UM Law Student Mac McMullan Places in Speaker’s Edge Competition

OXFORD, Miss. –“Attitude, assistance, preparation, and authenticity” were the words Rebecca McCarty, first Speaker’s Edge winner in 2005, said to the 2024 Speaker’s Edge class of graduate students. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Speaker’s Edge, founders and judges were present to give feedback and guidance to all Speaker’s Edge graduate students.

During the celebratory 20th anniversary speech, Director of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute, Melissa Jones, commented on how she became a part of the Speaker’s Edge family. After Dr. Morris Stocks asked her for her help, she spoke with Joanne Edwards about what Speaker’s Edge entailed and what her role would be. Jones made note that “Speaking with Joanne Edwards was like an old friend…you feel like you’ve been hugged when you get off the phone with Joanne.”

This year’s keynote speaker, Senior Managing Director, Eustis Corrigan, Jr. from CBIZ gave humbling leadership tips to remind us all to “be yourself and be authentic.”

Keeping the idea true to its nature, Speaker’s Edge Coordinator, Dr. Ellie Moore commented that, “the founders of Speaker’s Edge in 2003 aimed to answer this call by developing a course that leverages speaking assignments into a competition allowing graduates to ‘road test’ their professional communication abilities in an intensive two-week ‘boot camp’ for advanced public speaking.” Moore continues this tradition to help students overcome the fear of public speaking while building inner confidence.

Master’s level students in business, accountancy, and law presented issues that focused on ethical dilemmas, marketplace pitch, and worked with others on delivering a compelling team pitch.

Held at the Jackson Avenue Center during Jan. 11-12, these graduate students were joined by 65 judges and 7 consultants for this year’s competition. Speaker’s Edge is proudly co-hosted by the university’s School of Business Administration, Patterson School of Accountancy, Trent Lott Leadership Institute, Department of Writing and Rhetoric, and the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education.

MBA graduate student, Avery Taylor from The Woodlands, TX, stated that she, “learned tips on public speaking and how to communicate an idea concisely.”

Hayward Gordon a graduate law student from Augusta, GA, said Speaker’s Edge was very “beneficial in practicing public speaking.”  Gordon also remarked how it “gets easier over time with more practice.”

Master of Accountancy & Data Analytics graduate student, Lee Baker, also from Augusta, GA, stated, “Before taking this class, I was always anxious to speak in front of people, to the point I dreaded it. Speaker’s Edge, through Dr. Moore’s unique approach, with its blend of challenging competitions and practical skills training, made me a more confident speaker.”

Baker continued to say, “I now feel I can speak with more clarity and conviction, even in high-pressure situations. I have no doubt that these skills will serve me well in my business career, and I consider Speaker’s Edge one of the most beneficial classes I’ve taken at Ole Miss.”

This year’s overall winner was Lee Baker, who was awarded a check for $1,000 from Katherine Anderson.

This year’s winners for the ethical dilemma are:

  • Lee Baker, Master of Accountancy & Data Analytics, in first place
  • Mac McMullan, Law from Kennett, Missouri, second
  • Jackson Tournillon, MBA from Covington, Louisiana, third

The marketplace pitch category, competitors created ideas that ranged from advanced air mobility for FedEx, at-place robot and AI generated car dent repair, and chef created meals at home. This year’s winners are:

  • Cole Runyan, MBA from Ashland, Alabama, first place
  • Lee Baker, Master of Accountancy & Data Analytics, second
  • Daniel Hinke, MBA, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, third

In the Team Pitch category, participating students randomly selected companies and applied the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, or SWOT, analysis to evaluate them. The goal was to determine and address points of vulnerability or opportunity and how best to present a solution or highlight a strength.

The winning pitch was for Vivint. This team created a new product line for a pet protection service that is both cost effective and product efficient while still in line with their smart home technology and smart home security, making sure customers are assured that their pets are safe while they are away.

Members of the winning team are:

Emily Britton, a Master of Accountancy & Data Analytics graduate student and Kit McCormack, an MBA graduate student, both from Jackson, Mississippi; Jeremy Obregon, an MBA graduate student from Columbia, Illinois; and Marc Gorski, an MBA graduate student from Atlanta, Georgia.


By Jeanine Rauch