Alumni Newsletter

Summer 2014
New Forensics Director Builds on PLU Legacy

PLU Forensics has a longstanding tradition of success, and this year they’ve added a new face to that tradition. Dr. Justin Eckstein, the new Forensics Director, holds a Doctorate in Rhetoric and Communication Ethics from the University of Denver. He is an award-winning researcher, and his work has been featured in internationally renowned argumentation periodicals.

Dr. Eckstein has been involved in Forensics for the last 17 years. Starting in middle school, he attended debate camp each summer until he could debate competitively in high school.

It’s like a bug; it bites you, he said when asked why he stayed involved. The whole aspect of traveling to compete and engaging intellectually in matters of public concern is exciting.

Along with his passion for Speech and Debate, he has also brought three specific initiatives with him to PLU. He wants PLU Forensics to be renowned for intercollegiate completion, for public dialogue, and for mentoring the youth in our community.

Dr. Eckstein’s intentions are clear, I’m here to bring PLU debate to the next level and reestablish it as a legacy program.

Looking ahead, Professor Eckstein says Forensics doesn’t stop at the debate team. Everyone can benefit from the skills it provides and further, he’d love if every communication major attend at least one tournament before graduating.

After an exciting year, Eckstein says he is just getting started and we can’t wait to see what he has in store.

PLU Debate in the Community

By Peter Twite

This year, the T.O.H. Karl Forensics Forum adopted a stronger focus on community outreach. The goal was to become more active in the development of skills with the younger generation. The cornerstone of this initiative was a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Lakewood.

As a part of this partnership, several team members met weekly with the children of the Boys and Girls Club to teach techniques that could be used to further their education and lead to success in the future. This included teaching the students how to become better advocates in their communities by being able to construct and defend arguments while also understanding and analyzing other points of view.

Several team members also participated in community programs throughout the area. Megan Larsen, a junior in the education program, was a state level competitor on her speech and debate high school team. This year she was an active participant with the students of Puyallup High School’s speech and debate team. Her volunteer work included helping with practices while guiding students in speech techniques. These speech styles included impromptu, extemporaneous, dramatic interpretation, humorous interpretation and oratory. In addition, Larsen and others acted as judges for high school tournaments around the area. Senior debater, Bri Walling, also contributed to outreach efforts with her mentorship at Franklin-Pierce.

The Forensic Forum’s goal in the years to come is to continue to teach argument and advocacy to youth by developing these relationships with organizations and schools in the area. Through this, we hope to increase their opportunities in education and career development.

A Year of Success, Awards and Recognitions across the Nation

It was a successful year for the Forensics Forum in Pacific Northwest tournaments and in across the nation. Read below to see some of our stand-out achievements.

Lewis and Clark, Portland, Oregon

  • Brendan Stanton and Andrew Tinker made it to quarter finals

Lower Columbia Community College, Longview, Washington

  • Mamie Howard and Caitlin Zimmerman won first place in novice British Parliamentary
  • Mamie Howard won first place in novice Poetry Interpretation
  • Brendan Stanton and Kellie Blauvelt won first place in novice Duo Interpretation
  • Kellie Blauvelt and Katelynn Padron were finalists in Persuasive Speaking
  • Brendan Stanton and David Mooney won speaker awards for British Parliamentary
  • Andrew Tinker won a Speaker Award for National Parliamentary Debate

Linfield College, McMinnville, Oregon

  • Pam Barker and David Mooney made it to the semifinal round
  • David Mooney received 10th overall speaker
  • Felicia Jarvis won second place in Novice Poetry

Seattle University, Seattle, Washington

  • Pam Barker and David Mooney made it to the semifinal round
  • David Mooney received 11th overall speaker

Mile High Swing Debate, Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Andrew Tinker and Chris Fournier made it to elimination rounds

University of Denver, Denver, Colorado

  • Pam Barker and David Mooney seeded eighth out of 50 teams
  • Pam Barker claimed her third speaker award of the year
  • Brendan Stanton and Chris Fournier seeded tenth

Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon

  • Pam Barker and David Mooney made it to the final elimination round
  • Pam Barker claimed second overall speaker

Willamette University, Salem, Oregon

  • Pam Barker and David Mooney received third place in British Parliamentary

A Year for Books

By Brendan Stanton ’16

Aside from participating in a competitive event, my favorite part about joining a team is forming new friendships and making memories with teammates. I expected that to be difficult this year as there were few returning to the team. With a new coach, I anticipated that recruiting people to join would be a struggle since a lot of work would have to be put into other things. As you might expect with PLU forensics, I was pleasantly surprised.

A few short weeks into the first semester when the squad room was so full we only had standing room. I was excited to see so many new faces. Some people were just there to test the water and others were ready to jump right in, but despite the varied interest levels and knowledge of debate, almost everyone participated in their first practice debate round that night. With only fifteen minutes of prep time, returning students taught first-timers how to debate. After this introduction to collegiate debate, we had a full team ready to take on new challenges.

The PLU forensics team entered each tournament with pride. As heads turned at our sheer number, it was clear that we brought a whole new level of competition and excitement to each tournament we attended. We had such a large team that it was common to face off against each other in rounds. The rapid growth of the team brought a whole new meaning to team spirit and riding to tournaments in vans.

We had many great successes in terms of competition results this year, but ten years down the road I don’t expect to remember any of that. What I will remember is how welcoming and inclusive my team was. I will remember how we were able to learn and grow together as competitors and caring individuals. I will remember how we supported each other and how we somehow managed to have a positive outlook even after a bad round.

Debate is all about gaining a greater understanding of the world and the people who live in it. That knowledge comes from debating in rounds, but it also comes from the interactions we share with one another. The PLU forensics team has played a major role in providing that education to me. Joining this team has been a truly life-changing experience and I hope that the PLU forensics team can continue to provide the same experience to others for many decades to come.

A Note from the Dean of the School of Arts and Communication

As the academic calendar draws to a close, it is with great pride that I am able to look back on all that has been accomplished by our talented students and faculty over the course of the past year. I’m happy to report that speech and debate is thriving, our team grew more than 80% this season and made it to eliminations at every single tournament they attended. As a whole, the School of Arts and Communication had an impressive year of accomplishments. This year alone, SOAC presented 423 events on campus, involving 7,071 participants (many on multiple events), to almost 23,000 audience members while our Forensics students traveled thousands of miles, competed in 10 tournaments, and held dozens of sessions mentoring kids in the Boys and Girls Club.

We are blessed at PLU with an incredible faculty. In the School of Arts and Communication, our faculty are performing on stages in national and international locations, they have art work in the most important galleries in the region, they are Fulbright Scholars, they are in high demand as guest lecturers in schools and institutes around the world, and they are published in the most respected journals and papers in their field. They share a common passion for teaching and engaging our students and continue to learn and strive for excellence. As Dean, I am fortunate to hear time and time again about the incredible impact that we make and it makes me proud.

I encourage you to keep connected with our School through our various media sources – SOACtivities, Facebook, Twitter, and of course, the SOAC website. Please feel free to connect with me directly at


Cameron Bennett, Dean
School of Arts and Communication