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Friday, February 1, 2008

Hassan Sheikh

by R. Devin Hughes

Name: Hassan Sheikh
Major: Communication Studies with a minor or double-major in Philosophy
Interests: Chess, Risk, and other games of strategy

Hassan Sheikh proclaims himself the “Lone Wolf” on the Ohio University Forensics team because he is the only member who participates in Debate, as in one-on-one competition against someone from another team. However, with regards to the competition, his dominance in Lincoln-Douglas debates might make “Alpha Male” the better nickname. Sheikh is currently the top debater in the state of Ohio, and is looking forward to this weekend's Appalachian Swing tournament to prove that he is the true number one. Other teams in Ohio already know his name, and a convincing win in the Appalachian Swing would make Sheikh a clear force to be reckoned with heading into States and Nationals.

Hassan Sheikh's forensics career began with victory, and he has not looked back since. Sheikh was declared the Novice Debate Champion in his first college competition. He was 19 at the time and competing for Brookdale Community College. At the NYU Skyline Spectacular, Sheikh went against Lafayette's best debater, Mark Kokoska, and was, by his own admission, “killed.” However, in the very next round, Sheikh debated Kokosa's teammate, Teevrat Garg, and won. To do so, Sheikh used techniques that Mark Kokoska had used against him in the previous round. This ability to learn from experience and apply the lessons so quickly impressed the judge so much that he approached Sheikh afterwards to commend his work. That judge's name was Dan West, the coach of the Ohio University Forensics Team.

This meeting with Dan West led Sheikh to transfer to Ohio University in his junior year, and under West's coaching, Sheikh has become a huge asset to the team, competing in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. He believes that debate is “one of the most time-intensive” aspects of forensics, and can not say enough about his appreciation for the coaching abilities of Dan West, who is “willing to take the team members as far as they are willing to go.” If they have a passion to improve, he will make sure that they do. Sheikh is very clear in emphasizing the team's admiration of West, saying “If Dan West calls, we answer it. We might as well have secret decoder rings, and also notes that “D-dub has a sparkling personality.”

Sheikh loves forensics and encourages high schoolers to join. He tells prospective students that “debate is like skiing down a slope...hitting speeds over 40 miles per hour, knowing you'll make it to the end, because if you argue properly, you'll never lose.” Even if they have had no previous experience, all students need to do is contact Dan West, who would be happy to take them in and train them. According to Sheikh, extensive debate experience is not as important as passion, the “critical ingredient to any success.” As long as the student has the passion to be a strong debater, Dan West can make him or her into a strong debater. Should he or she wish to best prepare themselves, Sheikh recommends competing in the National Forensics League. developing strong research skills, and not focusing so much on arguing properly, since the coach will take care of that.

A piece of general advice that Sheikh would give to high schoolers would be to build upon the social aspect of high school. In Sheikh's opinion, one will have plenty of time for learning in college, and thus time in high school is better spent making memories and forming strong social bonds. Though he may be the “Lone Wolf” on the debate team, friendship is extremely important to him. This is evident is his amicable disposition and openness to conversation. His strong debating ability makes him a huge asset to the Forensics Team already, but his character and ambition make him a leader and an excellent role model for any new recruits.

After college, Sheikh plans to take a year off to be a lobbyist for the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and then attend law school so that he could practice law for a living. Once he gets a solid financial foundation, Sheikh has aspirations of running for public office, perhaps starting off as a mayor and moving up to a senator.