Rise of UA Speech and Debate in the COB



The University of Akron's (UA) Speech and Debate Team has been experiencing a successful 2024 season, showcasing their exceptional talents and securing multiple victories while demonstrating their vast skillsets in various speech and debate events. 

Mark Rittenour, with over two decades at UA, transitioned from the School of Communication to his new role as senior director of business communication and executive affairs at the College of Business during the pandemic. 

Rittenour's journey to the College of Business reflects a strategic shift, integrating professional development within the academic landscape. 

In 2020, the Speech and Debate team was disbanded under the School of Communication, but Rittenour's transition marked a pivotal moment and led to the decision to revive the program under the College of Business umbrella. This was a deliberate move towards fostering a business-centric approach to communication and professional growth. 

The Speech and Debate team now operates as a cornerstone of professional development programming, offering students from all disciplines a platform to hone essential skills. While the program's roots lie in communication, its relocation identifies the evolving landscape of academia. Through storytelling and persuasive communication, participants learn to navigate diverse stakeholder landscapes, preparing them for real-world interactions. 

The strategic alignment with the College of Business provides financial support and underscores the program's commitment to producing well-rounded graduates. By integrating speech and debate into broader professional development initiatives, students gain a competitive edge in the job market, which helps position themselves as versatile assets to prospective employers. 


In Rittenour's words, the emphasis is on quality over quantity—a philosophy reflected in the team's consistent success. Despite competing against larger institutions or teams, the focus remains on delivering impactful performances that resonate with audiences.  

This dedication was evident as the team secured top honors at the prestigious Ohio Forensics Association State Championship in February, hosted at UA. 

Senior students Karissa Chin and Cecilia Mainzer emerged as standout performers, clutching several titles in their respective categories. Chin, a double major in business data analytics and marketing, was named the top overall speaker at the tournament, showcasing her exceptional skills in public speaking and performance. Chin secured the state championship in Informative Speaking and earned runner-up positions in Program Oral Interpretation and Duo Interpretation alongside Mainzer. 

Mainzer, along with her partner Isaac Machar, excelled in Duo Interpretation, claiming the state championship title. Machar's remarkable talents were further highlighted as he secured victories in various interpretation events, including Program Oral Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation and Poetry Interpretation. 

In March, part of the team spent the beginning of spring break at the National Speech Championship in Chicago, Il. There, the team finished in the Top 15 in the nation, with one national finalist (Machar in Interviewing), four semifinals and three quarterfinals. 

The team will finish the 2023-2024 season in April, at the American Forensic Association National Speech Tournament in Wisconsin and the National Forensic Assocation National Championship in Michigan.


Despite being a comparatively smaller team, The University of Akron continues to excel, emphasizing the importance of skill development and academic enrichment. 

Rittenour expressed his pride in the team's achievements. 

"Our team's success at the state championship reflects their dedication, talent and commitment to excellence," said Rittenour. "We prioritize providing our students with opportunities for academic enrichment, professional development, and competitive excellence and their achievements speak volumes about their capabilities." 

The University of Akron's Speech and Debate Team's participation in both in-person and online tournaments further demonstrates their adaptability and commitment to continued success. By leveraging diverse platforms for competition, the team continues to hone its skills and excel on regional and national stages.  

Media Contact: Cristine Boyd, 330-972-6476, cboyd@uakron.edu