Some students at Rend Lake College have chosen to stand up and face a scenario more feared by adults than death itself. They are looking for others to join them on a team to compete in public speaking. It is the first Forensics Team to be formed at the college.
When one thinks of forensics, he or she may picture TV’s Gil Grissom examining a body for clues as he cracks the case on CSI. But there is another kind of forensics - the art or study of formal debate. RLC is now offering the latter.
Students looking to attend a college with a forensics team, or speech team, need look no further than RLC. Also, current students at the college can now join and put their public speaking skills to the test at tournaments throughout Illinois.
The team is being led by RLC Speech Instructor Elizabeth Bailey-Smith. She has been involved in competitive public speaking since she was in the sixth grade. Her skill in speech has taken her to competitions throughout her high school, college and current career. A former Director of Forensics at Murray State University, she now teaches public speaking, small group communication and interpersonal communication at RLC.
So far, five students make up the team. But a forensics team is more than comfortable with 10 to 12 members, Bailey-Smith said. Team meetings will be held every other week on campus and Bailey-Smith meets with members individually each week. The team has held a workshop on campus in which they learned the basics of being on a forensics team. Their first team meeting is tentatively scheduled for next week. After that, Bailey-Smith said she will be setting the tournament schedule.
There is no cost to join and it offers a good opportunity for participants to travel and meet interesting people. Possible tournament locations span the Midwest. She said her goal is for the team to compete at five tournaments and the national competition through the honors fraternity for two-year forensics, Phi Rho Pi.
The RLC Forensics Team is a full-year commitment. The first forensics tournament will be held in October and the season will continue until the spring. At the tournaments, team members are given their choice of public speaking, limited preparatory speaking or interpretive speaking.
She said it is exciting to be involved with the first Rend Lake College Forensics Team. According to her, forensics began with a type of speaking defined by Aristotle.
“It is, basically, courtroom speaking - speeches that argue the guilt or innocence of someone,” she said. “That is where we get the term 'forensics.'”
The team is not geared toward any particular major, she added.
“In the past, have had teams with photography majors and pre-med majors,” she said. “Anyone at all who likes public speaking can get involved. It also gives theater students another stage on which to perform.”
Although a knack for addressing a crowd or interest in public speaking are recommended attributes for participants, Bailey-Smith said she has had students on past forensics teams who seemed shy at first, but then busted out of their shells when they stood in front of an audience. She said those who compete in forensics are typically serious about their education, make good grades and are more knowledgeable about events on campus and in the community.
“Only one of the students I’ve recruited has any prior experience,” she said. “No experience is necessary, just the desire to do it.”
In addition to the boost in self-confidence, being on a forensics team develops lifelong relationships, according to Bailey-Smith. She said she still keeps in touch with her former teammates.
“Some of those people are my dearest friends,” she said. “It’s just another part of the college experience.”