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Dao is named forensics All-American

April 15th, 2019

Candy Dao with her All-American award

Two years after claiming its first-ever American Forensic Association (AFA) All-American, Bethel College can now boast a second.

April 4 during opening ceremonies for this year’s AFA National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET), held on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, senior Candy Dao, Salina, was named to the 2019 All-American team.

The chair of each AFA District Committee submits names to the All-American Team Committee (up to six total from a district). Bethel is part of District III, which comprises Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

The All-American honor is meant to recognize students beyond the area of forensics competition. Achievement in forensics holds equal weight with scholarship and service. AFA All-Americans are seniors who have demonstrated outstanding qualities in all three areas.

Nominees must demonstrate personal qualities that indicate understanding of the role of intercollegiate forensics competition in a liberal education; show evidence of success and good conduct in forensics; exhibit excellence in the classroom not only by grade-point average but also by the range and challenge of study; and demonstrate commitment to the betterment of their community through their forensic and non-forensic activities.

AFA began recognizing All-Americans in 2001.

Dao, a 2015 graduate of Salina Central High School, has competed for Bethel forensics all four years, including qualifying to AFA-NIET each of those years.

Dao will graduate in May with a double major in biology and chemistry.

When asked about her campus involvements, she lists, in addition to her studies, “forensics, because it consumes my life, and [the Bethel College] Concert Choir, which consumes the part of my life that isn’t forensics or my academics.”

She has also worked as a tutor in the sciences and a student ambassador in admissions during her years at Bethel, as well as giving countless weekend hours to judging high school forensics tournaments.

Francisca Méndez-Harclerode, professor of biology, praised Dao for her performance as a science student and tutor, “eager to go beyond what is required and working well with others, especially others with different backgrounds and cultures.

“Candy’s parents are Vietnamese immigrants, and as the oldest child in her family, Candy was often in charge of translating … for doctor appointments and other official meetings, for not only her family but also the rest of the Vietnamese community in Salina. She is … very familiar with cross-cultural communication, has excellent social skills and communicates well orally – not only during forensics competitions, but in daily life.”

Dao has an impressive list of accomplishments in forensics, starting with her four straight qualifications to the forensics national collegiate tournament.

This year, she competed in three events, Persuasion, Poetry Interpretation and Prose Interpretation. She has also qualified Dramatic Interpretation and Program of Oral Interpretation (POI) at past nationals.

In addition, her performance in Persuasion this year earned her a trip to the 2019 Interstate Oratory National Tournament, the oldest of its kind in the United States, limited to the top two students from each state. IO will be held April 28-29 at West Chester (Pa.) University.

Dao owns five state championships over the course of her collegiate career, in Persuasion, Poetry, POI (twice) and Prose. 

At the beginning of this school year, she was named Bethel’s recipient of the Maud Wyatt Trust Scholarship from the Kansas Independent Colleges Foundation.

Even with the mid-season departure of forensics coach Michael Taylor, Dao says, “Regardless of the unforeseen circumstances of this year’s forensics season, it has been my most successful, as I have seven tournament champion titles, and demonstrated success through adversity.”

Acting forensics coach Gail Stucky said, “I have to express my personal appreciation for Candy’s professionalism and support during a difficult coaching transition for the forensics team. She has displayed great restraint and concern for others, and has helped me negotiate squad dynamics as well as serve as a great example for our freshman members.

“Candy’s leadership is subtle yet very effective, and she has helped make this semester a success for the entire team.”

Bethel College is the only Kansas private college listed in the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, both for 2018-19. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.