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Forensics teams continue long-standing reputation for success

Northwestern University’s forensics teams have finished successful seasons, bringing home prizes in both debate and individual events.

Northwestern Debate Society

The Debate Society has a storied history: it’s the oldest continuous debate program in the country, going back as far as 1855, and its forensic success across the years has been unparalleled. Literally unparalleled: Northwestern’s program has won 14 National Debate Tournament (NDT) titles in its history; the second place (tied) teams have won six titles apiece.

This year the Debate Society proved, once again, that they can debate with the best of them. The team of juniors Alex Miles (WCAS15) and Arjun Vellayappan (WCAS15) nabbed the prestigious Rex Copeland Award, for the team with the best record entering the NDT. In addition, they were the second and third ranked speakers respectively (out of 180) at the tournament overall, and made it to the quarterfinals, losing to Harvard University in a tight 3-2 decision. Miles and Vellayappan are the ninth debate team from Northwestern to win the Copeland in its history.

The team of Evan McCarty (WCAS16) and Linda Pei (WCAS16) also competed in the elimination rounds at NDT, reaching the double octa finals.

Senior lecturer Daniel Fitzmier (GC02, GC06), the School of Communication’s director of debate and forensics and a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, won the James John Unger Prize for the third time (an honor that goes to the coach of the Copeland-winning team). He was the inaugural Unger Award winner in 2009. Over the course of his career, he has coached eight different teams in the finals of the National Debate Tournament, including the National Debate Champions in 2011, 2005, 2003, 2002 (all Northwestern), and 2000 (Emory University).

Northwestern Speech Team

Northwestern’s Individual Events team, led by Department of Communication Studies lecturer Ryan Lauth, had a great year. In April, the team took 9th place overall in open division competition at the National Forensics Association National Championship Tournament (NFA)—excellent placing for Northwestern’s small team—and 4th place in their division.

Also in April, Milana Duggan (C14) became the National Champion in After Dinner Speaking at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA).

Dugan was a team leader in both competitions, placing in the quarter finals for Impromptu Speaking at both NFA and AFA. She placed 6th in After Dinner Speaking at NFA.

Clare Roth (J14) placed 6th in Impromptu Speaking at NFA and was national semi- or quarterly finalist in three categories at the same conference. She was the 14th place speaker at NFA overall.

Other students participating in the national events this year were Kyla Donato (WCAS14), Tralon Williams (C15), Tara McManus (SESP15), Adam Logeman (WCAS15), Pam Keller (WCAS16), Dara McGreal (SESP16), Matt Fulle (C17), Kurt Imhoff (McC17), and Harry Wood (J17).