By Grace McNamara
Speech competitions have been a part of Sadé Barfield’s life for a long time. Her passion for competitive speech began when she was a high school senior, in the small Chicago suburb of Mundelein, Illinois.
Sadé decided to attend Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, due to her interest in their electronic media program. It was here she fully immersed herself into competitive speech. It was only fitting, as the Bradley University speech team is currently the most successful collegiate team in any capacity, including sports, according to the Associated Press.
Competing in an event called Original Comedy, Sadé found success and joy in writing her own short plays and acting out each character. She competed in speech all four years of college and found national success, eventually making it to the top 12 in the country.
“I had no idea what I was going to do after college,” she says. “I am an unabashed TV lover, be it prepared, scripted, scripted, or sketch comedy,” she says. However, she never wanted to be in front of the camera. “I was interested in learning about how that worked, how we craft these messages.”
Throughout various speech competitions, Sadé made connections with the students on the UNI speech team. “They recruited me to become their graduate assistant. So, I was to coach speech, teach a class, and go to grad school,” she says. “I thought, I love speech, I love this team, why not?”
During her time earning her Master’s in Communication Education, Sadé says she really fell in love with not just UNI, but Cedar Falls. “I am a small town girl and I enjoy that close-knit community feel,” she says. “I really love the way that the professors here want to work with students. They want to help you develop your interests and make them academic.”
Sadé currently teaches communication courses such as Oral Comm, Research Methods, and Comm Theories. Four years ago, she was made co-director of the UNI Forensics Team. As co-director, she is responsible for not only coaching events, but for crafting travel schedules for the team’s average of 13 tournaments per semester.
The UNI Forensics team pulls a diverse group of students of all areas of study from all over the university. Whether they’re biology majors, education majors, or communication majors, they all come together for the team. How does speech improve the communication skills of the student? “Speech provides the opportunity to be heard and find your voice. It’s awesome to see students develop advocacy. Part of my philosophy when it comes to coaching speech is before undertaking an event, I ask myself, to what betterment? Will the student be, will the community be, will the world be, as a result of what we’re doing.”
Students are able to gain experience and have fun, all while forming friendships with other students all around the country. “It’s really a diverse group of students that are attracted to speech. They can discuss their personal experiences or advocate for causes,” she says. Team meetings are held twice a week and individual coaching with students occurs throughout the week.
There are three different categories in speech. Limited preparation is when the student is given a prompt, which is usually a quotation, and the student has around a minute and a half to deliver a speech in under five minutes. Interpretation events are acting events, which are practiced ahead of time. Public address is the third type, which focuses on practiced public speaking.
In the future, Sadé looks to bring more diversity and challenging prompts to the speech team. “I’d like to bring in quotes from women of color or queer activists, just to get a different perspective.”
Sadé mentions have many mentors during her time here at UNI. “The depth of the involvement and the depth of the investment the professors make here is great. Dr. Cate Palczewski and Dr. Paul Siddens, I think I took a class with both of them every semester in grad school.
Sadé has noticed some differences when it comes to the Comm Department’s care for students. “What is unique about UNI and the Department of Communication Studies especially, is they don’t make you choose whether you want to take the academic track or professional track,” she says. “You can pursue both.”