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Sunday, December 10, 2023

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Forensics Team Welcomes New Director

Daniel Iberri-Shea will take on the responsibility of leading a forensics team of approximately 30 students.
By Jack Haworth

For the first time in many years, San Diego State University has a new director of the forensics team.

Daniel Iberri-Shea will lead the program following the retirement of the previous director, Sharon Taylor.

“I’m really excited about the program. There’s a lot of talent and a great coaching staff as a whole,” Iberri-Shea said.

A native of the San Fernando Valley, Iberri-Shea started practicing speech and debate in high school.  After continuing forensics in community college, he was granted a full-ride scholarship to Northern Arizona University (NAU).

At NAU, Iberri-Shea and his debate partner were ranked in the top 10 in the United States for forensics. The pair won second place in the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence during their senior year.

Coaching and debating experience

Iberri-Shea has a strong track record for coaching speech and debate throughout the western United States. He served as the director of forensics at NAU for four years before moving to the Air Force Academy.

Following his term at the Air Force Academy, Iberri-Shea joined the faculty at Colorado State University, Pueblo where he started a student-run debate club. The club became very successful and after a few years, the school president funded the program with a $50,000 a year scholarship.

“It was really exciting that the legacy I got to leave in Colorado was that I started a forensics program,” Iberri-Shea said.

Goals for this year

Here at SDSU, Iberri-Shea will take on the responsibility of leading a forensics team of approximately 30 students. He is optimistic about the upcoming year and believes the team is heading in the right direction.

“This program is being reinvigorated, for instance, the Aztec Invitational just came back last year after about 10 years of being off, so I was happy to pick up the ball and keep it rolling,” Iberri-Shea said.

His first goal for the team is to get two or three teams of debaters to the national tournament.

Iberri-Shea also plans on experimenting with different debate formats, such as the British Parliamentary Debate, which features four teams of two people in a debate.

This year the team is scheduled to participate in 17 tournaments from September to April. While an average member of the team will only participate in three to four tournaments a semester, the workload requires students to dedicate six to eight hours of practice each week.

Students spend a large portion of that time researching and depending on the format of the debate, the debaters can do the equivalent of a dissertation’s worth of research in a year.

Keeping students on track is certainly no small task, but Iberri-Shea enjoys seeing them progress as the semester goes on.

“I love working with beginning debaters because you see so much progress with their learning and skills,” Iberri-Shea said.

A unique influence

Iberri-Shea is a black belt in judo and believes there are several parallels between martial arts and debate.

“To me it is really the same thing, I don’t see a difference between the two,” he said.  “There is rhetorical Kung Fu and there is Kung Fu and you learn fallacies like you learn counter strikes.”

He uses his judo skills to teach structure, philosophy and fallacies, but most importantly gives the debaters ample time to practice debating among themselves.

While this may seem like an unorthodox approach to coaching forensics students, Iberri-Shea believes it has allowed him to teach his students valuable lessons that go beyond speech and debate.

“I like to teach them how to be humble, respectful and how to take a loss,” Iberri-Shea said.

Life outside of forensics

Outside of coaching forensics, Iberri-Shea is an avid outdoorsman. His favorite hobby is fishing and while teaching summer classes at NAU, he often spent nights fishing at the local lakes. 

Whether going on a long fishing trip or spending the weekend camping in the woods, Iberri-Shea enjoys the challenge of being in nature. “I love the mountains and survival-like stuff where I have to rough it,” he said.

While San Diego may be far from the mountains, Iberri-Shea is still thrilled to bring his fresh new perspective to the SDSU forensics team and is looking forward to what promises to be an exciting and busy year.