Walk for Women


Women's March

by: Mary Claire Phillips

photos from: The Texas Democratic Party; Mary Claire Phillips

Big crowds are not my thing. I’ve been to enough Texas State Fairs and high school football games to know that when a large group comes together it usually culminates in discomfort, anxiety, and a level of familiarity with your neighbor’s moisture levels. But lately, I’ve changed my tune. It is no secret the Women’s March was big. An estimated 3.3 million people showed up in the United States, and six hundred cities held protests on all seven continents. But of those huge numbers, my mind lingers on 52,143 – the number of Texans who showed up to the State Capitol in Austin on January 21st. You know what they say- “Everything’s bigger in Texas”.

For perspective, I’m a lifelong Texan born and raised in a stereotypical Dallas suburb. In the 5th grade, my elementary school counselor told my class that being gay only meant you prefer the arts to the sports. It doesn’t take too many personal anecdotes to convey how my conservative upbringing lead to a bleak outlook on progressiveness in my home state. But twenty one years of feeling like the only liberal in a fifty mile radius melted away when I stood alongside 52,143 other angry Texans ready to fight through the Trump years. When I walked up to the Capitol grounds and sawquite literallya sea of people, the first thing I did was cry. Because this is the kind of community I was told in my youth only happened in liberal states, never Texas. The kind of community that dared to call out the sugar-coated bigotry that so often goes ignored. The kind of community that loves me no matter whom I love. But most importantly, it was a community dedicated to fighting for the rights of Trans, Black, Latinx, Muslim, Immigrant, and Women’s rights. The sort of community that made Conservative lawmakers shake in their boots as they watched us march right outside their office windows.

mary claire


It didn’t take me long to find a post on my Facebook feed declaring our little jaunt around the Capitol as a fart in the wind (to use the scientific term). The upcoming Texas Legislative Session will be a battle; there will be many losses and some prized wins. There aren’t enough synonyms for scary to describe the next four years in the Oval Office. By many metrics, there won’t be a lot of wins for progressive politics. But I’m a firm believer all politics are local. The Women’s March was not just a statement to the powers that be – it is a message to my neighbors and loved ones in my conservative hometown of Coppell, Texas. When you vote for a president who vows to strip away LGBT rights, I want you to know you’re not voting against a faceless other – you’re voting against me. Arguably, I’m not all that important. But I attended school with the most fantastic Muslim, Latinx, Black, and Immigrant friends – all of whom are bearing the burden of a presidency that threatens their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I understand there are overarching reasons for a Trump vote that do not directly involve hatred for any of these groups. But many people are scared, and you do not get to delegitimize those feelings with a call for fiscal conservatism.

For the liberal readers, it is not enough to sit and nod in agreement. If you have not marched, block walked, phone banked, voted, testified at a committee hearing, lobbied, volunteered, donated, or made any attempt to do any of the above – you have homework. Action is the only thing that makes true equality a reality, and public opinion polls don’t make history. Don’t know how to get involved? Here is a good place to start! Pick your passions, find your organization, and contribute in whatever way you can. Marches are important, but they are not the end goal. It may not be immediate, it may not be easy, but it is absolutely necessary.

The Women’s March in Austin gave me a second wind, causes to lift up, and a whole lot of hope. Some say progressives in Texas have a snowball’s chance in hell, to those critics I say – you can all go to hell, I’m going to Texas.

 flag protest

Texas fight.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Texas Speech team.

New Student Spotlight: Dani Soibelman

Meet our 2016-2017 Junior Class

Dani picture

Name: Dani Soibelman

What made you decide to transfer to UT? 

Speech was a huge motivator, but UT is also a fantastic research institution. The College of Communication has already afforded me some wonderful opportunities in research, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else now.

Oh, and the food. Austin food is dope.

Is there anything you wanted to do in 2016 that you weren’t able to accomplish? Why or why not? 

I always come to the end of each year wishing I had done more. In 2016, I wish I could have published a study I wrote, taken a road trip to anywhere, and voted. The first one didn’t happen because of bad timing, and the latter two didn’t because I’m not 18 yet (so yeah, still bad timing). But as Lin-Manuel Miranda once said, “there’s a million things I haven’t done… just you wait.”

In 15 years, where do you see yourself? 

I’m grading term papers with a calico on my lap. My other two cats sit by the window as snow falls gently outside. Reruns of “Scrubs” play in the background as I read essay after essay about Face Negotiation Theory. I’m still learning to be happy; it’s a process that never truly ends. I’m also still writing verbose nonsense about my future.

If you could only watch/compete in one event for the rest of your life, what would you choose? 

Watch: Communication Analysis. If you’ve ever seen me watch the event, you know I often have to hold myself back from snapping and “MMM”-ing like it’s a Poetry final.

Compete: Prose. Whether it’s Info, Extemp, or even a job interview, stories find themselves at the forefront of the communicative experience. Knowing how to convey narratives is a necessary and fun challenge I hope to never cease accepting.

Sum up Texas Speech in 7 words or less:

My life will never be the same.

New Student Spotlight: Forrest Kendall

Meet our 2016-2017 Junior Class

 Forrest spotlight

Name: Forrest Kendall

What has been the weirdest thing about moving to Texas? 

The weirdest thing about Austin, is definitely the roads surrounding the freeways.

Since transferring to us, what has been your favorite thing about the team?

My favorite thing about the team is the one-on-one honest conversations that allow for people to build strong connections with teammates and coaches.

What do you want to do after you graduate? 

After I graduate, I’d like to find happiness and learn to love myself.

If you could do anything in Austin for a day, what would you choose? 

If I could do anything in Austin for a day, I’d fly some of my speech family from the California circuit out here and we would paint the town till the late AM.

Who has had the biggest influence on your speech career?

The biggest influences for me in speech career have been Kenny Klawitter and Liesel Reinhart; they introduced me to the activity, and whenever I had doubts they would always remind me that I could be better, not only in speech but also as a person.

New Student Spotlight: Nader Syed

Meet our 2016-2017 Sophomore Class


Name: Nader Syed

What has been the coolest thing about college speech? 

I love that everyone cares about their craft. Everyone’s so invested in what they do, and I think it’s amazing.

Tell us about your dream job!

Honestly, I don’t have a straight answer for that one. Probably somewhere between an engineer and a mathematician. I can’t go into too much detail here, but there are 7 math problems- 6 now- that have never been solved, and I’ve recently been focusing on them. Plus, solving one nets you $1 million, so…

Which event do you love the most (has it changed since you started competing with us)? 

Extemp, which hasn’t changed since I started.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Why? 

Somewhere quiet, like in the countryside of Norway or Austria; maybe by the coast in Argentina or South Africa. I love the places where you can just look out and think, unburdened by deadlines or schedules.

If you had an entire weekend to binge-watch Netflix, what would you watch?

In no particular order: West Wing and Blacklist. I’m taking a break from Black Mirror because one of the episodes made my rethink my life.

New Student Spotlight: Danielle Castillo

Meet our 2016-2017 Sophomore Class


Name: Danielle Castillo

What did you miss the most about speech? 

The one thing I missed most about speech was the community. I think having that support group that encourages you to, not only speak your mind, but advocates on your behalf while being so open is one unique aspects of this activity that has attracted me for years.

Tell us about your major!! Why did you pick it? What do you plan to do in the future?

I am a Political Communication major. I have always carried an interest in political processes, and hope to incorporate that into my career when I graduate. I plan to work cooperatively on campaigns and with politicians as a speechwriter/communication adviser.

If  you could perform any script in the world, what would it be? 

If I could perform any script in the world it would probably be Marry Poppins because it is one of my favorite childhood movies and I think with a twist it could be so interesting and fun!

What has been your favorite thing to do with the team? 

My favorite thing to do with the team is warm ups before tournaments. Warm ups ramp us up with energy, but they are also one of the only times we are all together to see what we have been working so hard on. I think it is such a privilege to work with such a diverse and talented group of individuals and I just feel so much pride and push to be better— competitively and personally. It just serves as a good reminder on why we work so hard in this activity.

If you could win an award for anything, what would you want to win it for?

If I could win an award for anything it would be for my future research in my division.

New Student Spotlight: Sarah Courville

Meet our 2016-2017 Sophomore Class

Name: Sarah Courville

What made you decide to transfer to UT? 

I had just always loved the campus and the culture surrounding the University. When I competed in the Longhorn, I remember wandering around (I was super lost at this point) and thinking “I wanna go here.” Then when I was at my previous university, I just had to make the decision to leave because I know I wanted more out of my college.

Since you’ve moved to Austin, what has been the coolest thing you’ve done on campus?


If you could sum up speech in 7 words or less–what would it be? 

“Did you know you look like Rachel?”

Which event are you most excited to put up next? 

 I am super hype about working on duo with Forrest!

Tell us your favorite memory with the team!

On our way back from Bayou, my car was deliriously tired, but we had to keep each other awake so we played car games. Nothing was really THAT funny, but I honestly haven’t laughed so hard in a while. Exhaustion, man.

New Student Spotlight: Maxim Belov

Meet our 2016-2017 Sophomore Class

 Maxim Name: Maxim Belov

Since you’ve moved to Austin, what is your favorite thing to do around town/campus? 

I moved to Austin in 2006, so I’ve been all over the place. The top contenders are Spiderhouse, Lake Travis and Austin, Austin Paintball, and my bed. It might go without saying that I like outdoors-y activities.

What class has been your favorite this semester?

There were a few complications caused by my transfer, so I’ve been obligated to knock out a few more core classes, which makes this an easy question to answer: Building Better Cities (GRG 302P) with Dr. Swearingen. The class is absolutely fascinating. It involves infrastructure, ecology, the equity behind resource management, and economics, all of which are some of my favorite topics (I accept I’m not the most fun person in the room at parties).

If you could work for the government for a week, what would you want to do? 

Given that I can only have a week, I would do exactly what Gallup on September 7, 2016 said 80% of Americans expect me to do: nothing meaningful. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t live up to the expectations of the American people while still acting in my own personal best interest. I would follow the Ted Cruz model for making myself a noteworthy politician and becoming a presidential hopeful; I would filibuster the Senate. It’s just so genius. Most of the senators would tune me out and my efforts wouldn’t change the course of whatever piece of legislation is on the table, but the media would eat that right up. After getting my name out there, I could leave at the end of the week and begin my campaign for real.

What has been your favorite tournament so far? 

While I hate long drives, Kansas State was by far my favorite. I mostly went to peeve my brother-in-law – who attended K-State and claims burnt orange is an ugly color – but found the setting lent itself to more opportunities to spend time with my teammates while still being a challenging tournament. Overall, it was a ton of fun and the campus looked really cool. Will I still tell him Kansas is boring? Yes. Will I be lying about that? Yes.

Are you planning on doing anything exciting for Halloween? 

I never celebrated Halloween growing up, and will be competing in Tulsa, OK. Arel tells me it’s a just a dandy place, so I’m looking forward to it. Now that I think about it, that sounds so anti-climactic… Oh well. Texas Fight!

Freshman Spotlight: Carlos Diaz

Meet our 2016-2017 Freshmen Class


Name: Carlos Diaz

If you could have one job for 24 hours, what would you want it to be? 

Any job that can pay my four years of college in 24 hours sounds good to me.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned since coming to UT? 

It’s okay to be different! I used to worry about how others saw me, and sometimes how I saw myself. But UT has really made me realize that your differences truly make you unique, so be yourself.

Who has had the biggest influence on your speech career?

Definitely my high school speech coach, Victoria Beard. I can honestly say I would not be here if it weren’t for that woman. She helped me discover myself and for that I will be forever grateful.

Since you’ve moved to Austin, what is the coolest thing you’ve done? 

I love visiting the nature sights in Austin. My friend took me to Mt. Bonnell when I first got here and it was amazing. Can’t wait to explore the raw natural beauty of Austin in the near future.

Any big birthday plans? 

Other than catching up on my sociology readings, probably not. I’ll probably end up hanging out with my friends, which sounds like a good birthday to me.

Freshman Spotlight: Maritza Ramirez

Meet our 2016-2017 Freshmen Class


Name: Maritza Ramirez

Tell us the coolest thing about your major:

The coolest thing about my major is I get to learn about how we as humans are, and the science behind why we are the way we are, plus it allows me to pursue my interests (which is the best part!)

If you could trade places with anybody in the world, who would it be? 

If I could trade places with anyone in the world it would have to be none other than the amazing Emma Watson because she is a phenomenal actress and an activist.

Which movie inspired you the most as a child?

The movie that inspired me the most as a child was Stand and Deliver–because it demonstrates how we as minorities can overcome our circumstances through education–if you haven’t seen it you should.

Are you excited to vote for the first time this November? 

I am excited to vote come November, this undoubtedly is a very important election and I want to do my part.

What do you plan on being for Halloween? 

I wasn’t planning on being anything for Halloween, but now I guess I’ll look for something, see what I can find!


Freshman Spotlight: Elizabeth Boone

Meet our 2016-2017 Freshmen Class


Name: Elizabeth Boone

What’s the coolest thing about your intended major?

The coolest thing about my intended major (public relations) is that it’s something that I’m actually interested in and that I ultimately feel like I can succeed in without losing my mind. Right now, my major is chemistry and the only cool thing about it to me is how official I look in a lab coat while doing an experiment. Lol!

Is there a class you can’t wait to take at UT? 

I really want to take the Black Power Movement class or African Diaspora Studies! It’s so cool to finally be in a place where there is an actual appreciation for my people’s culture and where there’s an actual curriculum for it.

What event interests you the most?

Poetry is the event that interests me the most. Ever since 8th grade, when I did my first poetry at a tournament, I’ve had this unique love for it that I don’t have for other events. Don’t get me wrong, I love the other events, but poetry is really close to my heart for some reason. I just really feel it, you know?

If you had to cast the freshmen class as characters from Hamilton, who would be who? 

Hmmmm, I’d probably cast Carlos as Alexander, Brianna or Sabrina as Eliza, myself or Dyana/Maritza as Angelica, Rohan as James Madison, and Drew as King George.

Tell us your favorite book:

There’s a tie between what my favorite book is. There’s a book called “Misfit” by Jon Skovron and I love it because it’s super cool, relatable (for some reason), really different from other things that I’ve read, and mystical! Also, I’m a HUGE Michael Jackson fan so I love his autobiography called “Moonwalk.”