April 18, 2018

VSU Debate Sets New Records At National Competition

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University’s Forensics (Speech and Debate) Team recently set new records at the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Competition at Lewis and Clark University in Portland, Oregon.

As a team, Shanta Johnson and Travis Edwards won four rounds of debate over two days of competition. Additionally, Kelsey Townsend and Nathalie Jaimes-Arias won three rounds together. VSU’s previous record at a national debate competition was one win.

“It was amazing being around some of the top teams in the country, but more so being able to compete with them,” said Travis Edwards, a sociology and anthropology major from Ellenwood, Georgia, who expects to graduate in May. “Going to nationals, I thought we would be destroyed by these top teams, but we held our own against a lot of them. The fact that we can compete with these amazing teams is really telling to not only how we’ve been coached but also our personal skill.”

The competition featured more than 250 debaters from 44 colleges and universities.

“This was my first time at a national tournament, and you could just sense the level of competition,” said Townsend, a political science major from Stockbridge, Georgia, who expects to graduate in May. “The debate circuit is known to be predominantly white, so to be able to represent a school from Georgia with a team that has a lot of people of color was great. As a senior, breaking the win record was also a perfect way to end my legacy and leave an imprint on the school.”

The teams debated various political topics, such as gender policy, global economics, and international relations. Each debate topic was not revealed until 30 minutes before each round.

“It was really great debating against West Coast teams because they’re very creative and passionate people,” said Nathalie Jaimes-Arias, a psychology major from Canton, Georgia, who expects to graduate in Spring 2020. “It was nice to win several rounds and show how much we’ve grown.”

Johnson, a nursing major from Ludowici, Georgia, who expects to graduate in Fall 2020, said she was not expecting to amass so many wins. 

“Since I’m still very new to debate, it was an eye-opening experience competing with so many people,” she said. “When we started winning, we were like, ‘OK, we actually have a shot at this.’ It was awesome.”

In addition to her team wins, Johnson earned a third place speaker award in the novice division.

“I was not expecting that whatsoever,” she said. “For me to be recognized as one of the top speakers, it just shows that I’m growing as a debater. I’m ready for next year.”

The VSU debate team is led by Dr. Michael Eaves, director, and Hanna Tabrizi, assistant coach.

“Here at VSU, the debate team needs to be looked at and seen as a great opportunity for everybody because people like Dr. Eaves and Hannah really offer a lot of things and a lot of resources,” Townsend said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the debate team. I’m very thankful for that.”

The VSU Forensics (Speech and Debate) Team is open to all majors on campus and does not require previous experience. The team competes in regional and national level competitions and participates in parliamentary debate as well as individual events, including impromptu speaking, extemporaneous speaking, informative speaking, persuasion, dramatic interpretation, dramatic duo, poetry interpretation, and more.

Contact Dr. Michael Eaves at meaves@valdosta.edu or (229) 259-5116 to learn more.
On the Web: