Mastering the art of speech: Owls Speech and Debate aims to encourage students to participate in public speaking

Owls Speech and Debate began in October 2021, as the club grants students the opportunity to compete against other universities around the country.


Courtesy of Owls Speech and Debate

Deanna Mancuso (pictured front, second to left) formed Owls Speech and Debate in October 2021 to have students participate in public speaking.

Richard Pereira, Business Manager

When Deanna Mancuso was in high school, she was one of the speech captains on the executive board while she participated in national tournaments.

Now the president and founder of Owls Speech and Debate, Mancuso intends to showcase her knowledge with FAU students.

“It was very hectic and stressful, especially for a high school student who is at school for the majority of their days and working part-time as well,” Mancuso said. “But it was just very fulfilling for me and I wanted to give FAU students what I was given in high school.”

Having weekly meetings in room 345 of the College of Arts and Letters Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Mancuso’s goals for the club are to have students participate to be better communicators, have better public speaking, and write things that they’re passionate about such as current events going on in the world.

“My current piece that I have worked on for a very long time is about suicide prevention awareness. Every single time I’ve presented [the speech], I’ve had judges tell me, ‘this is so impactful,’” Mancuso said. “This is so important for students to resonate with because it gives students a purpose to keep on going and even something small like that, students sharing their wisdom with something that they’re passionate about, can go a long way.”

The organization exists for students to have the opportunity to compete against other universities around the country through constructive conversation. Mancuso believes that having students participate with the club will benefit them to have it on their resume and possibly win awards alongside it.

“I think that it’s not something for students who are born with some kind of gift; it’s just something that if you practice, you’ll be able to do it,” Mancuso said.

David Knight, one of the club’s captains, described Mancuso as “really adamant” on creating the club. 

“[Mancuso] went ahead and made that and most of the members in the club have some experience in high school, so there’s still some leftover passion from that that definitely went into making the club and why it’s here today,” Knight said.

In less than a year, the club has already made significant achievements in national tournaments they have taken part in. In the Big Red Tournament of Love that Cornell University hosted online on Feb. 21, Knight won second place in International Public Debate Association (IPDA) Debate, Mancuso got fifth place in Program Oral Interpretation, and the club got second in the Debate Team Sweepstakes.

Knight said that while speech and debate are the primary aspects of the club, the overall idea is to give people the chance to practice their oratory and argumentation skills.

“In debate, we’re practicing and increasing our ability to argue our argumentation skills, and to work around logical arguments and be able to provide one effectively and communicate in an argument,” Knight said.

What allows the club to stand out from other universities in the competitions is that they’re a student-led team. Mancuso mentioned how Eastern Michigan University’s coach Patrick Seick, ranked one of the best in the country, reached out to her to say how proud he is of everything that she and the club are doing.

“There’s about 20 of us, eight people who regularly compete, so for us, it’s like we have the passion within us that will set us apart,” Mancuso said. “That’s how we have our goals outside of campus, just getting other universities to see how amazing [FAU] is.”

On April 16, Owls Speech and Debate will host their first tournament at FAU. As the club continues to be active, Knight hopes that they continue to make a name for themselves in the competitions.

“That’s why we competed at the Big Red Tournament of Love,” Knight said. “We’re trying to build some prestige for our club across the nation at different universities and make our name known.”

Knowing how much the club has benefitted his public speaking skills, club treasurer Osmany Rivero encourages anybody to join so they can try it out and have fun. 

“I’ve been trying to do it to improve myself [and] little by little, I think I’m getting better,” Rivero said. “Before, I couldn’t even talk to the person in front of me. Now, I’ve tried to talk with a lot of people in front of me. The thing is basically about having fun and improving yourself.”

Richard Pereira is the Business Manager for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Rich26Pereira.