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Sophomore Shines in Speech and Debate

May 25, 2016

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    Jacob Wisda

It’s been a very good year for sophomore Jacob Wisda, a member of Lewis & Clark’s highly competitive speech and debate team.

This season, his first at Lewis & Clark, he’s won five event championships and several individual awards, including the Coaches’ Commemorative Award for the top overall student in the Northwest Forensics Conference, which is composed of over 50 schools from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Utah.

Wisda’s speech events include persuasion, informative, impromptu, extemporaneous, communication analysis, and after-dinner speaking. He also competes in British parliamentary debate.

We sat down at Maggie’s to talk about his experience with the Lewis & Clark forensics program.

How did you first get started in speech and debate?

I had an English teacher who said she was looking for smug, argumentative, and subversive people who liked the sound of their own voice, and since I have all those qualities, I decided to join [laughs]. But seriously, I think forensics is awesome because it’s a great way to expand your boundaries. Unlike a sporting event, where if you lose, that’s it, I can lose a forensics round but still hear people speak on important issues involving policy, technology, and the world’s sociopolitical situation.

Why did you choose Lewis & Clark?

I’m a transfer student from the University of Oregon. I like to do both speech and debate, but the program at UO was just debate. Lewis & Clark’s program was a much better fit for me.

Which events are your favorites?

Informative and impromptu are my favorites, just in terms of how much I enjoy doing them. But after-dinner speeches can also be a blast to perform.

What’s been the key to your success this year?

It’s impossible to succeed without two main pillars sustaining your performance. First, you have to love what you do. If you’re in it just for an award or a trophy, you aren’t going to do as well. I’d say the other very big factor is attitude. It’s knowing how to work hard and keep a cool head when you’re competing.

What’s been your greatest challenge?

The biggest challenge is always balancing forensics with school. It’s just impossible to avoid making sacrifices, whether I have to miss some class time to go to a competition or skimp on studying to edit a speech. Everyone on the team has to deal with it. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of help along the way from my teammates and coaches.

How did you finish the year?

I spent a big chunk of April participating in the National Forensic Association national championship. I advanced to the quarterfinals in impromptu speaking, which I’m told is the best finish for a Lewis & Clark student at an individual events nationals since 2007.

What will you be doing during the off season?

Roughly a month after finals, I want to start researching next year’s topics. I don’t need to have anything concrete in front of me, just some general ideas of problems I’d like to write about or arguments I’d like to make. I’ll never fully divorce myself from speech and debate.

What would you like alumni to know about the program?

It’s an incredible program, both in terms of performance and the community it brings together. I’d certainly recommend it to any student who has the slightest interest in it. It’s enriched a lot of people’s lives—and it has the potential to enrich many more!

With such a dedicated group of students and coaches, it’s not surprising that Lewis & Clark’s speech and debate team has gained considerable respect within the forensics community. The program, which won a debate national championship in 2014, has maintained a high level of success this academic year. In addition to Wisda’s accomplishments, the debate team was ranked third in the nation by the National Parliamentary Debate Association, and Lewis & Clark was honored with a gold medal by the Northwest Forensics Conference for success in both speech and debate.

—by Sarah Bucknovitz CAS ’17

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