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  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."


"The speech and debate team at Marian has developed my public-speaking skills and has given me the confidence to use my voice and to advocate for others; however, the most important part of speech for me is the relationships. The team gathers an eclectic group of persons for the purpose of forming a team, and as we work, practice, and compete side-by-side, friendships form. We laugh together, learn from each other, and lean on one another."

Ruthann Gorrell '19

A Winning Culture

National Champions
Advocacy and Action
Informative Speaking
Reader's Theater
Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, 2019
Second in the Nation
Team Sweepstakes
Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, 2019
 Second in the State
Team Sweepstakes
Indiana Forensic Association, 2013-2019
Seventh in the Nation
Debate Sweepstakes
Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, 2019

Forensics Fast Facts*

  • 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.

*All facts are from the National Speech and Debate Association website.


Students who attend Marian University and compete on the speech and debate team are eligible for a talent award, typically worth $2,000 and renewable each year.

Apply 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.

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

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.


"From timing and pacing your articulated thoughts to learning how to get along with and support a diverse group of teammates, the communication skills I developed on the speech and debate team are transferable to any line of work. Maintaining relationships with company partners is a big part of my role at Canvas, and it’s important that I create a safe, trusting space for open collaboration and teamwork. In the workplace, I find myself channeling that same energy I did as a speaker and audience member on the team."

Amber Ferrari '15

Drew Stewart

Drew Stewart, M.A.
Director of Forensics 

"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 two years, he led Marian debaters to two Top 10 finishes at the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament.

Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann, Ph.D.
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.

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© 2021 Marian University
Notice of Nondiscrimination
Marian University does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, national origin, age or disabilities in the selection of administrative personnel, faculty and staff, and students.
*Placement rates are gathered from data collected from graduates within six months of graduation.

Students may make a complaint to the Indiana Commission of Higher Education.

Marian University is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana.

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