Speech and Debate capitalizes on recruiting strategies as wins pile up

by Brittany Robb, copy editor

Simpson College Speech and Debate has prospective students from as far as Idaho deliberately looking into the college due to the success of its program. When recruiting potential new members to the Simpson community and team itself, members of the staff and team don’t limit themselves to the Midwest region.

Speech and Debate coach and professor Spencer Waugh spoke highly of his current team and the potential the program has in the near future.

“I will say that the first years we have right now are the first true result of the coordinated recruitment efforts and that is reflected in the quality” Waugh said. “They’re the first group we recruited (to Simpson) to be on the team.”

While some recruits don’t end up on the team itself, Waugh attests many new students ended up at Simpson based on interest in the program. While some interested new students did not find their place within the Speech and Debate team, most were able to find their niche among the diverse organization opportunities available at Simpson.

“We recruited about 40-45 of the first year class; speech and debate was part of why they came here, and of those about 20 ended up on the team, which is to be expected.” Waugh said. “Their financial aid package was not tied to specifically doing speech and debate and so some of them found their home in theater or in Simpson political activities.”

When developing and adapting the team and program, Waugh worked along with Dean Steve Griffith to take the necessary steps to set Simpson’s program in the forefront of college debate opportunities in the United States.

“The largest style of debate at the high school level currently is public forum debate. It was new in 2001 and the colleges have been slow to find a niche for that skill-set in the college programs,” Waugh explained. “When our program was formed four years ago and Dean Griffith and I spoke about it, we decided to target that group of students and so our flagship event is public forum debate and there are really only 20 programs in the country that do it well.”

While up to another 20-30 colleges have utilized the public forum debate category, there are a select few honing that skill-set the way Simpson has. A strong example of this is the success of the team at the Gorlok Gala Invitational this past weekend at Webster University in St. Louis.

“This (was) one of the largest tournaments we go to during the season. We have gone to this the past three years. They have a large public forum division and we’ve won it every time we’ve competed in it.” Two Simpson teams made it to the semi-final round of this category over the past weekend.

With the immense success of both the debate and speech sections of the team over the past weekend, Waugh and fellow coach Marty Feeney, whose focus is the speech aspect of the team, were in awe of their talented student competitors.

“Usually a speech and debate team this size will win 8-10 trophies per tournament and it’s a great season,” Feeney explained.

The comparison between that example and the success of Simpson’s team in just this portion of the season are in stark contrast as they’ve already won, “at West Virginia 35 trophies, at Butler University 22 trophies, at the Gorlok 26 trophies. For me, the bus trip back floats and floats, George Harrison plays the sitar and I am at perfect peace; it’s the craziest thing,” Feeney reflected.

The Speech and Debate team brought home 26 total awards from the Gorlok Gala and placed sixth out of 49 colleges and universities overall. The debate section of the team placed third out of the 49, a clamoring improvement over their seventh place win in 2014.

With success after success coming in for the team, it’s no wonder the recruitment strategies are following suit with increased numbers of interested applicants.

The strides are being made and even better results are yet to come. “This year our out-of-state numbers are significantly higher than they were last year at this point and our overall number of applications that include a speech and debate interest have already surpassed last year’s total at the end of the year and we’re just in last January right now,” Waugh said.