As a freshman from Logansport, Indiana, Berkley Conner, '15, arrived on campus looking for ways to get involved. Shortly after, she attended the fall semester activity fair and was approached by a member of the Ball State speech team. A week later, she went to the team's call out meeting, and as she says, the rest is history.

In the team's professional atmosphere, Conner, a psychology major, spent countless hours polishing her delivery as she learned from her advisors and fellow students. With this hard work came something else Conner was searching for at her new school—a home.

"I belong here," she says. "Through the hard work, the team atmosphere keeps me going. We have our own traditions, and we're like a family. Speech team is something you can take pride in individually and as a group."

Conner can certainly take pride in her first statewide tournament, where she and her teammates won the 2012 Indiana state championship for the seventh time since 2005. She was the state champion in the novice division for prose, placed second in persuasion and dramatic interpretation, and placed sixth in duo and poetry.

"Hard work paying off is such a good feeling when you move to the next round or receive a trophy," Conner says. "The more important aspect is the team, though. The better you do as an individual, the more you bring success to your team."

Ball State's award-winning speech team involves individual participation in regional and national tournaments. At the 2012 National Forensics Association national tournament, Ball State was the only team from Indiana to place in the top 10, finishing 10th overall (out of 89 teams) and second among schools in its division.

Students on the speech team receive individual coaching in public speaking and oral interpretation, which builds their communication skills and increases their knowledge of the liberal arts. Team members participate in interpretative events such as prose, poetry, dramatic interpretation, program oral interpretation, and duo; public address events that include categories such as informative, persuasive, after-dinner speaking, and rhetorical criticism; and limited-preparation events, including extemporaneous and impromptu speaking.

"Communication is a skill everyone needs to have," Conner says. "People really underestimate that. Communication is important for attaining success and building positive relationships."

Mary Moore, director of individual events in the Department of Communication Studies, says the team demands a high level of commitment and sacrifice.

“Successful competitors spend hours reading, researching, and practicing,” she says. “In fact, research in our field shows that top competitors invest effort comparable to a graduate school thesis. The students’ hard work has many rewards. Participation on the speech team develops communication and critical thinking skills, prepares students for graduate work and the job market, and helps create valuable relationships and personal growth.”

Conner stresses that students looking to join the speech team don't need prior experience, and the team's coaches help members develop their skills.

"They teach you how to engage your audience," she says. "Before we perform, one of our coaches tells us to say, 'This is my time; this is my place; and you will remember me.'"