Academic Programs
Communication Department

The Communication program at Prairie State College focuses on helping students improve their public speaking, interpersonal, intercultural, and mass media communication skills. Employers today want the people they hire to have “soft skills” in addition to the technical skills that define the job. These soft skills are sometimes called “people skills,” and communication often ranks first among them. Other soft skills include teamwork, reliability, flexibility, problem-solving, and creativity. Employers understand that individuals who have soft skills make better employees, no matter what the job description.

 These soft skills are the core of what you learn in communication courses. No matter what your career objective (nurse, police officer, auto mechanic, business entrepreneur, chemist, musician, or astronaut), good communication skills will help you be successful. Majoring or minoring in communication studies or mass communication can also open doors to many satisfying careers. The list of careers that center on communication is endless, and includes such things as sports broadcaster, media critic, press secretary, information officer, publicist, human resources director, negotiator, film director, and many more.

News and Events


19-20 – College of DuPage Frank-ly Speaking Tournament


3 – Parkland College Tournament

16-17 – Harper College Tournament


2-4 – Illinois Intercollegiate Forensics Tournament (Illinois Central College)

23-24 – Phi Rho Pi Region IV Regional Tournament (Moraine Valley Community College)


3 – COMM Day at Prairie State

 8-15 – Phi Rho Pi National Tournament (Daytona Beach, FL)

Speech Team

Because Prairie State College is a member of the national forensics organization for community colleges, Phi Rho Pi, the following rules apply:

Phi Rho Pi Rules for Unlimited Preparation Events

These rules apply to the events of Persuasive, Informative, Speech to Entertain, Program Oral Interpretation, Interpretation of Prose, Interpretation of Poetry, Duo Interpretation, Communication Analysis and Dramatic Interpretation.

NOTE: All interpretation events, other than Interpreters' Theatre shall be required to use only published material [published means "available to everyone through normal research methods"].

a. The persuasion, informative, speech to entertain, interpretation programs, Duo Interpretation scenes, or speech(es) or communication act selected for criticism, may be on any subject the speaker may desire.
b. The speeches and programs in these events should be the work of the student.
c. No portion of the speeches and programs in these events shall be identical material used in competition prior to the preceding September.
d. The time limits in these events shall be ten (10) minutes maximum, with no minimum time limit specified. A 30-second grace period will be allowed with the judge having the discretion to determine if the overtime is due to audience response. Timing of the event shall begin with the performance; however, set-up time is to be kept to a minimum.
e. With the exception of Program Oral Interpretation, Interpretation of Prose, Interpretation of Poetry, Duo Interpretation and Dramatic Interpretation which require an extemporized introduction and transitions and the reading of selections from manuscripts, the speaker must use, as means of presentation, memorized delivery, without notes.
f. Each contestant shall have available a bibliography, footnotes, outline, or manuscript for examination by the Tournament Committee at its request. The intent of this rule is to prevent plagiarism.
g. No contestant may use any portion of a speech or program in more than one event.
h. Contestants may not rewrite a prose, a poem, or a dramatic text so that the work differs from the original text.

  1. Contestants may not add or reassign scenes or lines to the performed cutting. Although an occasional line might be added especially if a character has been deleted, this practice should be discouraged.
  2. Contestants may not rewrite the ending of a work.
  3. Contestants may not change the point of view or gender of a character.
  4. Contestants may not perform a text in a genre for which it has not been written. If material has appeared in more than one form, i.e. novel, play, essay, etc., the classification of literature shall be determined by the source from which the cutting was taken. In cases of confusion as to which genre best encompasses a selection, the Library of Congress system shall be the basis for final arbitration.
  5. If challenged the coach is responsible for providing the original source or a photocopy. along with a copy of the copyright page.

i. Rules pertaining to the specific events in this category are as follows:


The purpose of the persuasive speech shall be to convince, stimulate, or actuate (to win belief, to reinforce conviction, or to ask for or move to action ... speeches of eulogy, condemnation, inspiration, and problem-solving are equally acceptable). Not more than 10% of speech may be direct quotation.

Informative Speaking

The purposes of the informative speech are to describe, clarify, explain and/or define an object, idea, concept or process. (A speech explaining the nuclear test ban treaty would classify as an informative speech, while a speech giving a value judgment or advocating a position condemning the treaty would classify as a persuasive speech).
Audio-visual aids may be used so long as they do not interfere with the speaker's ability to communicate effectively with the audience. Contestants are advised that the Tournament Committee will not supply special features for the use of aids.

Interpretation of Poetry

Poetry shall include one or more selections written in rhymed or unrhymed meter or cadence of some regularity, excluding drama. If more than one selection is used, these selections should be linked thematically. All programs must include an introduction.

Interpretation of Prose

Prose shall consist of single or multiple selections of literature printed mainly in paragraph form, excluding drama. If more than one selection is used, these selections should be linked thematically. All programs must include an introduction.

Dramatic Interpretation

This event shall consist of a cutting or cuttings from a play, teleplay or screenplay, featuring monologue or dialogue. If more than one selection is used, these selections should be linked thematically. All programs must include an introduction.

Program Oral Interpretation

This event is to consist of a unified presentation made up of at least two selections of different genre (i.e. prose, poetry, dramatic literature, plays). A contestant may use the works of one or more authors. The selections should develop a theme.

Communication Analysis

Speeches of Communication Analysis may be a spoken event (i.e., speech, speaker, movement, etc.) or of other Communication events (i.e. songs, posters, cartoons, slogans, symbols, etc.). The analysis should be critical rather than descriptive, in nature -- strictly historical or biographical analysis is not acceptable. The speaker is to apply principles of rhetorical and/or communication theory to the event in order to contribute to a better understanding of that event.

Entertainment Speaking

The Speech to Entertain shall be an original speech, the primary purpose of which is to entertain. Just as in any other speech, there should be a central topic sentence or thesis statement which the speaker develops. This event is not merely a series of jokes or a "stand-up" routine.

Duo Interpretation

A cutting from a single source of literature involving the portrayal of two or more characters presented by two individuals. This is not an acting event; thus, no costumes, props, lighting, etc., are to be used. Presentation is from the manuscript and the focus should be off-stage and not to each other. Maximum lime limit is 10 minutes including introduction.

Phi Rho Pi Rules for Limited Preparation Events

These rules apply to the events of Extemporaneous Speaking and Impromptu Speaking. Rules pertaining to the specific events in this category are as follows

Extemporaneous Speaking:

The general topics shall be National and International Events in the areas of Politics, Economics and International Relations of the three months preceding the National Tournament.

At least thirty (30) minutes before time of speaking, each contestant will be given a choice of three topics. Drawing will be posted at seven minute intervals. The speech should be the work of the student, but notes, books, and magazines may be used in preparation.

The time limit for speaking is seven (7) minutes maximum, with no specified minimum. The speaker may use, for reference while speaking, a maximum of one note card, not to succeed 5" x 8" in size.

Impromptu Speaking

The topics for all rounds shall be drawn from a variety of slogans, maxims, objects, lyrics or other creative topics exclusive of areas covered by extemporaneous speaking. One note card, not to exceed 3 x 5", may be used by the speaker for reference. Speakers will be given three (3) topics as outlined above from which to select one topic on which to speak. The seven (7) minutes maximum time limit will begin when the topics are received by the speaker. The speaker may divide the seven (7) minutes between preparation and presentation as desired. (The event will be held with all speakers in the room.)

Brianna Abate
Associate Professor

(708) 709-3763

Brianna Abate began her tenure at Prairie State in 2017. She earned a Bachelor’s in Communication with an emphasis in Speech at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, and her Master’s in Speech Communication from Miami University of Ohio. She began teaching in 2005, and has taught face-to-face and hybrid courses in four states, and online nationwide. Since 1994, Brianna has been involved in forensics (Speech Team) in high school and college as a competitor, coach, and judge for schools across the country. She looks forward to developing courses in PR/Social Media, Rhetoric, and Political Communication to better prepare students for an ever-changing world.

Josh Green
Joshua Green
Associate Professor/Coordinator

(708) 709-2958

Joshua Green joined Prairie State in 2014 after earning a Master of Fine Arts from UCLA and Master of Communication from Miami University of Ohio. During his tenure at Prairie State, he has taught several courses in communication as well as developed additional courses for the curriculum including Film Appreciation and Film History. Joshua is a Co-Director of the Prairie State Speech Team and Administrator for the High School Summer Speech Camp, where he works with students to hone their professional presentation skills. Green has been recognized and award by the competitive speech community for his student service. He has presented at national communications conferences on the topic of race and video gaming. A full-time professor since 2015, Green continues to teach, including COMM 101 (Principles of Communication), COMM 111 (Intro to Mass Communication), and COMM 113 (Film Appreciation).

Dana Trunell
Dana Trunnell
Associate Professor

(708) 709-3798

Dana Trunnell began her career as a full-time professor at Prairie State in August 2016. Prior to her tenure at Prairie State, Professor Trunnell attended Illinois State University, where she earned two Bachelor’s of Arts degrees (English and Journalism) and a Master’s of Communication with an emphasis on Mass Communication and Intercultural Communication. She has coached nationally and state-wide successful students at several high school and college teams including Illinois State University, Arizona State University, and Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix, Arizona. She is currently serving as Higher Education Chair of the Illinois Communication and Theatre Association. At Prairie State, Professor Trunnell is a Co-Director of the Prairie State Speech Team and Administrator for the High School Summer Speech Camp. She teaches COMM 101 (Principles of Communication), COMM 103 (Group Discussion), COMM 104 (Intercultural Communication), COMM 108 (Interpersonal Communication), and COMM 111 (Introduction to Mass Communication).

Adjunct Faculty
A number of dedicated adjunct faculty members teach Communication 101 at Prairie State College. Adjunct faculty can be reached via the contact information you will receive the first day of class. You may also try visiting the Adjunct Faculty Office when your professor is on campus. The Adjunct Faculty Office is located on the fourth floor of Main Building in room 4195.
Melissa Hebert-Johnson, Dean, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, mhebert-johnson@prairiestate.edu

Communication Discipline Awards and Recognition
The Communication Department at Prairie State College seeks to recognize excellence in the Communication discipline. In April 2018, Communication Faculty established two awards to recognize students, faculty, administrators, and other contributors to the Communication program at PSC.

The Ed Schwarz Outstanding Communication Student Award
The award is named after retired Professor Ed Schwarz who taught communication classes full time at Prairie State for 23 years before his retirement in 2018. In addition to teaching, Professor Schwarz also served as long-time Coordinator of Communication and Chair of the Department of Humanities, Communication, Fine & Performing Arts. He also coached the Forensics Team at PSC and was an active member of the International Committee, the Sustainability Committee, and the College-Wide General Education Learning Outcomes Committee.

The Ed Schwarz Outstanding Communication Student award is awarded during the Communication Department’s Communication Day, which is held annually during the Spring semester to celebrate the field of Communication. The award recognizes one or two outstanding second-year students who have excelled in Communication courses and activities on the PSC campus.

Students are nominated and voted on by the Communication faculty during the Spring semester. The Communication Department will send a letter announcing the award to that year’s winning student(s) along with an invitation to attend the Communication Day festivities to receive their award during the closing ceremony.


  • Second year student majoring in Communication, who has taken two or more Communication classes at Prairie State
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Participation in a Communication-based activity on campus such as the Speech Team, Film Makers Club, etc. (Preferred qualification, not required)
  • Nomination by one or more of the Communication faculty
  • Selection by vote of the Communication faculty

Past Winners:

  • 2017-2018 Angelica Brooks and Anthony Harris

Prairie State College Forensics Team Hall of Fame
The Prairie State College Forensics Team Hall of Fame aims to recognize outstanding former members, coaches, or other individuals who have significantly contributed to the success of the Forensics Team. The Hall of Fame also seeks to recognize those who have used the skills developed during their tenure on the team to significantly contribute to their communities.

Hall of Fame members are nominated and voted on by the Forensics coaches during the Spring semester. New members will receive a letter announcing their selection to the Hall of Fame along with an invitation to attend the Communication Day festivities where they will be recognized for their selection during the closing ceremony.

Hall of Fame Selectees:
2018 – Favian Apata (Team Member, 2006-2008; Summer Camp Coach, 2013-2018)
2018 – Mike Hopkins (Team Member, 1998-2000)
2018 – Linda Uzureau (Vice-President of Academic Affairs, For Supporting Forensics, 1998-2009)