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The Art of Forensics and Performance: Jocelyn Rogalo  

Photo of Jocelyn Rogalo accepting an awardUnfazed by the faces looking at her from across the room, Jocelyn Rogalo takes a breath and begins the speech she has practiced countless times. A co-captain of the Forensics Brownson Speech and Debate team, she knows her presentation and materials by heart.

Rogalo, a senior in the Visual and Sound Media program within the College of Communication and the Arts, has secured over fifteen first place competition wins in the 2018-19 forensics season alone. She performs nationwide in the categories of Poetry, Informative Speaking, Prose, Dramatic Interpretation, Persuasive Speaking and Program Oral Interpretation.

She has been a member of the team since her freshman year and regularly participates in practice sessions, mentors new members and collaborates with her coaches and Brownson team Director and Associate Professor of Communication Catherine Zizik to bring her speeches to life. In 2017, she was named the top speaker in both New Jersey and in New York.

While the 2018-19 season is still underway, we asked Rogalo what she enjoys most about the award-winning team and her "speech family."

This is your fourth year with the Team. What has been your favorite part?

Entering college, I knew I wanted to be involved in the creative arts. Through the Speech and Debate team, I've been so artistically and intellectually fulfilled. When we prepare our speeches and get ready for competitions, we do so much creative work mixed with research, intellectual and critical thinking.

No matter what category you are performing in, you use different creative elements to evoke emotion and apply rhetoric to help solve a problem or impact someone's mind. I never thought I could combine the two elements so well, but channeling those different parts of myself has been incredibly rewarding.

Tell me about the speech creation process – how do you craft a message that's not only impactful, but also informative and inspirational?

A big part of forensics isn't just about absorbing a beautiful piece of rhetoric; it's also understanding that the creative material is made for a reason. Our work intends to change the social dialogue, both during and outside of our performances. In fact, it's great to see how our speeches impact people outside of the forensics community.

I recently performed a piece on organ donation and this new medical advancement called "Heart in Box" that keeps an organ functioning as it's being transported. During a tournament, a nurse overheard my conversation and wanted to learn more about the technology since she worked with kidney dialysis patients! I was actually able to start that dialogue with strangers and keep the conversation going. In a way, you pass down the joy and love you've put into your piece with others.

What has been most surprising about your experience with the team?

Through doing speech, I've realized I want to continue creating works that are both intellectual and creative. With my Visual and Sound Media background, I'm currently interning for ABC's 7 On Your Side, a program that reviews consumer reports and conducts investigative reporting.

During my interview, I was able to reference my ability to conduct research and find new angles when presenting topics. Creating a speech from the ground up is very similar to pitching and producing a story for television. You need the same level of passion, enthusiasm and determination. I've been able to show the range of my skills and abilities beyond just the typical production reel.

For more information about the award-winning Brownson Speech and Debate team, please contact Director Catherine Zizik at

The author of this feature, Olivia Lason '17, is a Public Relations alumna from the College of Communication and the Arts currently working toward an M.A. in Public Relations.

Categories: Arts and Culture

For more information, please contact:

  • Danielle Clements
  • (973) 275-4831