Showing what West Virginians can do
Feeling feisty and hankering for a good debate? Best not to choose George Urling as your sparring partner. He might just take you down.
The Marshall University junior just returned from Japan, where he participated in the International Forensic Association Tournament as part of Marshall’s Thundering Word Speech and Debate Team, earning second place in Visual Communication, and making it to the semifinals in Impromptu Speaking and the finals in Anime Interpretation.
Getting up there and making a solid argument – it’s what he loves to do.
“I have always had a passion for public speaking, and I have wanted to be on a debate team for many years,” he said, “but it was not offered at my high school so when I saw that I could do it at Marshall, I jumped at the opportunity.”
It’s been quite a ride ever since, going from virtual competition as an underclassman because of COVID-19 to in-person competition this academic year, including several competitions here in the eastern United States and a chance to compete in Tokyo earlier this month.
George, who is from Midkiff, West Virginia, and majoring in Cyber Forensics & Security, competed in IPDA (International Public Debate Association) Debate, Impromptu Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Visual Communication and Anime Interpretation.
“It was an incredible experience, and I got to compete against many people who I have never gotten to meet before. I was very satisfied with how I performed as I did much better than I could have ever hoped for,” George said, adding that his competitors were actually all Americans. “I had a lot of interesting topics. Probably the one that challenged me the most was, ‘Facebook should be regulated like a media company,’ as this topic led to discussion on already existing policies and the pros and cons of groups like the FCC.”
To prepare for a debate, members of the Thundering Word simply pick a topic and debate it. To practice for the Impromptu and Extemporaneous categories, coaches gave George a prompt on which he had to prepare and give a speech, as he would in a tournament.
“I feel that I learned how to better hone my craft in events such as debate, impromptu and extemporaneous as I got to see other people compete and learn from them,” he said. “I am very proud to be a member of the Thundering Word Speech and Debate Team as I am surrounded by some of the greatest and most skilled people I know.
“Our coaches are amazing, with Clara Adkins and Nancy Jackson showing me how to do speech so well, as well as our debate coach Michael Shirzadian helping me to debate on a level I never knew I could. My teammates are also all incredible, with fascinating pieces that I love getting to listen to. The journey with this team has been something I will always treasure.”
Traveling to Japan was pretty amazing, too, he said.
“It was a truly incredible experience, I got to see so many different things such as historical buildings. It was also amazing to experience a culture that is so different from the one we have here in America. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity.
“My favorite parts of sightseeing were the temples and shrines. I got to see smaller shrines as well as a massive Buddhist temple known as the Zojoji Temple that was founded in 1393. Getting to see places that have so much historical and spiritual significance was indescribable.”
Being a part of the Thundering Word has not only enriched his college experience, but he hopes it helps in his career as well. He plans to earn a master’s degree in Cyber Forensics & Security at Marshall and then work in the field.
“I would like to help organizations such as governments, businesses and schools better secure their networks,” George said. “I feel these experiences will help my career in many ways, one of which being that cyber security can be a very complex topic, and speech and debate has shown me how to explain complex topics in a way that people can easily understand.”
He’s glad he chose Marshall for many reasons.
“I am very proud to be a Son of Marshall and I have been happy with my choice to go here throughout all my years of attendance,” George said. “This campus is a place that I have truly been able to feel at home with incredible professors and fellow students. Marshall is also the only school in West Virginia with a speech and debate team, and with me being so passionate about it, I could not imagine going through college without it.
“I absolutely recommend Marshall University to any high school students. Marshall is a place where you really feel like you have people to assist you. I can also say, as someone who comes from a very rural area, I have been able to see and experience so many amazing things that I would not have if I had not chosen to go here.”
He has a lot of people on campus to thank, he said.
“I am very grateful to my coaches, my team and Marshall University for giving me the opportunity to represent West Virginia on a worldwide stage,” George said. “I am a very proud West Virginian, and being able to show people from around the world just what our state is capable of means a lot to me.”