You'd have to use your imagination to pair two more divergent majors as Speech Communication and Chemistry. Yet those two academic areas converged in the oratory presentation of SMSU forensics team member Nick Dorman on Feb. 15-16 and helped him become the first team member in a dozen years to qualify for the Interstate Oratorical Association National Tournament April 25-26 at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.
Dorman, a junior from Marshall, competed in high school speech four years and is in his third year as a member of the SMSU forensics team. His state oratory championship at the Minnesota Collegiate Forensics Association Tournament at Gustavus Adolphus College is the first for an SMSU student since 2002, when New Ulm native Tanya Sponholz won and advanced to nationals.
Though students participated in the various forensics categories at the state tourney, just one category - oratory - had the top two finishers advance to the national event. The James Madison national tournament will consist of one category - oratory - with the top two finishers from the other states competing.
In his speech, Dorman advocated for federal regulation of a dangerous anti-bacterial compound called triclosan, found in many consumer products.
"Last year, I took an honors seminar course and listened to a lecture by Dr. Steve Kramer telling us about triclosan. He brought in a hand sanitizer and talked about the chemical. I did some research on it, not thinking it would turn into a speech.
"At the start of this year, I was looking for a possible persuasive (oratory) topic, and I thought back to that. "
As part of the state tournament, Dorman had to submit a source page listing the various sources used in preparation for his speech. "There were just under 30 articles and academic sources. I didn't realize I had done that much. When you look at it, it's a hefty amount."
Dorman was one of six to advance to the finals following three preliminary rounds. "I was confident going in, but I wasn't hitting for number one," he said.
At most forensics tournaments, the oratory category he won is called persuasive speaking. "The nice thing about the state tournament was there was no 10 minute time limit. I think that has plagued me a lot this year, because I have a lot of information and have to speak extremely fast." He estimates his speech was "about 12 minutes. It was nice to slow down."
The tournament has been an obvious highlight to a season "that has not gone exactly like I'd like it to," he said. "I haven't had as strong of a showing as I'd like. The stuff hasn't been clicking with me, and with the judges, either. It's validation that I still got it," he said with a laugh.
Dorman, the son of Rich and JoAnn Dorman of Marshall, has competed in as many as five separate event categories at forensics tournaments this year. At the state tourney, he competed in four.
Speech and forensics have been passions in high school and college, respectively. What's the difference between the two? "Definitely the commitment level," he said. "In high school, it's an activity, which it is here as well. But in college, you're competing against people who will be doing this the rest of their lives - they will be a speech professor, or a high school teacher who teaches and coaches speech. The ones who really love it are the ones who (participate in college)."
The advantages of forensics are obvious. Is there anyone reading this who isn't terrified of speaking in public? "I like the activity as a whole," he said. "Something I didn't think about as being a benefit is getting to know a lot of different people from around the state that I've developed close relationships with. At SMSU, specifically, we have a small, tight-knit group and we are all good friends."
He's taken a lot of credits his first three years in pursuit of his double major. Since the academic areas are so different, he's had to. "I've got 17 credits this semester. I overloaded myself the last couple of years," he said.
As if he wasn't busy enough, there's also that matter of four part-time jobs,
including the Scheduling and Event Services Office and the Speech Center at SMSU, assisting with the Marshall High School speech team and as a pharmacy technician at Hy-Vee.
"I'm spread pretty thin," said Dorman, who either wants to attend medical school, or graduate school for speech. "I know it's two totally different paths," he said.
Two different paths, yes, but two paths that, when combined, yielded a state oratory championship and a berth at the upcoming national tournament.