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NIU mock trial team heading to nationals

March 16, 2015
Members of the award-winning mock trial team include (left to right) Alonte Holliday, Joel Heilmann, Kristen Stoicescu, Mike McCarthy, Tiana Sarto and Krista Krepp.

Members of the award-winning mock trial team include (left to right) Alonte Holliday, Joel Heilmann, Kristen Stoicescu, Mike McCarthy, Tiana Sarto and Krista Krepp.

The verdict is in on NIU’s mock trial team, and they’re guilty of winning.

At the American Mock Trial Association regional competition held last month in Joliet, an NIU mock trial team went undefeated and advanced to the national tournament for the first time in the university’s history.

“We’ve made remarkable strides since the beginning of the season,” said Kristen Stoicescu, a junior from Roscoe and mock trial club president. “Our case theories are simpler and better organized, our arguments are cleaner and better articulated, and our witnesses are more entertaining and polished.”

Mock trial is an intercollegiate co-curricular activity where students play the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a hypothetical case. Mitch Pickerill, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, started the program at NIU in 2012.

“Mock trial is everything a liberal arts education is supposed to be wrapped up into one activity,” Pickerill said. “A liberal arts education ought to teach students how to critically think and synthesize information, and how to improve their public speaking and teamwork skills. There is no doubt that mock trial provides a structure and a format for students to learn all of those things, and it’s also excellent preparation for our pre-law students who plan to attend law school.”

Professor Matt Streb, political science chair, shared the sentiment.

mock-trial-1“Mock trial gives students the skills they need to be successful after graduation,” Streb said. “We are so proud of these students who have worked super-hard and have represented the university in a wonderful fashion.”

Over the past three years, NIU students have continued to improve and establish themselves as a formidable opponent in the mock trial arena.

“Professor Pickerill has done an incredible job getting them to this point,” Streb said. “He spends a significant amount of time working with these students, and in our mind, this is just the beginning. We have a lot more we want to accomplish with this program.”

That opportunity will come Friday, March 20, when the NIU team heads to the opening round of the national championship series at the Kane County Courthouse in Geneva. Other teams coming include Northwestern, Notre Dame and the University of Michigan.

“We’re going to see fiercer competition than ever before,” Stoicescu said. “We’re looking forward to competing against some of the strongest mock trial programs in the country. We’re a relatively young program, and we want to show that NIU has what it takes to compete at the national level against older and more established programs.”

American Mock Trial Association logoTeam members include Stoicescu, Joel Heilmann, Alonte Holliday, Krista Krepp, Mike McCarthy and Tiana Sarto. And while it is a team sport, each individual has made a significant contribution.

“Every person on my team has won at least one individual award this season, and I attribute that to the level of dedication and commitment everyone demonstrated this season,” Stoicescu said.

Pickerill agreed.

“From a teaching perspective, it is great to work with a group of students who are committed to a constructive positive thing like mock trial,” he said. “This team has really exceeded my expectations.”

by Jane Donahue