LFS wins a National Championship at NFA!

by John Boyer

EAU CLAIRE, WI – In April, 5 members (Chris Mayer, Saeed Malami, Meredith Randall, Aaron Walker, and Luke Yamulla) of the Lafayette Forensics Society travelled to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for the National Forensics Association’s Championship Tournament.  Three of our events advanced to the elimination rounds in their respective events.  Saeed Malami advanced to the final round in novice Dramatic Interpretation.  He finished first in the final round and was named national champion in novice DI!  Saeed Malami was also an octofinalist (top 48 in the nation) in After Dinner Speaking.  Luke Yamulla advanced to the finals of novice Extemporaneous Speaking, where he took 5th place.

This marked the inaugural year for the novice division at the NFA Championships.  The category was a resounding success and Lafayette is proud to have one our students named as an inaugural national champion!  On the strength of these performances, the Lafayette Forensics Society placed 5th place as a team in Division III.

Director of Forensics, Scott Placke had this to say: “Lafayette College continues to excel at Forensics on a national scale.”

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LFS has a BIG Finish at the National Speech Championship!

by Scott Placke

EVANSTON, IL – On March 25 and 26, 5 members (Yazmin Baptiste, Chris Mayer, Saeed Malami, Jennie Richardson, and Aaron Walker) of the Lafayette Forensics Society travelled to the National Speech Championship at Northwestern University.  Four out of the five students, in seven events, advanced to the elimination rounds.  Three of those seven events advanced all the way to the final round!  Lafayette has never had more than one finalist at a national tournament, and this year the team had three!

The full results are as follows:

Yazmin Baptiste: Poetry – Quarterfinalist
Chris Mayer: Extemporaneous – Semifinalist; Impromptu – Quarterfinalist
Saeed Malami: After Dinner Speaking – 4th place; Dramatic Interpretation – 6th place
Aaron Walker: Extemporaneous – Quarterfinalist; Impromptu – 6th place

This marked the inaugural year for the National Speech Championship.  Twenty six teams from around the country attended.  It is an honor to be recognized along side of some of the very best in the nation. Next year the tournament will be held at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Director of Forensics, Scott Placke had this to say: “Lafayette had a really great weekend.  I am very proud of these guys.  This was a difficult competition with a truly national draw.  As always, I am excited to see what they do next.”

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LFS Places 2nd at State Championship!

by Scott Placke

Top Row (L to R): Luke Yamulla, Aaron Walker, Daniel Gonzalez, Scott Placke, Chris Mayer, Kaitlin Kinsella, Saeed Malami
Bottom Row (L to R): Yazmin Baptiste, Olivia Coughlin, Emily Boyle, Jennie Richardson

WEST CHESTER, PA – On February 18-19, the Lafayette Forensics Society attended the Pennsylvania Forensics Association’s annual championship tournament.  Lafayette placed second as a team over all and earned three state championships in Dramatic Interpretation, Impromptu Speaking, and Poetry Interpretation. Ten students, Director of Forensics Scott Placke, and alumni Beth Wehler attended the competition.  The tournament was hosted by West Chester University.

Coach and Director, Scott Placke said, “I am extremely proud of these students. They worked really hard and have built a strong team spirit. They make every tournament fun. Many of them are first year competitors and I can’t wait to see what they do next!”

Here is a list of the awards that Lafayette took home from the competition:

After Dinner Speaking – Saeed Malami – 4th
Dramatic Interpretation – Olivia Coughlin – 1st; Saeed Malami – 5th
Dramatic Duo Interpretation – Yazmin Baptiste / Olivia Coughlin – 2nd
Extemporaneous Speaking – Aaron Walker – 3rd; Chris Mayer – 4th
Impromptu Speaking – Aaron Walker – 1st
Informative Speaking – Kaitlin Kinsella – 5th
Persuasive Speaking – Kaitlin Kinsella – 6th
Poetry Interpretation – Yazmin Baptiste – 1st ; Daniel Gonzalez – 6th
Prose Interpretation – Yazmin Baptiste – 3rd; Olivia Coughlin – 4th

Seven schools attended the competition including: Saint Joseph’s University, Penn. State University, Wilkes University, Cedar Crest College, Luzerne Community College, West Chester University, and Lafayette College

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Ryan Benjamin (’10) Featured on Lafayette Website

Catch up with Ryan Benjamin (’10) as he talks about his time at Lafayette and in the professional world with Moody’s Analytics.   Congrats Ryan!



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Vanessa Milan wins the Inaugural Pi Kappa Delta Award

by Kimberlee Runnion

EASTON, PA – This year, we are introducing a new award among our own team: the Pi Kappa Delta award. This award recognizes a member of the Lafayette College Forensics Society who best embodies the spirit of Pi Kappa Delta through a balance of competitive success, academic excellence, team mentorship, dedication to service and community, and commitment to building and maintaining a positive team environment. We are thrilled to announce the first recipient of the Pi Kappa Delta Award: our Supreme Overlord, Vanessa Milan ’16.

Vanessa is a Government & Law and English double major, with an inexplicable passion for art history. She is reluctantly graduating this May but is excited to begin a new adventure at Temple University Beasley School of Law in the fall to pursue a career in immigration or constitutional law, or both. Although her favorite activity is debate, Vanessa also enjoys completing research as an EXCEL Scholar, representing the student body on the Board of Trustees Committee on Educational Policy, and working as President of the Kirby Government and Law Society. Vanessa is best known for her unique laugh and for watching too much Shark Tank.

Here’s what Vanessa’s teammates have to say about her:

“I think Vanessa shows the most dedication to the team and compassion/care for its members as well as the most genuine joy for the activity.”

“I vote Vanessa because she always has a positive attitude and is incredibly dedicated to forensics, even when she gets called too liberal.”

“I am voting for Vanessa because of her dedication to the team, not only as President but also as a member who helps promote a welcoming and inclusive environment. As a graduating senior, she has served as a great role model and mentor and through recent fundraising activities has showed a dedication to service and the greater Easton community.”

“ She’s been impressive at balancing the activity with academic (and planning for her future) life, she’s done a ton of outreach to make the freshmen feel welcome, and she’s been very successful competitively to boot.”

“Vanessa cares for others. With a quick smile and a blurt of laughter, Vanessa can shoo away the blues. She has a quiet leadership that many would not even notice. Yet there’s Vanessa… right in the thick of everything lending her voice to truth. An ability to make a decision is an important trait for a leader. Vanessa can do this. Even more critical, though, is a willingness to reconsider that decision after stepping away from the situation’s immediacy. Vanessa has this humility. I cannot think of a better or more fitting person to be the first recipient of the Pi Kappa Delta Team Award.”

Vanessa Horse

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Announcing the Pi Kappa Delta Award


by Kimberlee Runnion

EASTON, PA – “The art of persuasion, beautiful and just.” That is the motto of the oldest public speaking honorary in the United States: Pi Kappa Delta. Every individual on our team is a member of this organization, and each one of us, no matter what event we compete in, practices the art of persuasion. In forensics, language and form is beautiful in both sound and intent.

As members of Pi Kappa Delta, we are encouraged and empowered to use our voices as advocates for justice. Membership in this organization goes beyond competition. Competing in forensics is about communicating with others and building relationships with a community. While we receive honors for competitive excellence, we also share in fellowship and opportunity to strengthen and shape the communities we inhabit.

This year, we are introducing a new award among our own team: the Pi Kappa Delta award. This award recognizes a member of the Lafayette College Forensics Society who best embodies the spirit of Pi Kappa Delta through a balance of competitive success, academic excellence, team mentorship, dedication to service and community, and commitment to building and maintaining a positive team environment. When we gather for our end-of-the year celebration this Thursday, we’ll be presenting this award. Check back to see who our team members and coaches believe best embodies “the art of persuasion, beautiful and just.”

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Lafayette Forensics Society finishes in the top 5 again!


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by Elaine Huang (’19)

MUNCIE, IN – After an entire academic year of writing and delivering speeches, perfecting performances, and accumulating research, the Lafayette Forensics Society ended their competitive season at the National Forensic Association’s championship tournament.  Hosted this year by Ball State University, the tournament featured 80 colleges and universities from around the nation.  Seven students qualified and accompanied the three coaches and one alumni volunteer to the prestigious tournament.

In debate, Seniors Vanessa Milan and Joseph Rothschild qualified for the elimination rounds with 4-2 records.  First-year competitor, Elaine Huang, narrowly missed with a 3-3 record in her first nationals.  Vanessa Milan advanced to the octofinal (final 16) after defeating Truman State University’s Dillon Laaker.  In the octofinals, Milan ended her fantastic career against Western Kentucky University’s Damon Brown.  Brown would go on to finish second in the entire tournament.  Joseph Rothschild advanced to the quarterfinal round (final 8).  Joseph defeated students from Western Kentucky University and Truman State University.  In the quarterfinals, Rothschild fell on a 2-1 decision to the eventual national champion, Alex Glanzman from Kansas City Kansas Community College.  These results were enough to place Lafayette in 4th place as a team in debate sweepstakes.  This is the fourth year in a row that Lafayette has placed in the top 5 and the 9th year in the top 10.  With only three students entered in debate, this is an amazing accomplishment for the team considering that the first and second placed teams had 8 and 14 entries respectively.

Five students participated in speech events at the national tournament.  Cassidy Reller (’16) and Vanessa Milan (’16) joined Aaron Walker (’18), Fayola Fair (’19), and Michael Wellnitz (’19) as qualifiers.  Despite not advancing any students to the elimination rounds, a couple of near misses and strong performances were enough to place Lafayette 5th in Division III team sweepstakes.

The students weren’t the only ones to win awards, Assistant Director John Boyer, was inducted into the National Forensic Association’s Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame considers three primary criteria for inclusion, competitive success, contributions to forensics, and contributions as a professional.  John competed at Otterbein College from 1997-2000 and has excelled as a coach at Lafayette and has made countless contributions to collegiate forensics.  He currently serves as a member of the NFA National Council as the Chair of NFA-LD Debate.  20 individuals were nominated this year and John was one of six to be inducted.  It is one of the highest honors that a coach can receive and the team is very proud.

Lafayette Forensics Society will return in the fall to welcome a brand new crop of students at the fall retreat in September!

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Lafayette wins awards at Pi Kappa Delta Nationals

by Elaine Huang (’19)

LEXINGTON, KY — The dedicated Lafayette Leopards started off their spring break like they do so many other weekends — at a speech and debate tournament.  Elaine Huang (’19), Aaron Walker (’18), Kaitlin Kinsella (’17), Cassidy Reller (’16), and Vanessa Milan (’16) flew to Lexington, KY to compete at the bi-annual Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament hosted by the University of Kentucky.  The team spent four exhausting, but meaningful days debating and speaking eloquently.

In addition to their usual events, the entire team tried out the Interviewing event.  After preparing resumes and spending time as an interviewer and interviewee, Kaitlin Kinsella finished in the top 30% and earned an Excellent award.  Moreover, Aaron Walker and Cassidy Reller were both quarterfinalists in impromptu speaking.  Cassidy was also a quarterfinalist in Persuasion and advanced to the final round of Editorial Impromptu, where he finished 4th place in the nation!

As always, food was an important part of the trip, and the celebratory Mongolian BBQ did not disappoint.  There was one other event on the weekend — team prepared to return to Philadelphia with a new obsession — Sherlock Holmes!  There is only one more tournament on the calendar.  The team is getting ready to compete at one more post-season tournament, NFA’s Championship Tournament at Ball State University in mid-April.  Wish us luck!

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Lafayette Wins Hillsdale Invitational

Team with Sajak

by Elaine Huang

HILLSDALE, MI – This past weekend, three Lafayette debaters and two coaches made the 10 hour trip to Hillsdale, Michigan to participate in the inaugural Richard M. Weaver Invitational at Hillsdale College.  Vanessa Milan (’16), Elaine Huang (’19), and Sarah Pungitore (’19) bravely endured the trip.  Despite being terrified by the coaches that they would be staying in cabins with communal showers, the team enjoyed the eclectic experience.  The campus was littered with statues and paintings of people from Margaret Thatcher to Pat Sajak.

At the tournament, the team faced off against The Ohio State University, Clarion University, John Carroll University, Central Michigan University, and the hosts from Hillsdale.  After four preliminary rounds, Vanessa (3 wins-1 loss) and Sarah (2-2) advanced to quarterfinals. Unfortunately, both Sarah and Vanessa dropped to their opponents from Hillsdale and The Ohio State University.  Sarah Pungitore was also named the 5th place speaker and top novice at the tournament.  Elaine Huang (2-2) was the 6th place speaker and the 2nd best novice debater at the tournament.  Collectively, the team placed 1st overall in team sweepstakes.  Tim Polelle from Hillsdale College was the individual champion in debate.

Up next – Sarah Pungitore and Fayola Fair (’19) represent Lafayette College at the Novice National tournament at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

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Lafayette Wins Two State Championships

2016 Lafayette Forensics Society

by Vanessa Milan

EASTON, PA – This weekend the Lafayette College Forensics Society hosted the Pennsylvania State Forensics Association Championship Tournament. Pardee Hall was packed with competitors from Penn State University, West Chester University, St. Joseph’s University, Wilkes University, and Bloomsburg University competing in a variety of speech events and parliamentary debate. As always, Lafayette competitors demonstrated their dedication to Forensics in every way they could—from wild warm-ups to passionate and intellectual speeches.

At the conclusion of the tournament, every member of the Lafayette Forensics Society left wearing at least one medal—including two state championship medals. Kaitlin Kinsella (’17) was named state champion in rhetorical criticism for her speech on a photography project in New York City. Michael Wellnitz (’19) was named state champion in informative speaking for his speech on transparent solar panels. Fayola Fair (’19) and Aaron Walker (’18) were runner-up finishers in poetry interpretation and extemporaneous speaking respectively. As a team, the Lafayette Forensics Society finished 3rd in the state of Pennsylvania. In addition to his competitive success, Aaron Walker was elected as one of the two student representatives for the state.

Director of Forensics and President of the Pennsylvania Forensics Association, Scott Placke, remarked that the state tournament is one of the most rewarding tournaments every year because it is experienced as a Lafayette Forensics Society family. With so many alumni returning to judge, it was heart-warming to see multiple generations of Lafayette Forensics laughing together and sharing their love of forensics. The Lafayette Forensics Society is thankful for their contributions to the tournament and to the team. Alumni judges included Erik Heins, Jen Rusak, Nicholas Moore, Mark Kokoska, Rachel Heron, Elizabeth Wehler, Samuel Derrick, Ryan Benjamin, Teevrat Garg, Joseph Dudek, and James Hilbert.

One of the best things about hosting the state tournament is the opportunity to showcase forensics for the college. Several staff and faculty members also donated their time to act as judges for the tournament. Lafayette Forensics Society would like to extend a special thanks to the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, Alex Hendrickson, Professor of Economics, James DeVault, and Professor of Economics, Rose Marie Bukics. The contributions of the host community at any forensics tournament enriches the educational and co-curricular experience.

The Lafayette Forensics Society travels to Hillsdale College in Michigan for their last invitational of the year in early March. After that, the team will travel to various national tournaments in March and April.

Full results

Cassidy Reller ’16 – 3rd in Extemporaneous Speaking, 3rd in Persuasion, and 3rd in Rhetorical Criticism

Vanessa Milan ’16 – 6th in Persuasion

Kaitlin Kinsella ’17 – 1st Place in Rhetorical Criticism and 3rd in Duo Interpretation (Walker)

Aaron Walker ’18 – 3rd in Extemporaneous Speaking, 2nd in Impromptu Speaking, and 3rd in Duo Interpretation (Kinsella)

Fayola Fair ’19 – 2nd in Poetry Interpretation and 3rd in Impromptu Speaking

Michael Wellnitz ’19 – 1st in Informative Speaking and 5th in Persuasion

Sarah Pungitore ’19 – 4th in Extemporaneous Speaking

3rd place – Team Sweepstakes

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