Dozens of High School Students Prepare to Persuade

Posted: July 10, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: July 10, 2009 at 8:21 am

By Rashad Mulla

Peter Pober directs the Forensics Institute as well as Mason's forensics program.

Peter Pober directs the George Mason Institute of Forensics as well as Mason's Forensics Team.

High school students are about to descend on Mason’s Fairfax Campus and talk up a storm.

The George Mason Institute of Forensics (GMIF) is set to begin its fifth annual session, which will run from July 12 to 26.

Peter Pober, director of forensics and a professor in the Communication Department, assembled a staff of more than 60 instructors, including himself, fellow forensics instructor and Mason professor Jason Warren, Mason undergraduate and graduate students, high school teachers and university professors from around the country.

More than 185 students signed up for the program. The students have various academic and ethnic backgrounds and hail from 28 states. Two are coming from China.

“These are some of the top students in the country,” Pober says. “Many of these students have been studying for one or two years already. These students are coming to us to learn the next level of skills they need to compete across the United States.”

Pober says enrollment has increased from last year’s program, despite the shaky economy.

“I really thought the economy was going to hit us,” Pober says. “My understanding is that every other institute that we compete with across the country is down in numbers, and we are up 30 percent in one year. It’s a testament to this program.”

This year’s GMIF features a brand-new discipline called Student Congress and field trips to Washington, D.C., attractions: the Kennedy Center, the Newseum and the Washington Monument at night.

The program will include concentrations in four different forensics disciplines:

  • Extemporaneous Speaking – Students have 30 minutes to research a particular issue and craft a seven-minute speech discussing the issue thoroughly.
  • Original Oratory – Students pick a specific topic, then write and memorize a 10-minute oration.
  • Interpretation – Students choose a piece of literature from any genre and develop a 10-minute performance based on it.
  • Student Congress – Students give three-minute speeches on a variety of issues. These are similar to U.S. Congressional debates.

The Mason Forensics Team, which Pober directs, is ranked second in the nation, won the 2009 International Forensics Association Championship, was the 2009 American Forensics Association Tournament runner-up, sent 21 students past the quarterfinal rounds of last year’s tournament and took home an individual national championship last year. The team boasts two of last year’s top 15 speakers.

“Recruitment,” Pober says, “has been unbelievable.”

According to Pober, more than 90 percent of the forensics students Mason recruited enrolled for the fall.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu