Junior Joins Debate Team, Finds Her Fit

By Theresa Schliep 

With the eloquence of a debater, the idealism of a millennial and the pragmatism of a history major with an understanding of the mistakes of years past, Michelle Briney, FCRH ’18, has established herself through her academics and extracurricular activities.

Michelle is from Naugatuck, Connecticut, a town where she says little happens except for its annual duck race, in which rubber ducks are raced to the finish line in a local river. While this small town tradition may be obscure, Michelle — and her voice on the debate stage — is anything but. Michelle is on the Fordham Debate team, which participates in tournaments throughout the semester and travels as far as Washington D.C., according to Michelle. She has also participated in Fordham College Democrats debates.

“It’s really cool, partially because they’re really nice people, and it’s a really nice environment,” said Michelle. She highlighted her strengths, which include denoting competence in subjects she finds herself incompetent.

“I’m really kind of good at making it sound like I know what I’m talking about,” said Michelle. “I’m not an economics major, I’ve never taken an economics class and I’m really good at making it sound like I know what I’m talking about when I’m really just repeating supply and demand in various different ways.” She also admitted some weaknesses. Michelle said organization proves to be her Achille’s heel, especially on the debate stage.

“Just as a general rule, organization is not my strong suit, so what I tend to do is have good ideas, but I throw them out there and jump around,” said Michelle.

Throughout her experiences on the debate team, a few memories stick out in particular. One debate in American Parliamentary Style involved Michelle on the government side, the side that writes cases. Michelle said most debates involve economics or foreign policy, though sometimes students propose slightly nonsensical topics, but that nonetheless prove to be an interesting commentary on the issues we face today.

Michelle double majors in History and Middle Eastern Studies. She was conflicted for a while over whether she wanted to pursue a career as a veterinarian, but ultimately decided on a career in law with a potential minor in biology. However, when Michelle decided upon a career in law, a professor suggested she pursue a life in academia.

“Well, huh, that sounds interesting too, now I don’t know what I want to do,” she said. “There’s a bit of humor in that.” The topics that pique her interest unsurprisingly coalesce around the Middle East, specifically the ancient Middle East. She said the region interests her, especially because she never learned about it in high school. “I find that really fascinating, maybe because it’s so long ago and it’s so removed and it’s something I would have never learned about otherwise,” said Michelle.

Next semester, she plans on studying abroad in Jordan. “My poor dad, he spent years thinking I was going to study abroad in France,” said Michelle. “‘Hey, guess what! The country next to Syria? I’m studying there.”

In order to save some money for her trip and to alleviate her father’s financial burdens, Michelle is currently working in the Rose Hill bookstore, a fitting occupation for a woman whose youth was consumed by fantasy novels. Her favorite author is Terry Pratchett, a novelist known for his Discworld Series, a series containing 41 novels.

“He manages to combine action-packed, legitimate plots with really well fleshed out, sick characters,” said Michelle. “At the same time he’s making really interesting social points with really powerful phrases, while making you giggle at the turn of every page.”

Her fondness for stories does not confine itself to the narrow binds of fantasy novels. Sometimes, Michelle said, she thinks of a really good story in her head, and will start to run — a habit not unfamiliar to her father, who can sometimes sense when she is going to get into one of her jogs, and students who see her on her daily route to class.

“I randomly start running around in places,” said Michelle. “I like to imagine what ifs, and it drives my dad nuts when I do it in the house. Sometimes when I get the story in my head and I get to a really exciting part, I’ll just start running. I don’t know why. I get all this pent up energy in my legs, and I get really excited about it. Then I slow down.”


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