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Collie earns All-American forensics honors

Forensics phenom

Senior Matthew Collie is one of 12 in the nation recently named National Forensic Association All-Americans. But he really shone earlier this year in front of the MnSCU Board of Trustees.

2006-05-02
Robb Murray, Free Press staff writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 5/2/2005]

Photo by Robb Murray
Matthew Collie
Matt Collie earned All-American honors from the American Forensics Association. The award recognizes achievement in forensics competition, academics and community service. He is a senior who says he hopes one day to hold public office and do what he can to make sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed in life.

MANKATO — If you'd been there that day in that stuffy board room with all the neckties and agendas — been there to see Matthew Collie's spontaneity slice through the officialdom of that meeting — his recent achievement would have come as no surprise.

That day was all about impressions. There were impressive alums and a painstakingly edited video showing testimonials about the wonder of Minnesota State University. The goal: to show the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities board how well MSU was doing. And it was a finely crafted, expertly scripted piece of marketing.

Except for Collie's part. Blew everyone away. Went like this:

The setup: MSU President Richard Davenport asks the board for a phrase, piece of wisdom, truism. Board member says "A rolling stone gathers no moss." Davenport says Collie can do great things with little to nothing to go on. While Davenport pontificates, Collie goes to work. Crafts a speech around that moss phrase. Thoughtful speech. Full of insight. Wise. Creative. Five minutes. Blew everyone away.

Collie is a senior and has spent four years on MSU's Forensics Team. This year, however, he's seen unprecedented success. His fourth-place overall finish at the National Forensics Association end-of-year tournament in April was the best finish ever for an MSU student.

His success was mirrored by the team's success. The team achieved its best ranking in years with top finishes in two of the nation's most prestigious college forensic tournaments. The team placed eighth in the National Forensic Association, the first time in 15 years it has finished among the Top 10. The team also finished 19th in the American Forensic Association tournament — its best ranking in that tournament since 1991.

In the NFA tournament at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, there were 500 students from 85 schools. The AFA competition featured 97 schools.

In the AFA tournament, MSU earned points from every student, in every one of 19 individual events.

"This is a highly commendable achievement, considering the size of the tournament and the depth of competition," Director of Forensics Leah White said in a statement. "No other top-ranked team earned points from every one of their competitors and events."

It was the AFA that bestowed All-American honors on Collie. He is one of just 12 from colleges and universities across the country to be named All-American. Students are selected based on forensics, academics and community service.

For Collie, forensics success seems to have been brewing for a long time.

He was born in Iowa but raised in Winona. His parents were both forensics coaches, but Collie says they never pushed him to follow along. When he showed interest, though, they, of course, helped. He describes his high school forensics career as "OK."

He chose MSU for several reasons. First, it offered him a scholarship. Second, it had the strongest forensics program. He majored in history, minored in speech communications, and the quality of academics combined with the strong forensics tradition at MSU made it the easy choice.

Last year he did very well — best ever for an MSU student in the end-of-year competitions. This year, he did even better. He says his improvement in forensics can be credited to high-quality coaching, his own experience, and the extent to which he wasn't pushed to improve in high school.

"There were years when I was the Winona speech team," Collie says.

Forensics attracted him, he says, because of the sense of community not just among the team, but between competing teams.

Typically at meets, all team members have some down time. And built into the forensics culture is the idea it's a good thing to get to know the other teams, to even be happy when they do well. It's just the forensics way.

"It's really a community that's built around it," he says. "You become very good friends with people from all over the country."

Collie placed highly in many events, including persuasive speaking, extemporaneous speaking and rhetorical criticism. But his true specialty is impromptu speaking. In the NFA, he finished second in his division among more than 500 entrants.

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