Reflections on Voice: Debate and Community Engagement

Dr. Daniel E. Schabot
Guest Editor
Visiting Assistant Professor, Pacific Lutheran University

Academic professionals, specifically forensics coaches, have a limited amount of time to complete tasks and engage students. Forensics provides significant positive benefits to those that choose to participate in it (Allen, Bekowitz, Hunt, & Lounden, 1999). However, communication educators often fail to promote these positives benefits to administrators, students, the community, and other interested publics. I believe building a unique team identity is a logical first step for team cohesiveness, identity, and recruiting (Schabot, 2013). In addition, activities that build positive narratives to promote the benefits of forensics and communication studies must utilized to provide a positive image to those publics.

Public relations professionals stress developing narrative human-interest stories to promote products, events, and organizational goals (Parcell, Lamme, & Cooley, 2011). To support those narratives clear facts and examples are an essential part. Extensive knowledge of an organization, their goals, and their community presence is used to build an appropriate factual story (Bremmer, 2014). Public relations is a process that many in the forensics community simply do not have time to engage in. Each of the authors in this issue discusses activities that both engage the community and allow students to apply communication skills. Christian Ivey uses open mic nights as a “venue” to promote forensics and dialogue. Amy Arellano explains how engagement in a prison debate program enhances student growth and builds skills for the participants. Jim Hanson addresses issues of public availability to build forensics communities. Pack-Jordan unpack the use of debate in small communities to engage students and communities alike. While not immediately speaking to issues related to Debate, Simmons, Wahl, and Spates expand on the areas where graduate students training can enhance the student experience, skills that are directly related to our engagements with graduate students who work with debate programs. These approaches provide a starting point with supportable narratives to engage interested publics to promote the positive benefits of applied communication studies.


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.

Bremner, S. (2014). Genres and Processes in the PR Industry: Behind the Scenes With an Intern Writer. International Journal Of Business Communication, 51(3), 259-278. doi:10.1177/2329488414525398

Parcell, L. M., Lamme, M. O., & Cooley, S. C. (2011). Learning from the Trades: Public Relations, Journalism, and News Release Writing, 1945-2000. American Journalism, 28(2), 81-111

Schabot, D. E. (2013), I'm a Fighting a Smelt: A Forensics Team is a Model Learning Community. Texas Speech Communication Journal Online, Spring 2013, Oak: Sage Publication.