with crime scenes and investigations, but it has an entirely different meaning in the world of speech and theater at Tyler Junior College.
“It’s a wonderful activity and it teaches poise and self-confidence and of course communication skills,” said M’Liss Hindman, TJC speech professor and forensics head coach.
Forensics is a program at TJC that focuses on improving students’ speech, debate and public speaking skills. This program also includes a team that travels and competes with other colleges in public speaking-related events. The forensics team attends 10 to 12 competitions each school year.
Within the whole program there are 14 different events ranging from interpretation to debate. Each student is allowed to participate in two to five events.
One of the biggest misconceptions about this program is that a student must be a theater or speech major in order to be a part of the forensics team. Any student who is enrolled at TJC is allowed to participate.
“Last year’s team only had one speech major. Everybody else had a different major,” Hindman said.
The students who are interested in being on the team initially go through an interview and audition with the head coach.
There is also a lab students can take that directly focuses on forensics-related subjects. This gives the student the opportunity to receive intense one-on-one coaching on particular speaking events.
The forensics program at TJC has been going on for over 60 years. Hindman has coached the team for half that time. She has been teaching and coaching at TJC for 35 years. Different faculty have helped her throughout the years including Jacque Shackelford, a TJC theater professor. Shackelford thinks that forensics is a great program for the students.
“I love what it does. I can see them improve in ways that impact their lives,” said Shackelford.
This past year was a very successful one for the forensic participants.
They were the National Champions of the American Forensics Association and they also won the Mariner Award at the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament.
“Success brings growth,” Hindman said.
The achievements of last year have undoubtedly reached many ears. The number of students on the team is growing. Last year the team consisted of six competing members. This year 15 students have signed up and for the first tournament only nine students were chosen to attend. The new team members are eager for their first competition and they don’t seem to be terribly nervous.
“It’s more excitement and anticipation,” said Lewis Sharp, a TJC freshman, of the live competition.
Another little known fact about the forensics team is that they participate in different community service projects. The team holds workshops and seminars about different speech and debate events for high schools in the area. The team even traveled to Austin this past summer and taught high school teachers about events such as prose and extemporaneous speaking.
“I realized that helped me. Not only is it teaching the students to share their knowledge, but it’s also then helped us to recruit kids from those high schools to come in,” Hindman said.
One of the best things about being so successful last year is that bigger four-year universities saw the students perform. This opportunity led to recruitment of TJC students.
Four-year universities recruited all five of the sophomores that participated on last year’s team and some were highly bid upon. Three students are at the University of Texas in Austin, one was recruited to The University of Mississippi and the other is now attending West Texas A&M.
Hindman received her own array of awards last year. She received the Carroll Hickey District 5 American Forensics Association Coaching award as well as the National American Forensics Association Distinguished Service Award. The Tyler Junior College Student Senate presented her with the Rick Diamond Teaching Excellence Award and she also earned the Tyler Junior College Best Online Teaching Award.
Since last year was such a successful year, many people are expecting a lot out of the new competitors. The head coach doesn’t seem worried.
“We have recruited a really strong team, so I really think that we’re going to have a lot of success this year,” Hindman said.