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Thursday, March 15, 2012 - New mock trial organization builds students’ critical-thinking skills

A new student organization in the SBA will help students sharpen their communication, persuasion, critical thinking and decision making skills. The Mock Trial Organization (MTO), launched last fall, gives aspiring business leaders an opportunity to learn what it takes to try a case in court -- while having fun and exploring career options.

“It’s a great idea for students to enhance critical-thinking skills,” says Frederick Hoffman, special instructor, management, who serves as club advisor with the help of Assistant Professor of Management Jennifer Thor.

OU junior Jonathan Huynh was preparing for law school with public speaking and acting courses, when he developed the idea for a mock trial club.

“I wanted to develop my educational experiences outside of the classroom,” says Huynh. “I picked mock trials because I enjoy a competitive setting and learning about the legal profession.”

Comprised of four students this year, the club plans to expand next year.

“Students learn to think on their feet,” Hoffman says. “They must master their ability to react. It also enhances their oral presentation skills and even fosters acting skills. And, for those interested in going to law school, it will acquaint them with significant details of the courtroom process.”

The mock trial experience can prove invaluable to prospective law students, adds attorney Kevin Gleeson, SBA ’73.

“Interacting with opposing counsel, the court and witnesses is an experience available only in this setting and not in a classroom,” he says. “The court room is a very dynamic environment, constantly changing. If you asked a combat general, they would tell you the best laid plans cannot always prepare you for what occurs when battle begins. This scenario is applicable to the events which surface when trial commences. Being able to change direction and make sound strategic decisions during the engagement is critical.”

With more members next year, the MTO hopes to compete in the regional mock trial competitions sanctioned by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). The AMTA presents member organizations a new trial case every August, alternating between criminal and civil cases. During competition, students argue both sides of the case.

This year’s plan is to present the AMTA’s mock trial for the SBA this spring and continue recruiting members. Mock trial participants can portray attorneys or witnesses. Thor, who also is an attorney, helps with preparations.

Huynh is enjoying himself. “It’s fun and educational,” he says. “You can meet a lot of people with similar interests.” He’s also impressed with the group’s mock trial case from AMTA. “It’s a very long case. I’ve enjoyed reading through it and formulating questions.”

Now he’s looking forward to delving into real trial competitions. “When you go to a tournament, you don’t know what role you’ll play, which forces you to think objectively.”

For more information on the MTO, visit Mock Trial at Oakland University on Facebook.

For more information about the American Mock Trial Association, visit http://www.collegemocktrial.org.

By Flori Meeks