For the fourth time in eight years, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mock Trial team has advanced to the national championship tournament.
On Sunday, March 19, a group of eight UTC Mock Trial undergraduate students—political science and public service majors Taylor Johnson, Sophia Kennan, Jalil Bowler, Sam Kline and Lauren Igoni; history and philosophy of law, ethics and justice major Stacy Cunningham; criminal justice major Nicole Knight-Fallon; and history major Giuliano Duva—received a bid to the American Mock Trial Association’s national championship.
The tournament, which takes place April 14-16 in Memphis at host site Rhodes College, features 48 mock trial teams from across the country.
The UTC Mock Trial group was one of six teams advancing from the Greenville, South Carolina, Opening Round Championship Series—joining the University of Georgia, the University of Florida (two teams), Georgetown University and Georgia Institute of Technology. The weekend tournament, hosted by Furman University, featured 24 teams.
“I’m very proud of this group of kids,” said Mike Giglio, an attorney and Political Science and Public Service adjunct faculty member who has coached the team since its inception in 2008. “They had to fight adversity—one team member had to drop the day before competition—as well as the competition.
“Some of the best teams in the country were competing at Furman and we came out with a bid to nationals.”
According to the American Mock Trial Association, more than 300 universities nationwide have mock trial programs. While mock trials are built around court cases, they are designed for students interested in public speaking, debate, acting, law school or academic competition.
Earlier this academic year, Giglio explained the path to nationals in sports terms.
“The best analogy I’ve come up with for the regionals is that they’re like the Final Four in basketball,” Giglio said. “The regionals are the opening round where everybody goes. Then you get to the Sweet 16, and if you make it through the Sweet 16 weekend, you go to nationals.”
Johnson is president of the group and one of the captains. Kennan, a Brock Scholar in the UTC Honors College, also is a captain.
Cunningham earned individual honors in Greenville, winning an Outstanding Attorney Award.