Speech and Debate

Compete with excellence in a historic tradition.

Compete with excellence in a historic tradition.

Our award-winning Marian University speech and debate team competes against students from schools across the country, traveling to a dozen tournaments each year. Forensic tournaments can be compared to track and field meets, with participants competing in a variety of events ranging from dramatic interpretation and slam poetry to impromptu speaking and parliamentary debate.

And, yes, you read that correctly. We wrote "forensic." Although commonly associated with tests and techniques to solve crime, the term was actually coined by Aristotle and means "belonging to, used in, or suitable to courts or to public discussion and debate."

We have a winning culture.

National Champion
In Student Congress
Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, 2018
In the State
Indiana Forensic Association, 2013-18
In Pardivamentary Debate
Division I, Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, 2018
In the Nation
Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, 2018


  • Oprah Winfrey placed second in the nation in dramatic interpretation during her time competing in speech and debate.
  • Competitors in speech and debate have gone on to hold successful careers as Supreme Court Justices, actors, business executives, authors, and technology professionals.
  • Pi Kappa Delta, the oldest national collegiate forensic organization in the United States, was founded in 1911.
  • Forensics isn’t just about public speaking. Team members have opportunities to hone other skills including writing, research, emotional intelligence, organization, and audience analysis.

Scholarships are available.

Students who attend Marian University and compete on the speech and debate team are eligible for a talent award, typically worth $5,000 and renewable each year.

Apply online for the Speech Team Scholarship

How else will you be supported?

  • All materials and travel costs and are covered by the university.
  • Additional scholarships for tournament attire are available.

We emphasize academics.

We like to take home trophies, but we also want to support your academic success. That’s why the speech and debate team has a school-first philosophy. Additionally, you’ll have opportunities to receive credit for your participation on the team and/or take courses that overlap with the work you’re already doing for competition.

Courses related to speech and debate:
  • COM 101 Public Speaking*
  • COM 203 Forensics*
  • COM 223 Argumentation and Debate
  • COM 235 Oral Interpretation of Literature

* Speech and debate team participation counts as credit for these courses.

What is the number one skill most important to employers? Verbal communication.

In its Job Outlook 2016 annual report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveyed more than 200 large national employers, like IBM and Chevron. Here is what they found.

  1. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
  2. Ability to work in a team structure
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
  10. Ability to sell or influence others

Meet our coaches.

R. Kyle Kellam
R. Kyle Kellam, Ph.D.
Director of Forensics
"Dr. Kyle," as he’s known to his students, directed three different speech teams over the past decade before joining Marian University in 2012. He specializes in coaching interpretation events, afterdinner speaking, rhetorical criticism, and impromptu. As director of forensics, he is dedicated to building more outreach to area high schools and bringing speaking events to campus.
Michael Baumann
Michael Baumann, M.A.
Assistant Director of Forensics
"Professor B." has worked as a volunteer assistant with two other speech and debate programs before returning to his alma mater to coach and teach in 2018. He researches and teaches about professional and creative writing, new media, speech performance, and poetry, so it’s no wonder that his favorite events include interpretation, informative speaking, rhetorical criticism, and impromptu.
Drew Stewart
Drew Stewart, M.A.
Director of Debate
"Coach Drew" has been involved with forensics since high school and has coached teams in Tennessee and Florida before coming to Marian University in 2017. While he enjoys coaching all individual speech events, Coach Drew specializes in extemporaneous speaking and parliamentary debate. In just their first year in competition, he led Marian debaters to a fourth place finish at the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament.

For more information

Dr. Kyle Kellam
(317) 955-6048

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