Speech and debate opens year with resounding victory

Ta’Niyia Smith ’22

Ta’Niyia Smith ’22

University of the Pacific is primed for another successful year in speech and debate (forensics)—even with tournament format changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pacific hosted and won the first Northern California Forensics League tournament of the school year on Sept. 19. The university earned the team sweepstakes and championship awards in a virtual competition with nine four-year and nine two-year schools.

Steven Kalani Farias, director of forensics, said that, in addition to the top awards, Pacific students did well in debate and individual events against very strong competition.

The duo of Arshita Sandhiparthi ’22 and Gustavo Garcia ’22 took first place in open debate.

“Arshita and I really came together and worked well with one another,” Garcia said. “I had taken a year off, so it felt great to get back into the competition. Overall, it was a strong showing for the entire team and a good way to start the year.”

Individual event titles went to Ta’Niyia Smith ’22 in open informative speaking and Jane Hwang ’23 in novice programed oral interpretation.

Garcia also placed second in extemporaneous speaking and a third in impromptu speaking. Smith added a second place in impromptu speaking and fourth in extemporaneous speaking.

Among the teams Pacific competed against were San Francisco State, Illinois, Lewis and Clark, Sacramento State, Chico State, San Jose State, University of San Francisco and a number of community colleges, including San Joaquin Delta College.

Pacific’s rich history of speech and debate

Speech and debate has a rich history at Pacific. The first Debate and Oratory Society was formed in 1854, according to team history. In the 1920s, two fraternities got together to debate literature and events and the effort grew into a speech and debate organization.

“The team is one of the oldest organizations on campus,” Farias said.

He said the close-knit “family atmosphere” has led to many speech and debate competitors continuing their association with the university as employees or active alumni. Farias earned his undergraduate from Pacific in political science in 2009 and master’s degree from Pacific in communication in 2011.

“Many of our team members are very active and have strong feelings for and ties to Pacific,” he said.

Erika Jauregui ’18, a former speech and debate team member, recently started a new job as marketing coordinator for Benerd College.

“Speech and debate had a big impact on me,” Jauregui said. “It opens your mind to many different points of view and perspectives. Ultimately, it also helped me in job interviews by helping my confidence grow.”

Students interested in learning more about speech and debate (forensics) can contact Farias at


NCFA Tournament results (for Pacific)

Tournament Sweepstakes and Tournament Champions

Four-year school and overall championships


Champion, open debate: Arshita Sandhiparthi ’22 and Gustavo Garcia ’22

Semi-finalist, third overall: Marlu Reyes ’21 and Tierra Smithson ’22

Quarter-finalist, fifth overall: Paula Paez ’22 and Jonathan Reyes ’23

Individual Events

Champion, open informative speaking: Ta’Niyia Smith ’22

Champion, novice programmed oral interpretation: Jane Hwang ’23

2nd place, impromptu speaking: Smith

3rd place, impromptu speaking: Garcia

2nd place, extemporaneous speaking: Garcia

4th place, Extemporaneous Speaking: Smith

End of Year Awards (2019-20)

New Coach of the Year: Kelly Hutchison ’21, graduate assistant coach

National Parliamentary Debate Association Debater of the Year: Dominic Lesaca ’20

National Forensics Association Lincoln-Douglas Debater of the Year, Lesaca