Reflections on Voice: The Long-Term Benefits of Forensics

Christopher C. Collins
Manager of the HopKins Black Box Theater
Louisiana State University
Guest Editor, Special Issue on the Long-Term Benefits of Forensics

Educational outcomes beyond the collegiate experience are inferred in many research offerings within forensic journals, but not nearly enough work has been conducted in the area of forensic education to determine outcomes beyond undergraduate participation.

- Andrew C. Billings (2011, p. 111)

Copeland et al., (2015) write that there are various academic articles that discuss the educational benefits of forensics (see Allen, Berkowitz, Hunt, & Louden, 1999; Billings, 2011), however, the majority of work, “focuses mostly on the facets of competition and trophies.” Academic discussions on the benefits of forensics are not something new; however, academic journals rarely discuss the long-term skills provided by the activity. The goal of this special issue is to provide further justification for forensics programs at the individual, cultural, and institutional level by analyzing individual experiences in the activity over a decade later. The following essays valorize, critique, and provide insight into the structure of the forensics model while providing various examples of the long-term benefits of engaging in forensics. My hope is that both coaches and competitors at both the collegiate and high-school levels find value, accessibility, and insight into how the forensics model produces epistemic structures that benefit competitors long after their final round.

In the first essay, Bryan J. McCann articulates how the manifestation of significant social and political events can force epistemic ruptures that alter the purpose and construction of public address. McCann notes how these alterations, in thought and analyses, are useful long after the completion of the individual event. Javon Johnson articulates the value of friendship, community, and the fostering of “black homespace” in the face of the ideological structure produced by forensic competition. The network provided by the creation of “black homespace” provides an ongoing and lasting dialogue among members and speaks back to the institutional concerns, at both internal and external level, of the forensics paradigm. Bonny McDonald discusses her transformative experience performing about race and racial segregation in the south, particularly the challenges of ethically performing race and representation in the move toward dialogic engagement. Jake Simmons discusses his experience at a religious university and how literature and forensics provided an epistemic break that allowed him to seek new pathways and mentors who altered the course of his academic future. Finally, Alison Fisher Bodkin and Ben Gaddis provide tools for negotiating the competitive forensics terrain, while at the same time, offering insight into the long-term lessons provided by the rules and regulations found in forensics minutia.

My hope is that the essays in this special issue serve as instructive models for how to approach forensics competition, while at the same time, offering arguments about the long-term benefits of engaging in the act. It is a common saying for those who competed or coached that “forensics changed my life,” and I believe the following essays point to how those changes manifest and continue to inform each scholar long after the competition has ended.


Allen, M., Berkowitz, S., Hunt, S., & Louden, A. (1999). “A meta-analysis of the impact of forensics and communication education on critical thinking.” Communication Education, 48.1, 18-30.

Billings, A. C. (2011). “And in the end . . .: Reflections on individual events forensic participation.” Argumentation and Advocacy, 48, 111-122.

Copeland, K., Stutzman, J., & Collins, S. (2015). “Connecting forensics and assessment in the twenty-first century.” Communication Studies, 66. 4, 474-486