Oregon Forensics — competitive speaking to a public audience — traces its roots to nearly the beginning of the University of Oregon itself. Days after the founding of the university, 10 students decided to create two literary societies that featured debates, simulated trials, and oratory speeches.
Today, Oregon Forensics is based in the Clark Honors College and open to every undergraduate student at the university.
The program provides two pathways for students: Collegiate Advocacy, Research, and Debate format, known as CARD; and Mock Trial. We explain more about the two pathways in our video.
Oregon Forensics Students:
- Develop into scholars, leaders, and champions by strengthening their communication skills
- Attend up to 8-10 tournaments a year in either debate or mock trial
- Have their travel* expenses — hotels, transportation, registration, and materials — fully covered
- Receive a food per diem for travel and competitions
- Can apply for modest scholarships made possible by the generosity of our alumni and donors
- Practice weekly on designated evenings
*A 3.0 GPA is required to be able to travel on team events
“I'm proud of the academic skills and confidence I have gained after joining the debate team. The attitude is not centered on winning; it’s focused on improving your abilities to comprehend and communicate nuanced topics. The most impactful thing I have learned is that it’s ok to apply yourself to things you feel underqualified for; that’s how you improve.”
—Leila Jones, Class of 2024
“Debate has completely changed my life. Although I started debating in high school, I saw my skills in verbal communication, research, writing, critical thinking, and argumentation grow exponentially through UO Forensics. Debate has taught me how to exert my agency, become a confident speaker and understand the power of advocating for others.”
—Kennedy Parish, Class of 2023, Communication and Storytelling Associate, Oregon ACLU
Robert D. Clark Invitational high school tournament
The Robert Clark Invitational – the oldest continuously running high school speech and debate tournaments west of the Mississippi – will be held on November 18-19, 2023, on the UO campus in McKenzie Hall.
In recent years, 35-45 schools and 350-400 high school students have participated in the Clark Invitational. Programs from Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, and British Columbia regularly participate. Students in Oregon Forensics help to administer our large tournament and provide judging and guidance for high school students.
Meet the Director
Trond Jacobsen, Director of Forensics and Instructor of Information Science
Dr. Jacobsen competed in debate while a student at the University of Oregon. In six years of high school and college debate Jacobsen failed to break only twice, and broke at all four nationals he attended, including twice in quarterfinals. He won the Northwest CEDA Championship his junior year earning 177 out of 180 possible speaker points. His senior year he finished 3rd and was 2nd speaker at the elite Jesuit Round Robin. While competing for Oregon, Jacobsen earned more than two dozen 1st speaker awards.
As a debate instructor, Jacobsen helped lead strong teams to national success at Cornell, Vermont, and Alaska. Since arriving at Oregon in 2013, his teams include the top seed after preliminary rounds and the Top Speaker at the 2014 NPTE. The program was 4th in sweepstakes at the 2015 NPDA nationals and one team was 3rd place at the 2015 NPTE national championship tournament.
Support Oregon Forensics
As an extracurricular, Forensics aims to provide students with a forum and a framework to apply that which they have been learning in the classroom. Research skills, critical thinking, logic and empathy come together in applied practice, providing students the opportunity to cultivate and hone those skills that will serve them both personally and professionally throughout their lives.
Alumni and community members can play a critical role in helping us extend these opportunities to qualified and deserving students by investing in scholarships and program infrastructure. With your support, Oregon Forensics can provide students with the experience of a lifetime.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I join Oregon Forensics?
Oregon Forensics provides students with an opportunity to practice public speaking, produce concise and coherent writing, and think on their feet. The analytical thinking, acting, and presentation skills learned from participating in forensics will help you in any career you choose.
How long does the competitive season last?
From the beginning of the school year until March or April, depending on how well we do in competitions.
What is the time commitment?
Practices are during the week – Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for CARD; Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Mock Trial. However, depending on your role, what team you are on, and if there is a tournament during the upcoming weekend, you might meet with teammates at other points during the week.
Do you have to be in the Clark Honors College to join?
No. All UO undergraduates are welcome to join either CARD or Mock Trial.
How do I find out more about Oregon Forensics?
For information, send an email to Trond Jacobsen at email@example.com or fill out this interest form and someone will reach out to you.