Forensics enhances presentation abilities and basic life-skills


by Jim North
Southeast Campus Editor

Nearly everyone can benefit from a little extra confidence. From better presentation skills, to the way one walks through a door, shakes a hand or looks another person in the eye—forensics is an exciting way to get that extra boost.

Donna Goodwin is associate professor of communications at Tulsa Community College (TCC), teaching classes in public speaking, interpersonal communications and forensics.

Forensics is a three-credit hour course held at both the Northeast Campus (NEC) and the Southeast Campus (SEC) on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

She also directs the forensics team, which travels three to four times per semester to compete in state and national competitions.

Events take place on the weekends, and students travel together. Expenses are paid-in-full by Student Life activities funds.

“We’re kind of like family. We really are a tight-knit group,” Goodwin says.

She says they enjoy, support and cheer for one another when they win, and cry together when they lose.

Goodwin defines the concept of forensics as dissecting a word and understanding what it means. Competitions divide into three categories of performance: acting, public speaking and debate.

In an acting event, students choose a 10-minute cut from a play, a poem or even a collection of poems to interpret, and then perform.

“You will tear apart in your mind what the author meant by those words and present it, using your face, your body and your voice, to make it come alive for an audience,” she says.

As opposed to a stage, forensics performances take place in the classroom before a small group of six or less, including a judge.

Goodwin says that at times performances are so moving, that audience members will laugh or cry as it is given.

“When you come out of there, you are moved. It’s emotional. It’s a great outlet for using your acting experience or just getting in touch with what the author [of the piece] meant,” she adds.

Public speaking events divide into informative, persuasive and after-dinner speeches.

Debates involve drawing topics 30 minutes in advance of the performance. It may be a topic about current, state or national events, such as politics. Other material could involve debating a simple metaphor or phrase, such as, “Elvis has left the building.”

Topics can be humorous, impromptu or extemporaneous styles. As opposed to debates, speeches are memorized in advance, then presented in 10 minutes or less.

The forensics team is comprised of young and old, experienced and non-experienced members. According to Goodwin, those who engage in forensics all have one thing in common.

“They want to learn more. They want to learn to be outgoing. It’s a lot of fun because you meet a lot of people and the experience you cannot get anywhere else.”

She says students compete against other schools across the nation.

Some students take the class only, while others major in communications with a forensics emphasis, a brand-new degree at TCC.

Those who enroll in forensics have the immediate benefit of a tuition waiver that covers the cost of six hours of classes, even unrelated to the genre.

Goodwin tells the story of a 42 year-old who came into her office after seeing the forensics advertisements in the hallway.

He wanted to know more, enjoyed acting, but was somewhat scared.

“He came in my first semester, stayed with me four years, competed every tournament … and had this outstanding voice,” she said.

“He had no idea what was going on, but he learned. He later became the assistant coach and is still involved.”

Niki Alderson is the forensics team coach, and has 31 years of experience.

Last year, venues included competitions in Oregon and North Carolina. This year, there will be a competition in Kentucky.

Generally, events are located in the immediate areas of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

Goodwin describes the type of students who want to learn forensics: those that want to learn to speak, those who want to learn to present themselves and those who want to have fun acting.

Outcomes vary from student to student.

“If you’re thinking about political science and becoming a lawyer, you need to join us. If you want to be a well-rounded student who has an edge on that interview for a job, you need to join us.”

She says the life applications for skills learned in forensics can be practical.

“You’re going to learn so many skills that will make you a cut above the other person who’s applying for that job,” she adds.

She encourages those who have an interest to get involved.

“Like I said, it’s fun. The students enjoy it, and it gets in your blood … TCC forensics offers the competition, as well as the class and the credit hours. All that’s missing is you.”

Goodwin concludes there is nothing that replaces the experience a student can get in forensics.

In March, TCC is hosting the Eastern Oklahoma National Forensics League Tournament.

For more information about the TCC forensics team, its competitions or classes, Goodwin can be contacted by e-mail: