UIS Forensics team prepares for 2015-2016 year

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John Kurecki, Staff Writer

Revived only a few years ago after a period of absence, the UIS Forensics team will be competing again this year – its fifth straight year in operation.

Forensics, for those minds immediately jumping to television dramas, is a speech and debate competition. The UIS team will travel to 14 events this academic year, ranging from the University of Indianapolis to a Halloween performance at Illinois State University.

The team is coached by Nicole Overcash, an instructor with the CAP Honors Program. Prior to the UIS team’s hiatus, Overcash was a student competitor with the team for two years between 2002 and 2004.

Reflecting on those years, she said, “It was amazing. It was such a vital part of my undergrad experience…I did kind of everything; I loved duo, which is where you have a scene with a partner and act together.”

Five years ago, a student in the CAP program pushed to have the program return, and Overcash was chosen as the coach. On leading the team which was so formative during her undergraduate experience, she said, “I love it. I feel like I still get to experience this thing that was so important to me. The students are hilarious, they don’t make it feel like work. They allow me to continue to do this thing I love and they put in so much time to prepare these events and compete.”

Forensics competitions are divided up into a large subset of events. Each member of the team is asked to prepare for at least two events, but they can elect to take on a larger role if they choose. The events are broken up into categories including public address, limited preparation, interpretive, and parliamentary debate.

Overcash is particularly excited about the challenge of the “growing” parliamentary debate program. “We have a really strong team in terms of the individual events, and we are continuing to grow the debate side.”

Sophomore Simon Andrews, one of the newer members of the team, won last year’s national championship for Editorial Impromptu, which has competitors reading an editorial and analyzing its contents.

According to Andrews, “Many of my peers attempted to discuss the factual accuracy of the arguments, often arriving at a black-and-white interpretation of the text as true or false. My innovation was addressing the article rhetorically as well as factually to ascertain if the structure of the editorial was well-developed.”

Despite his successes, Andrews declared that “Failure is undoubtedly the universal constant of forensics; precious few people I have known in my career have been able to consistently win their respective events.”

Andrews also described his feelings about the event as a whole, claiming, “It is a brilliant, intoxicating affair that is deeply informative to my development as a person; I would definitely not be the same person without it.”

Given the competition’s demand of a student’s speaking ability, it has quite the positive effect on their lives outside of forensics as well. According to Andrews, “We must examine our words carefully, consider why we and how we speak. These exercises make us more fluent English speakers because we have a fuller understanding of our own language…it really is a beautiful effort that has touched every aspect of my life from what I say to the way I think.”

Overcash shares these feelings, and said, “I think, aside from just improving public skills in general, which are a huge, important skill…they are able to think on their feet and think critically about ideas, which is such an important skill no matter where they end up going, and they are strong listeners.”