The School of Communication and Media, and the Department of Communication at Palm Beach Atlantic University initiated a speech and debate program, launched in 2018, in order to provide opportunities for students at the university to participate in intercollegiate activities, competitive events, and tournaments, including the annual FIFA (Florida Intercollegiate Forensics Association) tournament. Since its inception, PBA students in the class have won a number of awards.
It is quite simple for interested PBA students to join the speech and debate team because it is offered as a repeatable lab – COM 3041 – which is a one-credit course that can be taken up to six semesters. It is called Speech Performance and Debate. The lab course credits can go toward one’s Communication major or minor, as well as serve as elective credit hours for other majors. The class meets for one hour a week. Every semester is a little bit different, but we always do a variety of speech and debate activities together.
Speech and debate are for both individuals and teams. Debate is a team activity, while forensics involves individuals engaged in different types of speaking events. However, most forensics competitions also create team standings so overall winners can be determined. The more cohesive and committed the class, the better we all tend to do!
The amount of time spent outside the lab class itself really depends on the student. It depends on your abilities, motivation and level of interest. Participation in any worthwhile activity is time consuming. For those who are self-motivated, there is great potential to earn multiple awards through increased participation in events and tournaments. The professor works directly with the students in the class every semester to determine which events in which to participate.
In addition to preparation and participation in tournament activities, we also seek to demonstrate to other students the value of public speeches and debates on controversial policy issues by staging on-campus activities in both public speaking and competitive debate.
You do not need to be a seasoned speaker to join the course. All students are welcome. In fact, novices are encouraged to join and are already a regular part of the course. Among the goals of the program is for students to improve their communication skills over extended participation in the course. The more experience you gain, the more proficient you will become in a variety of speech and debate styles. In addition, students often find they’ve gained more confidence in their ability to voice concerns about issues of vital national concern.
Engagement in speech and debate activity is particularly valuable for those going on to graduate school. This is due to the high level of attention given in graduate education to independent research and problem-solving. Research is at the core of debate, as is the construction and defense of arguments, all of which are valuable skills to have when beginning graduate education of any kind. Public speaking, including both debate and forensics, also prepare you well for a wide variety of career pursuits. With a background such as that provided by involvement in debate and forensics as an undergraduate, you will be better prepared for advanced education than most of your contemporaries.
There are several different types of debate formats, including Lincoln-Douglas, Parliamentary, NDT and CEDA. Our lab has emphasized Parliamentary, though it is open to involvement in others, based on student interests. If you are not familiar with any debate style, that is okay as you can learn along the way. The debates and speech events in which students participate is an open, ongoing aspects of the course. That said, some of the independent speech events include, but are not limited to:
If you have any questions about the Speech Performance & Debate Lab, please contact Professor Joseph Sowers via email to Joseph_Sowers@pba.edu or at his campus office phone 561-803-2273.