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Brownson Debate Team 2018

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 2018-19 season with approximately 300 awards.
  • 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 10 students on the 2018-19 team.

Message from the teams Director of Forensics, Associate Professor Catherine Zizik, College of Communication and the Arts

Catherine Zizik"We do it for the love of the word and we do it for the messages of hope and change we hear!"

These are the reasons why our Brownson students across all colleges and staff are so dedicated to this amazing intercollegiate speech and debate activity. I am the prod director of the Brownson Speech and Debate Team. With over a 50-year history in policy debate, I founded the individual events team in 1985. Our small, but mighty team has earned over 11,000 awards since that time and our students continue to perform with grace and dignity in many different styles of competitive speech. These events include the performance of literature, platform public addresses, limited preparation current-event type speeches and debate. 

In a time when student advocacy is needed more than ever, and our words and actions change behaviors, this team serves as an extension of the classroom and cultivates articulate civic leaders. Our expert coaches help students to craft inspiring, thoughtful and relevant messages. Beyond the hundreds of awards earned each year, our students learn priceless skills that employers seek in any future hiring decision. Our students are equipped to take on the challenges of conflict and forge ahead with compassion and confidence. Let me know if you too want to learn more about our Pirate Speakers by contacting me at

Message from the Team's Captain, Brian Sumereau, class of 2021, Stillman School of Business

Brian SumereauCompeting as a member of this team is such a valuable experience, as it allows us to expand our critical thinking, argumentation and creative performance skills. Pirate speakers learn different styles and genres of communication and become proficient at public speaking, something which many students fear. Being able to participate on the Brownson Team was one of the main reasons I chose to come to Seton Hall, because I knew how intellectually stimulating and fulfilling this academic activity would be. Throughout my four years and now as captain, I have had the chance to compete against top-ranked schools from all around the country and have been able to advocate for issues and subject areas I care about. Now more than ever, advocacy is so important, and in this new normal where travel is limited and personal interactions are few, the messages we share can reach an even wider audience through virtual platforms. We now have the ability to rally worldwide support for great causes and spread messages that matter, which is increasing our awareness of international issues and shaping us to be future global leaders. I truly hope that the Brownson Team is able to continue this legacy of advocacy and eloquence in performance even after I graduate, and I know that this team's resiliency and dedicated staff, has prepared us all to handle any situation we encounter in the future.

2020-21 Tournament Schedule

Fall 2020

Sep. 12-13
IE on Teams Retreat
Seton Hall University

Sep. 25-26
Fran Tanner Open
College of Southern Idaho
Head Coach

Oct. 3
Virginia Fall swing part 1
James Madison University
Head Coach

Oct. 4
Virginia Fall swing part 2
George Mason University
Head Coach

Oct. 10
The Bulldog Open
Concordia Univeristy, NE
Head Coach

Oct. 11
Southern Northern Atlantic Forensics Union Fall Opener(SNAFU)
Northern Va. Comm. College
Head Coach

Oct. 17
BGSU Cyber Falcon
Bowling Green State University (OH)
Head Coach

Oct. 24-25
*Ed Leonard Memorial/SNAFU
Seton Hall University

Nov. 14-15
SNAFU Charity Ball
Dutchess Community College
Head Coach

Dec. 5-6
Off-Broadway Swing
Nassau CC/Hofstra University
Head Coach

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

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."

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