Shout out to BC’s Speech and Debate Society for doing an amazing job at the Community College Championships! The team at Bellevue College is one of layers: The club itself has roughly 45 members with 25 on the traveling team, many of which receive awards at the event.
Sean Juel won 4th place in Poetry Interpretation, 6th individual speaker award, and was part of a Bronze medal debate team with Stephanas Pizelo, who was 2nd Speaker. Other participants like John Richards won 7th in Impromptu Speaking. Pratishta Chhabra won 4th place in Impromptu Speaking. The rest of the Bronze medal debate teams were Pratistha Chhabra/Kristin Velez and Jinwoo Jang/Bhavya Chhabra. Bronze medal competitors were Guilia Balzola and Ahmed Abdi.
Their most recent competition was an open division. There were two types of debates at the competition: National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) and International Public Debate Association (IPDA). NPDA is the largest intercollegiate debate organization in the U.S. IPDA tries to promote a debate format that focuses on public speaking and real world persuasive skills over the use of evidence and speed. They generally use the one-on-one debate format, but have recently included a two-person team debate. It includes three divisions: Novice, Varsity and Professional.
Denise Vaughan, the club advisor, said that the research for the tournaments is done in advance, individually or in small teams. Practice happens during the debate class and club meetings, which are on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. in C211 and Thursdays at 2:30 p.m. in C103.
During the actual event, team members prepare in small groups and with the help of coaches. “The students are not alone in the tournament,” said Vaughan, “and can get case ideas and guidance until their debate rounds begin”.
Most of the time, Vaughan herself doesn’t get to watch her students compete. Usually, she judges rounds. The most exciting part for her is watching the students come back from rounds. They’re often so effusive that they come back rehashing the event for coaches and asking for future advice. “They have such fun with the sport. That is my favorite part.”
The advisor encourages any student to try the Debate Team on for size: “everyone is welcome,” though students considering should take the number of events into account. If they wish, students can join the team and not compete.
According to Vaughan, most students have no prior debate experience. “We have students from all over the globe. We have students from Japan, Italy, India, Indonesia, Somalia and South Korea. Everyone is welcome. We will teach you the skills you need!” she said.
Vaughan also encourages people who want to improve their critical thinking skills to join. In being part of the club, one learns public speaking skills, poise and confidence as well as argumentation style and how to use words to clearly convey a complex idea.
Vaughan stresses how “students need to be aware of the world around them and apply their knowledge quickly and in a stressful environment. These are powerful skills. I would encourage anyone who wants to expand their skills in these areas to join the team.”
One can also join the club without having to compete. One can “take the class just to learn strong public speaking and critical analysis skills,” said Vaughan, and practice during the meetings.
Lastly, when asked how the sense of community is with the team, she gave an answer that would encourage anyone considering:
“This team is amazing. They are absolutely committed to one another. They have a real sense of identity and community. They are dedicated to one another and challenge each other to work hard. They are competitive in a really positive sense… They never fail to support one another… These are just amazing people who share a love for this sport.”
No matter who you are or your previous experience, the BC Speech and Debate Society is an excellent club that welcomes everyone. Once again, congratulations!