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University of Wisconsin–Madison Forensics Team


University of Wisconsin–Madison Forensics Team

University of Wisconsin–Madison Forensics Team
About the Team
University: University of Wisconsin–Madison
Location: Madison, WI
AFA District: District 4
Affiliations: National Forensics Association
American Forensics Association
Wisconsin Collegiate Forensics Association
Mid American Forensics League
Twin Cities Forensics League
Tournament: Badger Memorial Invitational
Hosted: Annually in November
Contact Information
Office: 4116 Helen C. White Hall
Mail: 420 South Hall
1055 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Forensics Team (also known as the UW–Madison Speech Team) is a student-run, nationally competitive individual events (speech) team located at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Forensics competitors hone the communication skills of writing, speaking, researching and brainstorming. The team competes in events which span the areas of public speaking, limited preparation and interpretation.


  • History 1
    • Rebirth of the team 1.1
    • Recent history 1.2
  • Coaching 2
  • Events 3
    • Platform Speeches 3.1
    • Limited Preparation 3.2
    • Interpretation Events 3.3
  • Nationals 4
    • Finalists 4.1
    • Individual Sweepstakes 4.2
    • Team Sweepstakes 4.3
  • Development of the Team (A Timeline) 5
  • See also 6
  • External links 7


The University of Wisconsin–Madison has had a forensics program at various times in the school’s history. In 1989 and 1990, the team finished first and second, (Division I) in the country at the prestigious National Forensic Association National Tournament. These first-ever national placings were accompanied by five individual events national champions and an overall pentathlon champion (Stephanie Kaplan, 1990). Despite these successes, budget cuts forced the team to be discontinued in 1991.

Rebirth of the team

Recognizing the importance of a forensics program, freshmen Christopher Klundt, Brian Schaefers, and Lindsay Barone restarted the program in 2001. Working with a small group of interested undergraduates, they scraped together support for travel, worked without a coach, and spent over $800 per person "out of pocket" to offset the costs of competition.

After gaining some financial support from the Associated Students of Madison (the University's student government) and the Letters & Science Honors Program, the team was able to afford a coach and subsidized travel. This resulted in a third place state finish, a 51st place finish at the American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET), and a 16th place finish at the National Forensic Association National Tournament (Div. I).

Recent history

In 2007 the team had its best finish since reforming in 2001, placing third (Div I) at the NFA National Tournament and 23rd at the AFA-NIET. Along with these two team finishes, the UW–Madison had their third national final round appearance in just two years, with the Duo team of Emily Barsness and Thom Rehwaldt, who placed 5th.


The team's part-time coach is Ben Jedd. The team's volunteer coaches are Vishal Jain (of Louisiana State University), team founder Christopher Klundt, and other UW-Madison alumni.


Platform Speeches

Platform Speeches are designed to either persuade or inform an audience on a topic of interest. They are original speeches, prepared before the tournament, memorized, and are 10 minutes in length. Multiple sources should be cited throughout the speech. Audio-visual aids and/or handouts may or may not be used to supplement/reinforce the message.

  • Persuasion: An original speech by the student designed to inspire, reinforce, or change the beliefs, attitudes, values, or actions of the audience.
  • Informative: An original, factual speech by the student on a realistic subject to fulfill the general aim to inform the audience.
  • Rhetorical Criticism: Also known as Communication Analysis. An original speech by the student designed to offer an explanation and/or evaluation of a communication event such as a speech, speaker, movement, poem, poster, film, campaign, etc. through the use of rhetorical principles.
  • After-Dinner Speaking: An original humorous speech by the student designed to persuade, inform, or analyze. The speech should not resemble a night club act, an impersonation, or comic dialogue.

Limited Preparation

Limited Preparation events are designed to evaluate a speaker’s ability to construct a speech in a limited amount of time. They are prepared on the day of the tournament, with prep time determined by event.

  • Impromptu Speaking: An impromptu speech, serious in nature with topic selections varied by round, section by section. Topics will be of proverb nature. Speakers will have a total of 7 minutes for both preparation and speaking. Timing commences with the acceptance of the topic sheet. Limited notes are permitted. Each speaker in a section will choose to speak from one of the same two topics offered.
  • Extemporaneous Speaking: Speakers will be given a choice between several questions in the general area of current events, choose one, and have 30 minutes to prepare a speech that is the original work of the student. Speech must be supported with evidence from news publications and magazines. Maximum time limit for the speech is 7 minutes. Limited notes are permitted. Posting of topics will be staggered.

Interpretation Events

Interpretation Events are intended to present a piece of literature in an entertaining and moving manner. A piece should explore the entire range of emotions associated with any literature. Events are prepared before the tournament and memorized, but the speaker must hold script in the form of a “black book.” Maximum time is 10 minutes including original introduction.

  • Prose: A selection of prose material of literary merit, which may be drawn from more than one source. Play cuttings are prohibited. The focus of this category should be the development of a story.
  • Poetry: A selection or selections of poetry of literary merit, which may be drawn from more than one source. Play cuttings are prohibited.
  • Dramatic Interpretation (DI): A cutting which represents one or more characters from a play or plays of literary merit. This material may be drawn from stage, screen, or radio. The focus of this category should be the development of a character.
  • Program Oral Interpretation (POI): A program of thematically-linked selections of literary merit, chosen from a variety of sources. The focus of this category should be the development of a specific theme.
  • Duo: A cutting from a play or a thematically-linked program, humorous or serious, involving the portrayal of two or more characters presented by two individuals. The material may be drawn from stage, screen, radio, or any other written media. Focus should be off-stage and not to each other.



NFA National Tournament

  • 1987: Barb Seidl (Informative, 2nd)
  • 1987: Mark Saxenmeyer (Informative, 3rd)
  • 1988: Stephanie Kaplan (Extemp Speaking, 4th)
  • 1988: Stephanie Kaplan (Rhetorical Criticism, 2nd)
  • 1988: Barb Seidl (ADS, 4th)
  • 1989: Betsy Heffernan (Persuasive, Champion)
  • 1989: Stephanie Kaplan (Rhetorical Criticism, Champion)
  • 1990: Stephanie Kaplan (Impromptu Speaking, 5th)
  • 1990: Stephanie Kaplan (Informative, Champion)
  • 1990: Stephanie Kaplan (Rhetorical Criticism, Champion)
  • 1990: Stephanie Kaplan (Persuasive, Champion)
  • 2007: Emily Barsness and Thom Rehwaldt (Duo, 5th)
  • 2008: Anna-Lisa Dahlgren (Experimental Event: Biographical Informative, 4th)

(1978–1990, Listings Incomplete)

  • 1986: Graham Hartley (ADS, Champion)
  • 1988: Barb Seidl (Informative, Champion)
  • 1988: Barb Seidl (Sales Speaking, 2nd)
  • 1988: Stephanie Kaplan (Sales Speaking, 5th)
  • 1988: Nathan Jenkin (Extemporaneous Speaking, 2nd)
  • 1988: Nathan Jenkin (Persuasive Speaking, 5th)
  • 1989: Stephanie Kaplan (Communication Analysis, Champion)
  • 2006: David Sargent (Drama, 6th)
  • 2006: Emily Barsness (Prose, 6th)

Individual Sweepstakes

NFA National Tournament

  • 1988: Stephanie Kaplan (5th)
  • 1989: Stephanie Kaplan (2nd)
  • 1990: Stephanie Kaplan (Champion)


  • 1988: Barb Seidl (5th) (highest ranked speaker not from national champion Bradlely University that year)

Team Sweepstakes

NFA National Tournament

  • 1985: Open Division - 15th
  • 1986: Open Division - 8th
  • 1987: Open Division - 5th
  • 1988: Open Division - 4th
  • 1989: Open Division - 5th
  • 1989: Div I - Champions
  • 1990: Open Division - 6th
  • 1990: Div I - 2nd
  • 1992: Div I - 7th
  • 2004: Div II - 16th
  • 2005: Div I - 8th
  • 2006: Div I - 6th
  • 2007: Div I - 3rd
  • 2008: Div I - 6th
  • 2009: Div II - 7th


  • 1970-1991: Data Not Available For All Years
  • 1988: 2nd
  • 1989: 4th
  • 2004: 51st
  • 2005: 33rd
  • 2006: 26th
  • 2007: 23rd
  • 2008: 26th
  • 2009: 50th

Development of the Team (A Timeline)


  • The 1989 Division I National Champion UW–Madison Forensics Team is discontinued due to budget cuts.

January 2002

  • Christopher Klundt, Adam Klann, and AJ Hofland traveled to the Indiana Championships at Indiana University to videotape all the forensics categories as well as to interview coaches and competitors.
  • Collegiate Forensics League of UW student organization founded.

February - April 2002

Summer 2002

  • Associated Students of Madison Operations Grant received for $2000.
  • Volunteer coach, Cara Peterson agrees to help out in the beginning of the season.

Fall 2002

  • Students begin competing in October, placing 6th out of 15 teams at the first tournament (12 students attended, along with Cara Peterson).
  • 5 tournaments were attended in the fall, 5 students qualified for the NFA national tournament, and at least one student made finals at every tournament.
  • Collegiate Forensics League of UW gets office space with other student organizations in Union South.

Spring 2003

  • Team travels (expenses paid by students) to California for a West Coast regional tournament.
  • Volunteer coach resigns due to lack of time.
  • Team takes 4th place at state, with several individual finalists.
  • Team travels to the Novice National Tournament and places 3rd in Division I overall sweepstakes. Dave Sargent places 2nd in Individual Sweepstakes and is the National Duo Champion (partner Samantha Sostarich).
  • Further discussion with Dean Fitzpatrick provides promising contact with L&S Honors Department (director: Cyrena Pondrom).

Summer 2003

  • Honors agrees to sponsor the team.
  • ASM operations grant received for $1000.

Fall 2003

  • Only two tournaments affordable and 3 students qualify for the NFA national tournament.
  • Honors grants the team ~$8000 to pay for coaching and tournament expenses in the spring semester.
  • Ben Jedd expresses interest in helping coach.

Spring 2004

  • Ben Jedd signs on with Honors as a part-time paid coach.
  • Team travels to 3 regional tournaments, placing 1st in Small Team Sweepstakes at the Jackson Purchase Swing in KY.
  • Active competitors increases to 11 students, and the team placed 3rd at the State tournament.
  • 8 students qualify for and attend the NFA National Tournament, where the team placed 16th in Division II.
  • 7 students attend the District qualifying tournament for the AFA National Tournament, and 4 students qualify (including 2 District champions).
  • Team places 51st in the country at the AFA National tournament in Long Beach, CA.

Fall 2004

  • Recruitment succeeds, and active student participation is holding steady at about 15 students (another 25% increase).
  • Successfully attend 7 tournament weekends, while earning 5 qualifications for the AFA National Tournament and 15 for the NFA National Tournament.
  • Permanent office space granted in 4116 Helen C. White (College Library).

Spring 2005

  • MCSC grant accepted for $800 to be used for minority recruitment opportunities.
  • Team places third at state tournament, with two state champions and 2nd place overall speaker (Christopher Klundt).
  • 5 students qualify for the AFA National Tournament in a total of 15 events. Emily Barsness is District Champion in ADS.
  • 8 students qualify for the NFA National Tournament in a total of 21 events.
  • Team wins TCFL tournament Feb. 15th.
  • Team places 8th (Div. I) at the NFA National Tournament, and has one quarterfinalist (Christopher Klundt - Informative Speaking).

Spring 2006

  • Team places 2nd at Wisconsin State Tournament.
  • Team places 26th at the AFA National Tournament, and has two National Finalists. These are the first UW–Madison finalists since 1990.
  • National Finalist: David Sargent, 6th in Drama (AFA).
  • National Finalist: Emily Barsness, 6th in Prose (AFA).
  • Team places 6th (Div. I) at the NFA National Tournament
  • Quarterfinalist: Anna-Lisa Dahlgren and Thom Rehwaldt (Duo)

Spring 2007

  • Team places 2nd at Wisconsin State Tournament. Margin between 1st and 2nd place is only 14 points.
  • Team places 23rd at the AFA National Tournament, and has numerous quarterfinalists.
  • Semifinalist: Anna-Lisa Dahlgren (Communication Analysis)
  • Team places 3rd (Div. I) at the NFA National Tournament, and has numerous quarterfinalists.
  • National Finalist: Emily Barsness and Thom Rehwaldt, 5th in Duo (NFA).

Summer 2007

  • Team teaches a public speaking course through the UW PEOPLE Program.

Spring 2008

  • 3 UW students qualify for the AFA National Individual Events Tournament in Austin, TX.
  • 15 students qualify for the NFA National Tournament in Nashville, TN.
  • Team places 2nd at the Wisconsin State Tournament.
  • Team places 26th at the AFA National Tournament.
  • Semifinalist: Anna-Lisa Dahlgren (Communication Analysis)
  • Team places 6th (Div. I) at the NFA National Tournament, and has numerous elimination rounds.
  • Semifinalist: Anna-Lisa Dahlgren (Persuasion)
  • Semifinalist: Anna-Lisa Dahlgren and Mark Ruff (Duo)
  • National Finalist: Anna-Lisa Dahlgren, 4th in Experimental Event: Biographical Informative (NFA).

See also

External links

  • Official UW Forensics Team Website
  • UW–Madison Letters & Science Honors Program
  • American Forensic Association
  • National Forensic Association
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