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Brownson Speech and Debate Team Wins  

Continuing the record-breaking success of last year, the Brownson Speech and Debate team won 20 awards in its first competition of the new season, including first place overall and best speaker.

The tournament took place in Fairfax, Virginia and was joint-hosted by James Madison and George Mason University.

Picture of Jonathan Thow and Jocelyn RogaloThe Seton Hall team, comprised of co-captains Jonathan Thow and Jocelyn Rogalo, competed against students from the University of Virginia, Cornell, Rice, the University of Akron, St. Joseph's, Marshall University and a number of others.

Thow, a nursing major, competed in eight events at the competition and took home awards ranging from first to fifth place in multiple rounds of persuasive, impromptu, dramatic duo interpretation and prose interpretation. He was also awarded best overall speaker of the competition.

Rogalo competed in seven events at the competition and was named champion speaker in both prose interpretation and in poetry interpretation. She also took first place in the dramatic duo interpretation with Thow and earned second place in informative speaking.

Although many of the tournament's accolades are awarded individually, they are won through a team effort, with coaches Sam Hopkins, Goyland Williams, Erica Genabith and Angela Kariotis lending support, polishing performance techniques, conducting research and assisting in fact checking.

Director of the team and Professor of Communication Catherine Zizik commented, "I can speak for all of us when I say we are proud of this accomplishment and the challenges these students have taken on." She said, "It's truly exemplary that they are able to soar in these distinguished competitions through their dedication to team and topic, while also mentoring eight new freshmen members."

Rogalo, a broadcasting and visual media major who also serves as News Director for WSOU, sees an intersect between her work with the debate team and other aspects of her academic and professional life – and firmly believes in the process of mentorship. "Last year I watched Siobhan McGirl '17 take her joy for public speaking and advocating and turn it into a career as an on-air personality for the CBS television affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia," she said. "The Brownson Speech and Debate Team and the dedication it requires to compete at a national level, shows you how important it is to advocate and the strength our voices have. Our coaches help us carry that into our day-to-day life and future careers. Our newest team members have already begun to realize this and incorporate it into their ambitions."

Thow also sees the skills developed in Brownson as foundational career-wise, but likewise notes the power of social justice advocacy. "The various speech events in which I compete have provided me with a platform for advocacy, and that has taught me that my voice matters and has power -- but there are responsibilities that come with that," said Thow. "If I have the ability to captivate an audience to the point that they decide to believe me, then I think I have a responsibility to use facts and highlight silenced experiences: simply put, to tell the stories of those who cannot speak for themselves."

In its second outing of the season, the team took second place overall at the West Chester Carolyn Keefe Invitational Forensics Tournament at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Highlights include Rogalo winning first place in Informative Speaking and second in Poetry Interpretation while Thow took first place in Persuasive Speaking. Aliezah Hulett, a freshman business administration major, took sixth place in Dramatic Interpretation.

For more information on the Brownson Speech and Debate Team or to get involved with the team, contact the Director, Prof. Catherine Zizik at Also, see the College of Communication and Arts for more details.

Categories: Arts and Culture

For more information, please contact:

  • Catherine Zizik
  • (862) 253-7886