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Suffolk’s Forensics Team Hosts Speech Tournament

“It has been three years, ten months, and twenty-seven days since the first time I saw you naked.”

Hook the listeners, captivate them, and make them curious. Close your little black book and introduce your tale, your program of poems. Open again and with each turn of the page, allow a new character to take your being, controlling your eclectic movements, enunciating your powerful words.

This is slam poetry, spoken word, an art of language.

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Members of Suffolk University’s forensics team

On October 24th, Suffolk University hosted the 37th Annual Suffolk Fall Classic Speech and Debate tournament, where ten universities from across the United States competed against one another for the chance to inform, inspire, and ignite.

The competition consisted of eleven sections, including individual speaking events, oral interpretation of literature, and debate. There were persuasive speeches, informative speeches, extemporaneous speeches, and drama performances. The Suffolk Fall Classic is the largest forensics tournament of this kind in the region.

This year, the event attracted three of the top forensics teams in the country: The University of Florida, George Mason University, and Bowling Green State University.

“I was amazed at the size of the tournament… To draw the big schools over to our little east coast region was just amazing,” said Forensics Director Jodi Nevola, “It was just a wonderful showcase of what Suffolk forensics is all about.”

As a first time competitor, it was truly incredible for me to compete against experienced speakers, those who can captivate your eyes, your ears, your mind, while combating social norms, speaking of drag kings, rape, immigration, and other such understated topics. I spoke in the poetry section, performing poems by Andrea Gibson (quoted above), John Zheng, and Alysia Harris. To bring their words to life was an incredible experience, and while I didn’t bring home any trophies, the anticipation for the next competition thrills me.

As Nevola put it, “We learned from watching some of the best in the country how to make ourselves better for the next tournament, and it was a major success.”

Suffolk’s forensics team of 13 active competitors has two more competitions this semester: one in Manchester, New Hampshire in mid-November, and another in Gainsville, Florida in December. In the spring, the team will have three more regional tournaments, followed by nationals in March, located at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

According to Nevola, competitive speaking began at Suffolk in the 1960s. Starting with just one-on-one debates, the program has become much more inclusive, with a category for every kind of speaker. Over the years, Suffolk’s team of speakers has grown and graduated, leaving a strong team of alumni that return each year to volunteer.

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Suffolk forensics team’s alumni being honored at the tournament on October 24th

“Without alumni, I can’t do this,” said Nevola, noting the necessity of having alumni judge tournaments as well as mentor current students. During this past tournament, Nevola recognized twelve returning alumni at the first alumni appreciation ceremony.

“It was just great for me to be able to say ‘you’re appreciated, and you’re an integral part of the process,’” said Nevola.

Looking forward, Nevola is looking to maintain numbers on the forensics team. “Recruiting is always a challenge,” she said, adding that her experience with the program and communications courses at Suffolk allow her to get in touch with students.

Nevola has been a speech coach at Suffolk for 19 years and director of the program for three years. As a coach, she meets with competitors to talk about their goals, which events they want to do, and helps them pick a topic or piece that will “showcase their abilities.”

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