A strategy guide for student leaders by student leaders.
Speech & Debate
Case Study 1 (CS1) – President
Description:The Speech and Debate Team is a competitive public speaking organization that trains its members to be the voice of the next generation through great oratory, debate, and acting.
History: In the winter of 2011, a rag tag band of students trudged into a dingy classroom to discuss the future of the Speech & Debate team. The former president and vice president had both decided to abscond to a foreign country leaving the team leaderless and defeated. To make matters worse, the student activities council had just slashed the team’s budget in half due to inactivity. With no rules, no recruitment strategy, and only five flaky members, the team was on the verge of collapse. When the call for candidates for president came forth, no one was foolish enough to run. No one, except for a brash young freshman with grand dreams. After that winter break, I stormed into the first meeting waving a binder stuffed with new initiatives, policies, and goals. The team was never the same.
Members: The Speech & Debate team tends to attract a broad mix of pre-professional, competition oriented, and social members. Due to the extensive time commitment, especially since tournaments can last an entire weekend, members are generally involved in few activities outside of the Speech & Debate team.
Challenges: When I was elected president the second semester of my freshman year, the team had 5 members (including myself). There were almost no rules with regard to attendance or tournament preparedness. Team members almost never made finals at competitions, and the budget had been recently slashed in half due to club inactivity.
Awards – We won the Pennsylvania State Presidential Team Sweepstakes Championship for the first time in the history of the University of Pennsylvania. Our team members made finals at every national qualifier competition for two out of the three years I was president.
Events – We hosted the university’s first American Forensics Association speech & debate national qualification tournament.
Expansion – We expanded membership by 600% (5-30 members), fundraising by 1000% ($500/year to $5000/year).