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NOVA Forensics Team Takes Home Gold at Nationals

Forensics team
The NOVA Forensics Team took home a total of seven medals for their performance in the 2017 Phi Rho Pi National Tournament.

In April, the Northern Virginia Community College Forensics Team competed at the 2017 Phi Rho Pi National Tournament where they performed excellently during a week-long competition in debate, public speaking and literature in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Students on the NOVA Forensics Team regularly work with coaches to prepare and then travel locally and nationally to compete against students from other colleges and universities in a variety of public speaking, debate and literature performance events. Dr. Nathan Carter, adviser and coach to the Forensics Team, explained that the team members practice frequently, often preparing for the competition season during the summer.

Carter said coming up with different performances starts with the team talking to each other about topics they’re interested in, such as race relations and politics, and researching the topics before deciding on how to convey the different messages and ideas in a speech, debate or literary performance.

“We research topics we’ve discussed during meetings and practice because this is really a collaborative effort amongst the team,” Carter said. “We always try to find some way to connect with what we’re talking about and what we decide to perform because we want to make it personal and meaningful.” 

NOVA Students Kouamy Brown and Tilford Clark, both of the Alexandria Campus, took home NOVA’s first gold medal in Dramatic Duo Performance. Brown also won a bronze medal in Poetry Interpretation. Jordan Drake of the Manassas Campus and Sofia de la Pena of the Annandale Campus won the bronze medal in Team Parliamentary Debate. Drake also took home a silver medal in Single Parliamentary Debate. Bridget Whelpley of the Loudoun Campus was awarded a bronze medal for her efforts in Informative Speaking. 

At this highly-competitive national event, NOVA students won a total of seven medals. As a team, NOVA ended with the highest finish ever and earned a bronze medal in Team Sweepstakes.  NOVA also had two dynamic interpreters’ theatre in competition.

For this portion of the tournament, students are required to work with a faculty member to memorize a 25-minute performance about a topic of choice that dramatizes an issue using chosen facts, reports and excerpts from poetry, plays, songs or prose materials. The 25-minute ensemble entitled “Slight of Mind” dramatized the importance of strengthening your imagination in our current information-obsessed age. “Slight of Mind” featured a talented cast that included Whelpley, Brigitte Chavez and Cathryn Christian of the Alexandria Campus. The theater show entitled “Bait” was about the dangers of the digital phenomena known as catfishing. “Bait” featured Brown and three of six students NOVA-Alexandria is hosting from Dundee & Angus College in Dundee, Scotland: Jess Dunn, Tasha Smith and Darren John. “Bait” and “Slight of Mind” were both arranged and directed by Carter. 

This year was the NOVA Forensics Team’s fifth season, and in addition to competing in the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament, NOVA was also this year’s official host for the annual event. Carter and NOVA’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement Elizabeth Weatherly delivered welcoming remarks at the opening of the tournament. Emmy award-winning journalist Pete Williams of NBC Nightly News also delivered a riveting keynote address about the importance of communication and responsible media consumption.

Hosting the national tournament requires an extensive amount of work and dedication.  In addition to Carter, Professor Saleha Bholat (LO), assistant director of forensics, worked hard all year to put on a great tournament. Professor Kush Jenkins (LO), assistant director, was also instrumental with planning and hosting duties, along with NOVA Student Activities Coordinator Brian Anweiler and Liberal Arts Coordinator Linda Campos (AL).

Carter said NOVA’s success in hosting can also be credited to those who volunteered their time to judge for one day at the week-long event including Professors Araceli Bachner, Meredith Aquila and Shonette Grant.

The national tournament wrapped up the NOVA Forensic Team’s 2016-17 competitive season and team members are looking forward to the next round of tournaments and competitions during the 2017-18 academic year.


Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.