Barry McNamara  |   Published May 14, 2016

Speech! Speech!

Buel to direct national tournament, looks ahead to forensics season
  • Rebecca Buel has been appointed to serve as tournament director for the National Forensics Association’s national tournament.
Monmouth College’s Rebecca Buel has reached a summit in the forensics competition world, and she hopes it will pave the way for the Monmouth forensics team she directs to follow suit.

An instructor in the College’s communication studies department, Buel has been appointed to serve as tournament director for the National Forensics Association’s national tournament, which will be held next April in Eau Claire, Wis. She had served the previous two years as the event’s official tabulator.

“I am incredibly honored and excited about this opportunity and hope that it will yield increased visibility for Monmouth College and our team on the national forensics circuit,” said Buel, who joined Monmouth’s faculty two years ago and has directed local tournaments since 2010. “It’s a very large event, with 80 to 100 schools competing, and it will be a brand new challenge for me. I’m also excited about the service aspect and the opportunity to give back to a community that has given me so much.”

Buel competed in tournaments as an undergraduate student at Moorpark (Calif.) College. She finished her degree at UCLA, then returned to forensics while completing her master’s degree at the University of Northern Iowa. The team there had “fallen apart,” but Buel and other graduate assistants built it back up to 15-20 members, and UNI went on to place in the top 10 at nationals three years in a row.

Buel will have a front-row seat if Monmouth is able to return to the national top 10 next spring. The squad placed 10th among small schools in 2015, then missed out on that level by two points earlier this year. To qualify for nationals, a speaker must have advanced to the final round at a larger tournament during the season. Six Monmouth speakers made the field in 2015, and five qualified for the 2016 event.

Buel likes her team’s chances to return to the top 10 this year, as membership has climbed to 15-20 students. The team is led by returner Cole Downey ’17 of Geneva, Ill., an “immensely talented” speaker whose season was cut in half last year by a study-abroad semester.

Each team member has a weekly one-on-one session with Buel to practice their speeches, as well as two-hour “peer coaching” sessions every Thursday night.

“They work very well with each other, and those peer sessions have proven to be so valuable,” said Buel, who noted that five team members are already on campus to participate in the College’s Summer Opportunity for Intellectual Activity (SOFIA).

Monmouth’s first competition of the season will be Sept. 24-25 in Mankato, Minn., one of four fall events. In the spring, the team will build toward the state meet in March and then nationals the following month.

Competition at nationals is split by size into three divisions, but Monmouth faces colleges and universities of all sizes on the regular circuit, going head-to-head with such schools as Bradley University, Illinois State University and national champion Western Kentucky University.

“The caliber of competition in Illinois alone is very tough,” said Buel. “But that’s good for us. It helps us know where we stand as the national tournament approaches.”

However the season plays out, Buel will play a major role at the national tournament. She hopes her Monmouth team joins her to make it an even richer experience.
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