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Brownson Speech and Debate Ranks Within Top Ten in National Competitions  

Brownson Speech and Debate Team at the Finals

Brownson placed ninth for Team Sweepstakes at the National Forensics Association's Championship.

Brownson Forensics Speech and Debate Team placed in the top 10 at each of the four national competitions that wrapped the competition season.

Based in College of Communication and the Arts, the team rose to meet and exceed challenges posed by virtual and asynchronous competition under the direction of Sam Ohrenberger-Hopkins, M.A., head coach and lecturer of communication, and Catherine Zizik, M.F.A., founding director of forensics and associate professor of communication.

"Logistical, financial and health concerns hovered over us. But despite the adversities, the Brownson students excelled tremendously," Zizik said. "Brownson truly embodies the plan of our University to harvest our treasures as the students use their hard work and talent to deliver messages of diversity, equity and inclusion across the country."

At the National Forensics Association's Championship on April 16-19, the team placed ninth in the nation and fourth in President's 1 Division. All attending team members earned national awards for a total of 21 national awards, including a third-place performance by freshman Safa Shaikh in Novice Impromptu.

Senior and team captain Brian Sumereau and sophomore Daniel O'Connor represented New Jersey the following weekend as the state's top two collegiate speakers at the Interstate Oratorical Association National Contest, the oldest competitive speech competition. O'Connor placed second in the nation for his address "A Prison Within Prison, the Incarceration of the Deaf." These two students will also have their orations published in the book Winning Orations of 2021.

"I'm incredibly honored to be able to spread my messages through competitive speech," O'Connor said. "Brownson and CommArts have given me this amazing opportunity to compete in an activity that allows me to improve myself academically and empowers me to make real change in the world. The awards are nice, but it's the advocacy that matters."

The team also had some notable victories in the earlier national competitions. At the National Speech Championship in March, the Seton Hall speakers finished sixth place in the nation and competed in 20 quarterfinals, 14 semi-finals and five final rounds. Shaikh was crowned national champion of Interviewing, earning her a paid summer internship with the 180 Group. With only two students per event per team permitted to compete, junior Emily Feazel and freshman Olivia McCue earned sixth place in Dramatic Duo, junior Dana Bell took fifth in Prose and junior Sean Keegan earned second place in Extemporaneous Speaking at this national tournament.

At the American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament on April 2-5, Seton Hall finished tenth out of the 67 schools attending this distinguished national invitational competition. The team also saw nine quarterfinal positions and a third-place finish by O'Connor in Persuasive Speaking. Sumereau was named to the 2021 American Forensics Association's All-American Team, an honor awarded to a handful of seniors across the country who exhibit high scholastic achievement, dedication to community service and excellence in competitive speech.

"It is such an honor to have been captain of such an incredible team, and to be named an All-American speaker at the national competition. This team and this activity mean the world to me, and I am so thankful to have been involved for the last four years," said Sumereau.

"Forensics is not only academically challenging and enriching, but it fosters important dialogues and creates a close-knit community of activists and performers who help one another grow to be the best versions of themselves. It has been an incredible journey, and I look forward to continuing my involvement in the role of coach and judge for this activity going forward," he said.

Zizik said she and the team were grateful for Brownson alumni Siobhan McGirl, Jocelyn Rogalo, Jon Thow, Joseph Ferris and Chris Fielder who provided support and coaching to the students this season.

Categories: Arts and Culture , Nation and World

For more information, please contact:

  • Catherine Zizik
  • (862) 253-7886