Speech and Debate team earn high rankings


By: Leah Jackson, Northwestern State University

Northwestern State University’s Speech and Debate team has been ranked 17th out of 132 teams nationally by the International Public Debate Association after competing at the IPDA National Championship at Lee College in Baytown, Texas, March 31-April 3. The team also ranked 13th out of 104 teams in the Novice Squad category, 15th out of 84 teams in the Junior Varsity Squad category and 12th out of 26 teams in the Team Squad category.

“What the NSU Speech and Debate Team accomplished this year was especially impressive considering two of the three Novice debaters had never participated in anything to do with public speaking and considering the team only participated in 7 of the 37 tournaments that were held this year,” said Dr. Davina McClain, team sponsor. “We hope to double that number, increase the number of students participating in debate and add more students who want to do the Individual Events in speech.”

Individual debater rankings named Drew Chesher 22nd, Daniel McKnight 34th and Joseph Baker 40th out of 494 national competitors in the Novice category. Junior Varsity rankings place Ryan Ware at 22nd, Hannah Morris 51st and Brandon Granger at 78th out of 250 national competitors.

Speaker Awards place Chesher 19th out of 127 in the Novice category and Ware 18th and Morris 28th out of 87 in the Junior Varsity category.

In Team Debate, rankings were Ware/Morris 14th, Baker/McKnight 37th and Granger/Chesher 64th out of 110 teams in the nation.

Ware earned 3rd place in the Speaker category for Junior Varsity and McKnight advanced to double octos in the elimination rounds for the Speaker category in junior varsity.

Josephine Amusu competed in After Dinner Speaking and Poetry Interpretation and won awards in both. She also helped the team by judging debate and helping others prepare with debate.

Ware and Morris will debate in the Madison Cup at James Madison University on April 18 where 30 two-person teams from around the country will participate in public debate.

NSU’s Speech and Debate team reformed this year when McClain was offered the Theodore Harris Roberts Endowed Professorship of Rhetoric and Debate in the Department of New Media, Journalism and Communication Arts. At that time, Ware, who participated in debate in high school and coaches the Speech and Debate team at Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, began recruiting students to participate.

“The confidence that these students have developed has been amazing, especially for Drew Chesher, Daniel McKnight, and Joseph Baker, who had never done anything with speech or debate before,” McClain said. “For them to go from zero to a national ranking in the top 10 percent is way beyond what any of us would have expected after watching them debate the first time. “For Josie, she has tackled something very different from her biology degree, but for someone wanting to go into health administration, the experience of traveling with a group, analyzing people arguments and offering helpful advice has made her a strong listener and made her more confident.”

McClain said that in addition to confidence, students in Speech and Debate gain a great knowledge of the world around them.

“You have to be ready to debate politics, social issues, sports and all sorts of ethical situations,” she said. “And you have to be ready to take a position that may be counter to what you personally believe. That necessity of learning both sides of an issue is exceedingly important. It’s truly been a team effort and I am excited about the possibilities for the future of Speech and Debate at NSU,” McClain said.