York/New Jersey Championships (Qualifier for Interstate Oratorical Association)
Nassau Community College (Garden City, NY)

February 9-10, 2019
Virginia is For Lovers Swing OR University of Center Florida Joust
University of North Florida (Orlando, FL)

February 23-24, 2019
West Chester University/SNAFU Swing
West Chester University (West Chester, PA)

March 1-3, 2019
AFA-NIET District 7 Qualifier
James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA)

April 5-9, 2019
AFA-NIET National Tournament
University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)

April 18-23, 2019
NFA National Tournament
School District of Santa Ana (Santa Ana, CA)

Interested in Becoming a Team Member?

The team is open to all full-time undergraduate students. All members must audition. The team additionally recruits high school students with a background in forensics. Most members receive a partial scholarship for active membership. If you would like to set up an audition, please contact the team's director, Professor Catherine Zizik at zizikcat@shu.edu.

Coaches' Corner

Sam Hopkins, Head Coach
Sean Hopkins, Head CoachSam Hopkins attended George Mason University for both his B.A. and M.A. in Communication. While there, he competed for and coached GMU's Forensics Team. Since 2014, he has taught communication at Seton Hall University and the Borough of Manhattan Community College during which he's also coached the Brownson Speech and Debate Team. Sam was recently appointed Head Coach in 2016.

Sam's Philosophy: "As a coach, I'm first and foremost an educator. I seek to teach students the skills of communication and oral interpretation, and hope to empower them to use their own voices to amplify messages they find important."

Erica Genabith, Assistant Coach
Erica GenabithErica Genabith is a Seton Hall University graduate (B.A. '14 and M.A. '17) who joined as an assistant coach to the Brownson Speech and Debate Team in Fall 2016. Despite never competing herself, she fell in love with the academic and artistic focus of the sport. An incredible learning experience for Erica, Brownson has helped her continuously grow as a coach and individual.

Erica's Philosophy: "A lot of my coaching and judging style is grounded in persuasion. The art of being a competitive speaker means persuading a judge that your topic is the most interesting, important, pressing, etc. As a result, I draw much of my style from Aristotle's modes of persuasion: ethos (ethics), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic)."

Student Testimonials

"Brownson is where I am intellectually and artistically fulfilled. Choosing to join this team was a move that took me outside of my comfort zone and let me explore the world around me."
Jocelyn Rogalo '19, co-captain, from New Jersey

"Brownson has taught me the power of oration and the rhetorical responsibility of communicating to an audience. Through my experiences on this team I have found the power in my voice and the magic of a narrative. This team is composed of passionate advocates and as a nursing student, I thrive in a community unabashed by empathy and expression."
Jonathan Thow '19, co-captain, from Vermont

"I decided to join the Brownson Speech and Debate team because it allows me to continue in an activity that has shaped me into the well-spoken advocate that I am today. Speech and debate is my home away from home, and the members are the siblings I have always wanted. I feel nothing but love and support within this organization, and I am truly thankful for the memories I have made."
Tehyah Carver '21, from Tennessee

"I chose to join the Brownson Speech and Debate team because it allowed me to continue to develop skills I had already begun in high school. The team has given me the chance to continue to enjoy the thrill of competition I had in Forensics and Future Business Leaders of America."
Jordan Shepherd '21, from Wisconsin

"Brownson is a place where I am able to not only express myself, but discover who I am as well. It is an outlet to expose myself to countless areas of interests. I am able to direct my passion toward a cause that needs a voice. It is truly an honor to speak on behalf of an author or an entire movement, and I thank Brownson for giving me the opportunity to do so."
Brian Sumereau, '21 from New Jersey

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