Cal State LA Forensics Team broke records and set new standards

As Spring quarter subtlety passes its middle point and students dive into another round of due assignments, the Communication Department has broken the silence and reigned in the hallways.

The 2015-16 Cal State LA Forensics Team has brought home many “firsts” and Honors from two national tournaments: the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET) and the National Forensics Association (NFA). “This year the team broke several previous Cal State LA records at both tournaments,” said Dr. David Olsen, the chair of Communication Department.

They also received first place in the 2015-2016 school sweepstakes Presidents Division II at the NFA tournament. Each team member performs and their individual scores add up to be the total score for the team. The team with the highest score in the division wins.

The team consists of six members: Lane Schwager, Dorothy Garcia, Danielle Soibelman, Monica Roldan, Marilu Bustemante, and Alex Zhou. Everyone earned at least one qualification at the tournaments. District One (California, Nevada, Hawaii) Student Representative and Team Secretary Danielle Soibelman had the most qualifications, with six events (category) going to nationals. She was also re-elected as the District One Representative and will be serving for a second term next year.

Team captain and senior Lane Schwager qualified with five events for nationals and was the top speaker in District One this year. She was the first student in Cal State LA history to make it into the NFA finals, the first from California to break into After Dinner Speaker (ADS) final rounds since 2012 – addressing a contemporary social issue through humor in her piece “The Walk of Shame.” She was also the first from Cal State LA to break a prose (earn qualification) at AFA since 2003.

Schwager earned the fourth place in the nation for her ADS and was awarded the All American Award at the AFA Tournament for her excellence in competition, community service, and academic achievement.

“Forensics helped me find my voice,” said Schwager. “Over the last two years I believe the team has made me more confident, more aware of world issues and outside perspectives, but it has also prepared me for the days everything doesn’t quite go your way, how to deal with the little speed bumps the world puts in front of you, how to get over them and how to do it gracefully.”

Senior Dorothy Garcia, the team’s historian, qualified with three events. She made it to quarterfinals in two of her events, in prose and poetry. She was the first in Cal State LA history to break either a prose or poetry at NFA.

People used to say that one-minute on stage takes ten years of practice backstage. It might be a bit of exaggeration, but the message is clear. Good performance sure takes a lot of hard work.

Head coach Professor Geoffrey Brodaksilva expressed that the students were a lot more focused this year and very hardworking. “The [team members] are ultra-dedicated. Besides just being full-time students, they put in 20 to 40 hours a week on meeting with their coaches to practice their events (performance) and researching and writing at home. It’s a really involved process for someone.”

Professor Brodaksilva also emphasized that the most important thing in tournaments would be consistency. “Anyone could be amazing once, but that is not so much what was rewarded. You have to be consistently amazing for all the rounds you got qualified to compete in to win the championship. It’s all about consistency.”

Jackson Spencer, Speech and Debate coach and graduate Communication major, also expressed his favorite part of the season. “Watching [the students’] performances in the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds, I felt so happy that these students had the opportunity to share their message and use their voice as a tool of empowerment,” said Spencer. “They deserved this success so much. And I look forward to taking our next nationals squad to NFA to defend our first place title!”

“Coaches work their entire careers to see this kind of success,” said Holland Smith, also a coach for the team and graduate student. “When our senior walked up on stage to accept our first place in sweepstakes, Jackson and I sat there holding hands and crying. The entire nation gave a standing ovation. It was a surreal experience that I will never forget.”

The department, college, and Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) have also supported our Forensics Team tremendously. Professor Brodaksilva said usually the department and college fund the team’s expenses, but this year the student government funded a lot of the team’s travelling.

“We had really active student leadership this year to negotiate the bureaucracy,” Brodaksilva said. “And that investment meant a lot in terms of more convenient accommodations and better flight times. It was really encouraging for the students to know that their institution and student government were supporting them. It made a big difference.”

Congratulations would be an understatement for the team’s accomplishment this year, and we are definitely looking forward to its growth and developments in the future.

If you would like to know more about the Cal State LA Forensics Team, you may visit the Communication Department or KH C3102A. You may also join in the team by taking COMM 277 or COMM 377 next year.

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