Angela Wnek ’13 (Hoffman Estates, Ill.) is never at a loss for words. She puts that trait to good use, spending her weekends traveling to tournaments with Lafayette’s Forensics Society, where she can show off her talent for competitive speaking.
At the Pennsylvania Forensic Association’s annual championship in February, Wnek won three individual state championships: dramatic interpretation, poetry, and persuasion. Her win in the persuasion category qualifies her to compete at the 143rd national Interstate Oratorical tournament at Emerson College April 27-28—and makes her one of just two Pennsylvania students to go on to the national level. In preparation for that event, she will be working with her coaches on editing, updating sources, memorizing, and performance style.
Wnek has been passionate about public speaking since getting involved with the forensics/competitive performing arts team in high school at the suggestion of a friend.
“I was hooked. In public speaking, there is nothing like feeling connected to your audience, gauging their reactions, and adjusting different aspects of your performance in response,” says Wnek, whose conversational tone and ability to play up the audience’s reaction have helped her win competition titles.
In addition to her involvement on the speech and debate team, Wnek is doing an independent study to learn about speech instruction with Scott Placke, director of forensics. She is learning how to teach and coach effective communication and presentations and meets with other students weekly to give them feedback on their speech class assignments, offer assistance, and provide suggestions on how they can more clearly convey their ideas to an audience.
As much as she loves the spoken language, when it comes to academics, she prefers numbers. Her penchant for math, science, and problem solving led her to major in chemical engineering.
Her experience on the forensics team has given her an advantage in preparing presentations for class assignments.
“Communication is so important because it’s one thing to understand something and solve a problem, but it is another to be able to effectively explain that problem or solution to people who don’t have complete background knowledge. That’s why forensics is such a worthwhile and meaningful activity,” she says.
After Lafayette, Wnek is interested in starting her career and later returning to school to earn an MBA.
“I can definitely foresee myself using the communication skills I’ve gained from Lafayette speech and debate,” she says. “Forensics Society continues to improve my ability to deliver ideas in an effective and professional manner, which will definitely help me in any avenue I find my career.”
Wnek would also like to stay involved in competitive speaking, perhaps as a volunteer with a high school team or as a judge for Lafayette speech contests.
In addition to participating in Forensics Society, Wnek is in the Concert Band and a member of the Music Appreciation Floor. She performed EXCEL Scholars research with James Ferri, associate professor and head of chemical and biomolecular engineering, on particle-stabilized emulsions and foams and will intern with ExxonMobil in Houston, Texas, this summer.