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Founder's daughter carries on mock trial team success

Feb. 1, 2007

KALAMAZOO--The success of Western Michigan University's mock trial team continues this year under the leadership of the daughter of the founder of the six-year-old program.

Joelle Renstrom, a part-time instructor for WMU's Lee Honors College and the Department of Political Science, has taken the reins of the program her father, the late Dr. Peter Renstrom, started in 2001, as students prepare for the American Mock Trial Association's regional qualifier Friday through Sunday, Feb. 2-4, at Notre Dame University. The top teams from about 25 regional matches across the country will advance to the national championship at Stetson University in Florida in April.

An accomplished mock trial participant herself, Renstrom said she is honored to continue the program started by her father, a WMU political science professor who was an expert on constitutional law and U.S. elections and was active in area politics. He died in September 2006.

"In a lot of ways it has been his legacy to the University and to the political science department," says Renstrom who began teaching at WMU in 2006. "Our team wants to win, and we want to win for him and to make him proud. It's really important for a lot of reasons."

Her father's support helped propel her own success as a member of the mock trial teams for Kalamazoo Central High School and the University of Michigan, which won national championships in 1996 and 1999, respectively.

This year, WMU has two teams with a total of 12 undergraduate students, five of whom are returning from last year and were coached by the senior Renstrom.
WMU started its season strong with a third place showing at a practice tournament in January at Ohio Northern University.

"The seniors really want to go out in style, both for themselves and for the memory of my dad," she says. "The team has really stepped up, especially in the wake of dad's death."

The strategy this year is to use unexpected tactics, she adds.

"A lot of times during these competitions, the arguments seem to sound the same. I'm really big on distinguishing ourselves, using strategies to catch the other team off guard," says Renstrom.

During a mock trial, students assume the roles of lawyers and witnesses and present their side of a case issued by the American Mock Trial Association. This year's case involves an allegation of excessive force by a police department after the shooting of a 16-year-old boy who remains in a coma.

The team roster includes captains Reema Nandy and Bethany Whittles and members Jen Baggiani, Andrew Beck, Dan Brim, James Connor, Keely Frye, Hannah Markel, Blake Nichols, Richard Salchow, Kathryn Stoehr and Brent White.

Local lawyers and judges who helped this year with the WMU teams are Jamie Geary of Howard & Howard; Kurt McCamman of Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone; and Annette Nickel of Varnum, Riddering, Schmitt & Howlett.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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