The University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate team earned high marks at the International Forensics Association (IFA) Tournament in March 2023 in Tokyo, Japan. Three of the team’s senior varsity members competed, earning widespread accolades throughout the tournament, culminating in semi-finalist and finalist ranks.
“Although a member of our team won an international championship in 2021, the tournament was virtual at the time. It has been many years since the team has competed internationally and in-person. We chose this year because of the caliber of our varsity students, as well as the massive educational gains of competing in Japan,” explains Dr. Stephanie Wideman, director of the team and assistant professor of communication accompanied the students on the trip.
The students agree with Wideman’s sentiments, “The experience of competing internationally has helped me to understand there are no limits to education. While we were competing in Tokyo, we were also constantly learning and growing through cultural immersion. As an international student myself, I knew this would be yet another life-changing opportunity UIndy has given me,” Bhumibol Shakya ‘23 (psychology and communication) said. Shakya placed as a semi-finalist in impromptu speaking and became an international finalist placing 3rd in extemporaneous speaking.
In addition to the competition, the team visited a variety of cultural spots with the help of local guides. Favorite sites include the Tokyo Tower, the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, and dining on ramen in Shibuya Crossing-considered the Times Square of Tokyo.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel internationally and compete with students from around the world. I would not have been able to go if not for the Yvonne Shaheen grant I received from the College,” Whitney Wilson ‘23 (communication) said. The trip was partially funded by external sources, including grants from the Shaheen Scholars Program out of UIndy’s Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences.
Students within the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences are eligible to apply for Shaheen Grants, made possible as part of the generous multimillion-dollar naming gift in 2015 by Yvonne Shaheen, past chair of the Board of Trustees. Grants are available for students wanting to support their research, leadership and career readiness, educational travel, and community engagement.
“Competing in Japan was never something I envisioned when I joined the speech and debate team freshman year. Reflecting on the past four years, this experience is the culmination of my journey, both personally and culturally here at UIndy. I have learned so much, and want to extend the most wholehearted thanks to the UIndy community,” Elise Paz ‘23 (finance and spanish) said. Paz placed as a semi-finalist in prose performance and became an international finalist placing 5th in persuasive speaking.
“Support from programs like Shaheen Scholars is only one of the many examples of the UIndy difference. On the team we value ambassadorship because it teaches the students to not just represent the university well, but also how to represent themselves and their potential on a global scale,” Wideman explained.