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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.

2019-20 Tournament Schedule

Fall 2019

September 13-15, 2019
Speech at the Beach Retreat 

September 28, 2019
East Coast Early Bird
Nassau Community College
East Garden City, NY             

October 5-6, 2019
Virginia is for Lovers Swing
George Mason/James Madison
Fairfax, VA (GMU)

October 5-6, 2019
Team Work Weekend
Seton Hall University
South Orange, NJ

October 12-13, 2019
Carolyn Keefe Invitational/SNAFU
West Chester University
West Chester, PA

October 19-20, 2019
Akron Swing
University of Akron
Akron, OH

November 9-10, 2019
SNAFU Charity Ball
Dutchess Community College
Poughkeepsie, NY

November 23-24, 2019
Ed Leonard Memorial/SNAFU
Seton Hall University
South Orange, NJ

December 7-8, 2019
Off-Broadway Swing
Nassau CC/Hofstra University
East Garden City, NY 

Spring 2020

January 11-12, 2020
Hell Froze Over Swing
Univ. of Texas/Bradley Univ.
Austin, TX

January 18-19, 2020
Queens College/SNAFU
Queens College
Queens, NY 

January 25-27, 2020
Charlotte, NC

February 1, 2020
NY/ NJ State Championships

February 8-9, 2020
Virginia is for Lovers Swing
George Mason/James Madison
Harrisonburg, VA

February 15-16, 2020
New England Regional Swing
Emerson College/Suffolk CC
Boston, MA  

February 22-23, 2020
Cornell Invitational/SNAFU
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

February 29 - March 1, 2020
AFA-NIET District 7 Qualifier
Seton Hall University
South Orange, NJ

March 21-22, 2020
National Speech Championship
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA

April 4-6, 2020
AFA-NIET National Tournament
Santa Ana School District
Santa Ana, CA

April 16-21, 2020
NFA National Tournament
Whitewater, WI

April 25-26, 2020
Interstate Oratorical Association

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

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