IVC Speech and Debate Team took home several awards and placed third among community colleges at the International Forensics Association tournament. (students, l to r: Cody Herman, John Cho, Althea Gevero and Sarah Wilson)
In March, the IVC Speech and Debate Team competed abroad at
the International Forensics Association (IFA) tournament in Berlin, Germany, for
the first time. IVC placed third in team sweepstakes among community colleges,
and seventh place overall. IVC student Sarah Wilson brought home a first-place
trophy in Informative Speaking.
This is the first time IVC has competed in the IFA tournament,
which hosted 23 schools, including community colleges and universities from all
over the US. All four IVC students on the trip—Sarah Wilson, Althea Gevero,
Cody Herman, and John Cho—made it past the preliminaries and into the final
round of competition in multiple events, an impressive feat for the team.
“It’s always nice when you take people out and you get a
team break—which means everyone gets an award,” shared Bill Neesen, co-advisor
of IVC Speech and Debate. “That doesn’t happen all the time, and since it was
our first time attending this tournament, we didn’t really know what to
The International Forensics Association “promotes the diversity
of speech & debate competition in countries around the world by hosting an
annual tournament in alternating geographic locations.” In addition to
providing cultural opportunities for students outside of the competition, many
of its debate and speech topics are centered around current issues and trending
topics in those countries.
The IVC team and coaches generally know what to expect at
most speech and debate tournaments locally and nationally that they participate
in. Because the IFA tournament was a new experience for them, Neesen and Jules French, co-advisor of IVC Speech and Debate,
spoke with colleagues who had previously traveled there.
“The first thing we told our students is to be flexible at
this tournament,” said French. “We really don’t know how they structure the
speeches. So [we told them] just hear it in the round and adjust and pivot and
do what you need to do. It was definitely a learning experience for everybody.
They did very well; I’m very proud of them.”
Sarah Wilson has been a member of the Speech and Debate Team
for a little over a year. She was thrilled to learn she could travel
internationally for a tournament.
“I always wanted to go abroad,” said Sarah. “This was
actually my first time on a plane; first time leaving the country. It was just
an amazing opportunity for me. The second I heard about it I was like, ‘I want
to be on that trip! Tell me what I need to do.’”
Sarah was one of four students selected for the trip, and
received a first-place prize for Informative Speaking. Her topic was Project
Debater, an artificial intelligence technology that debates humans and helps
them develop their argument.
“In platform events, which is what [Sarah] won, you pick a
topic which is informative or persuasive,” Neesen said. “It’s a speech that you
have written word for word and memorized, which Sarah did—word for word.”
She spent months researching the topic and perfecting the
speech and her hard work paid off.
“My first draft was not good,” Sarah said, laughing. “It
meant a lot to me that I did well because it told me that my speech was finally
at a good place.”
Sarah received the first-place trophy for Informative Speaking
Opportunity to See
The trip was funded by the IVC Foundation fund for Speech
and Debate. Students and faculty participated in fundraising over the past few
years that covered students’ travel costs for this trip. For most students, it
wouldn’t have been possible to go otherwise.
“I made a decision when I took over this team that I didn’t
want to do any tournament that our students would have to pay for,” said French.
“It’s all fundraising. Any of the money that we spent on the [students] was money
that they worked this year and last year to get.”
In addition to the three-day tournament, the team spent a
few days sightseeing, visiting the Berlin Wall, Holocaust memorial, the German Spy
Museum Berlin, and the parliament building. They learned about history from
WWI, WWII, and the Cold War.
“Having this experience honestly meant a lot to me,” said
Sarah. “Traveling out of the country is a dream that I’ve had my entire life.
And there’s no way I would have been able to afford this trip if it wasn’t for
“This community is all about trying to help each other get
better,” she said. “Improving in debate has taught me a lot about taking
command of a space and of showing I am confident, even if I don’t necessarily
feel confident. It’s going to be nerve wracking at first, but if you can push
through that, it’s such as amazing experience to have.”
To learn more about the IVC Speech and Debate Team, visit
their website: http://www.ivc.edu/student/clubs/forensics/Pages/default.aspx
To donate to the team, visit their IVC Foundation fundraising
website here: https://foundation.ivc.edu/giving/debate