Mississippi University for Women is now a member institution of the American Mock Trial Association, along with more than 350 other universities and colleges in the United States.
The AMTA provides a forum for more than 5,300 undergraduate students each academic year to engage in intercollegiate mock trial competitions across the country.
Wesley Garrett, assistant professor and director of legal studies at The W, said the program came at the suggestion of Dr. Dan Heimmermann, provost and vice president of academic affairs.
"He said it may be a good learning opportunity for students interested in the law," she said. "I researched it and spoke to some colleagues at other competing institutions about their experiences. I decided it sounded like a great challenge."
During the fall, the team prepared by learning court procedure and evidence rules. They also focused on case materials such as witness affidavits, evidence exhibits and case and statutory law.
Team members are required to register for the course, with members attending class like they would attend any three-credit hour class. As the team begins to develop the case and its strategies, the team meets outside of class for practice several times a week.
Their first dress rehearsal, open to the public, was held in November.
Pedro Acevedo, a senior majoring in communications with a minor in international studies, said, "I think The W's Mock Trial Team has a lot of potential, and our first dress rehearsal showed that."
Acevedo, who is from Caracas, Venezuela, served as a witness at the first dress rehearsal.
He said, "It is not easy for a group of diverse students to get together as a team and learn several rules, procedures and case studies in such a short time, especially without previous experience, but we did it, and we will just get better as time goes on."
Lucy Oyeleye, a senior majoring in legal studies added that the Mock Trial Team has been a great experience. Oyeleye, from Nigeria, served as an attorney.
"Mock Trial challenges you in so many ways. You have to learn to be adaptable and be willing to make sacrifices. You also have to learn how to work with a team and understand that it's not about one person but about the team and representing our university to the best of our abilities," she said.
"Teamwork is the most important thing that I have learned through this whole process. I am going to take everything I have learned from Mock Trial and use it in the future. Most workplaces nowadays require and depend on teamwork. It is a very important skill to have that I don't think you can learn from any textbook."
The team participated in the 3rd Annual Argo Mock Trial Invitational at the University of West Florida in Pensacola in January. A total of 15 teams competed in four rounds. The W's team won one round and its total winning ballots ranked above three other teams.