If winning is a crime, NIU’s mock trial team is guilty.
At the American Mock Trial Association’s opening round of the championship series (ORCS) held this month in Geneva, the Huskie team was named as one of six “Outstanding Trial Teams” and finished with the third best overall record.
Their prowess in the courtroom earned them a bid to the national championship next month in Greenville, S.C., for the first time in NIU school history.
“Only the top 48 teams out of 650 teams in the U.S. make it to the national championship tournament,” said Mitch Pickerill, professor in the Department of Political Science, who started the mock trial program at NIU in 2012. “NIU will be competing with some of the most elite universities and mock trial programs from all over the country.”
Mock trial is an intercollegiate co-curricular activity where students play the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a hypothetical case. In just four years, Pickerill has taken the NIU program from its infancy to being a formidable competitor.
“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,” Pickerill said. “Mock trial is everything a liberal arts education is supposed to be wrapped up into one activity, and it contributes to the career readiness of these students.”
At the regional competition held last month in Joliet, NIU team members won four individual awards, more than any other team in the tournament. Co-captain Alonte Holliday won both an Outstanding Attorney Award and an Outstanding Witness Award, while co-captain Kristen Stoicescu won an Outstanding Attorney Award and Jamie Bellah won an Outstanding Witness Award.
Then, during the opening round series March 12 and 13, Stoicescu and Holliday again earned accolades for Outstanding Attorney and Outstanding Witness, making NIU the only team to have two students snag both attorney and witness awards.
“Our program has made a name for itself in a very short period of time,” said Stoicescu, a senior. “Our success is attributable to the determination and grit of our students, as well as the experience and dedication of our coach, Dr. Pickerill. We’re very fortunate to have him.”
For Stoicescu, who will graduate in May with a major in economics, there are other rewards as well.
“Mock trial is not only challenging and rewarding, but very fun,” Stoicescu said. “Through my participation in mock trial, I have improved my public speaking and logical reasoning skills, become comfortable with thinking on my feet, and made lifelong friends.”
Members of the mock trial team heading to Greenville are Stoicescu, Bellah, Holliday, Katie Harper, Aleesha Parent, Grace Trajani, Angelica Lebron, Joey Petrillo, Nathan Ghinazzi and Zakyrah Harris.
While they are busy preparing a new case for the national tournament April 15 to 17, they are also fundraising to cover the cost of the trip to South Carolina. Anyone interested in supporting the team or those looking for information about participating next year should contact Pickerill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Jane Donahue