Erskine College, whose literary societies trained championship debaters in the 19th century, will sponsor a competitive speech and debate team beginning in the fall of 2022.
Stepping up to coach the new team is Erskine staff member and seminary student Morgan Roberts. She serves as Resident Director for three campus residence halls and is pursuing a Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Erskine Theological Seminary.
Roberts enjoys her work as Resident Director and has taken an interest in bringing students to Erskine. That interest, combined with her passion for debate, sparked an idea.
“I absolutely love competitive forensics,” she says. “I thought the addition of a debate program would help provide an avenue for non-student athletes to come to campus.”
The possibility of forming a forensics team at Erskine had been discussed about two years ago, according to Dean of Admissions Dr. Tim Rees.
Roberts was encouraged to turn her idea into a proposal outlining a plan to start a competitive speech and debate team at Erskine, and her proposal was approved by Erskine’s senior leadership team.
“When we began recruitment efforts with students involved in debate almost two years ago, I never thought we would be blessed to have someone working on our campus who had debate experience herself,” Rees says.
Roberts gained her experience with the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA).
“I participated in NCFCA for three years in high school, during which time I qualified to the regional level all three years and the national championship my senior year in both debate and speaking events,” she says.
She was not on a debate team during her college years. “Instead of joining a debate team in college, I chose to become a resident assistant (RA),” she says. The residence life program at her school had a strong leadership training component, and this attracted her. Resident assistants were not allowed to participate in programs like competitive debate which would require regular travel away from campus.
Roberts gained leadership skills in her residence life work, but she still loved forensics, so she kept her hand in. “I went back to my high school club to judge debate rounds and competitions when I was on college breaks,” she says.
Looking toward the upcoming year, she notes that 2022-23 will be “a ‘redshirt year’ similar to what football did the first year at Erskine.”
Describing what she believes the first year will be like for the fledgling team, Roberts says, “We will participate in two to three competitions during the year but will focus on creating a strong team dynamic and learning the college and speech debate world.”
According to the new coach, the team will need a total of 10 students in the fall, with a minimum of four who are new to the campus and six from the present student body. “It would be great to have as many as 15 to start, but 10 is our goal for the fall.”
Roberts is enthusiastic about what this foray into competitive debate could mean for Erskine students.
“I think this is an incredible opportunity for young people to learn to communicate well in today’s world, network with like-minded students, seek out internships and opportunities to further their education, and develop skills that will help them excel in grad school and careers,” she says.
“I envision this coming academic year as a time to create a strong group of students who take time to figure out what it looks like to communicate effectively for the glory of God.”
At top: Euphemian Hall, home of the Euphemian Literary Society. Below: Philomathean Hall, the oldest building on campus and home of the Philomathean Literary Society.