Marlin Bates, Ph.D, has been the director of forensics since 2004. But his association with the team started earlier than that. As an undergraduate student at Pacific, Bates was a member of the team and was coached by Jon Schamber, Ph.D, a current faculty member in the Communication Department in the College of the Pacific.
Pacific Speech & Debate Team offers Educational Opportunities to StudentsNationally ranked team has rich tradition at Pacific
When Tim Kamermayer, a student at the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, hears an argument in class, he can have an answer composed before the other person finishes speaking, a skill he says learned by being on Pacific's speech and debate team.
"There's a lot of statistics and correlation that shows the top debaters in the country end up in the top law schools, because debate teaches you analytical skills and helps you focus on strategy and dissection of arguments," Kamermayer said. "I know it gave me an advantage in law school. In class, I can hear someone's argument and I can already be thinking of an answer before they finish the question."
Kamermayer currently serves as associate director of Pacific's Speech and Debate Team, a position that earned him a full scholarship to Pacific McGeorge. It also gave him a chance to work with one of the oldest speech and debate societies on the West Coast, one that is nationally ranked.
Founded on March 25, 1854, Pacific's team members currently rank in 5th and 23rd place out of the 552 NPDA (National Parliamentary Debate Association) teams. The team attracts 20 to 30 students each year from a wide-variety of majors, from communication to biology.
Speech and debate is more than just an extra-curricular activity, said Marlin Bates, Ph.D, director of forensics since 2004. It's a "co-curricular activity," one that enhances what students learn in the classroom, and teaches them management and critical-thinking skills.
It also provides students with travel opportunities that they normally would not have. "As an undergraduate competitor for Pacific, an assistant coach, and now as the director of forensics, I have traveled to 47 states and seven countries," Bates said. "It opens doors for the students that other programs may not, it fosters a rich education, exposes students to world cultures they may not otherwise have an opportunity to experience, and allows them to acquire lifelong skills."
Kathleen Bruce said that being an assistant coach for the team has given her invaluable time management skills as well as the opportunity to experience other cultures. It also kept her on top of her studies, she said, adding that when as a student debater, serving she had to know the name of every foreign leader in Europe. "You have to read news every day to stay current, as it keeps you engaged in the process," said Bruce, a communication graduate student. "The benefit of all the traveling the team does allows you to experience the cultures first hand, and not just read about them."
Many team members receive financial assistance for participating. Undergraduates are eligible for scholarships up to $12,500 per year. Graduate students who serve as coaches receive a scholarship that covers two years of tuition as well as a stipend. The scholarships and stipends have become a main attractor for some of the brightest students at Pacific, Bates said.
"Speech and debate was the reason I applied to Pacific," said Ashley Nuckels-Cuevas, who debated as a high school and undergraduate student, and this year joined Pacific as an assistant coach and communication graduate student. "Through the program, I have been able to find my voice, and a love for public speaking."
Those strengths will be in play at Pacific from Nov. 4 through Nov. 6, as Pacific hosts the "Pacific Meets the Delta Swing" collegiate tournament. Soon thereafter, the team will take their skills to Slovenia and to Venice, Italy, which will nicely package the experience of the competition, the travel and the education all in one trip, Bates said.
Pacific Speech and Debate welcomes donations that would go toward local and international travel. International competitions are four times more expensive for the team than domestic tournaments. If you are interested in donating, please contact Jimilynn Dorough.