IUPUC Professor and Director of the Communication Studies program, Anna Carmon, has been named the Hoosier Heartland District National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) Coach of the Year for her work with the Columbus East High School Speech Team during the 2020-2021 season. The district includes thirteen high schools across the state ranging from Evansville to West Lafayette.
Carmon received the award not only for her coaching, which helped lead Columbus East to its most successful year in team history, qualifying four students for the national tournament, but also for her work assisting the Hoosier Heartland District in navigating the technology challenges of a completely virtual season.
“We all entered this season unsure of how to continue to support our students and provide competition experiences,” said Sara Berghoff, Hoosier Heartland District Chair and Speech Coach at Southport High School. “Anna found ways to work within the Covid restrictions to ensure that her students didn't miss out. As other coaches and teams in our community struggled to adapt, Anna offered her time and expertise to navigate the logistics and support not just her own team, but our entire community.”
In a year that brought so many changes to schools, the coaches at Columbus East wanted to find a way to ensure that the speech team would be able to compete. “We knew we had kids who wanted to compete but none of us had any concept of how to make that happen. Anna did a lot of the homework, the marshaling of our resources, and ultimately helped execute a plan to make things work,” said Matt Rothrock, who also coaches at Columbus East.
Carmon, who never participated on a speech team in high school or college, had never thought about coaching until Rothrock, an IUPUC colleague, approached her more than ten years ago to ask her to edit a student’s speech. Carmon not only edited the speech, but asked if she could attend practice and coach the student as well. She’s been attending Columbus East practices ever since. For Carmon, the speech team is more than just polishing the students’ public speaking skills. “They learn so much more than just speaking. They learn how to present themselves professionally, and through the topics they speak about, they are learning civic awareness and civic engagement through researching both international and domestic current events, and are gaining important critical thinking skills – all things that will set them up to be successful later in life.”
In addition to coaching with Rothrock at Columbus East, the two serve as tournament hosts for an annual high school tournament that has been historically held on the campus of IUPUC each December. In 2020, however, the event was conducted virtually and included more than 125 students from across the state. For many schools, it was their first virtual tournament and Carmon was instrumental in helping them to participate in the online environment.
IUPUC began offering Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communication Studies in 2015, and Carmon has been instrumental in growing the program as its Director. In addition, she teaches courses across the communications spectrum, including Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, Communication Theory, Family Communication, and others.
“Anna's unparalleled commitment to service makes a remarkable difference at our university and in our community. Fittingly, she has received three IUPUC Outstanding Full-Time Faculty Service Awards, an IUPUI Women’s History Month Leadership Award, and three National Speech and Debate Association awards. I’m thrilled to learn that her fellow high school speech team coaches have recognized her as the Coach of the Year,” said George Towers, Head of the Division of Liberal Arts at IUPUC.