The University of North Texas Debate Team is set to compete at the National Forensic Association’s 50th Championship Tournament April 13-17. The National Forensic Association (NFA) is an American intercollegiate organization designed to promote excellence in public speaking and debate.
Junior and team co-president, Alaia Snell, a double major in English and economics, shared why she loves being on the UNT Debate Team.
“I love that this team is invested in advocacy,” said Snell. “I can bring my love of research and use my voice to be an advocate for what I believe in.”
Over the course of this academic year, 12 UNT students have qualified in a variety of events to attend the NFA’s national tournament. The season started in September 2022 as the team attended over 25 competitive tournaments across the country to culminate in this final showdown.
“I’m excited and a little nervous,” said senior Charisma Lucas who is studying fashion design at UNT. “I still get those butterflies going into any type of competition, but that feeling helps me to do my best.”
UNT’s Debate Team has an established history of success, including their recent success at the annual Lincoln-Douglas Grand Prix, held March 24-26, 2023. This tournament is one of the most prestigious debate competitions in the nation. The 2023 NFA national tournament will be hosted by Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Founded in 1971, the NFA Nationals is the oldest national collegiate tournament dedicated to public speaking and debate events. Students compete in a variety of categories including persuasive and impromptu speaking; poetry and dramatic interpretation; and traditional debate that engages the audience through a policy-oriented dialogue.
“We have never before qualified this many students to the tournament,” said Brian Lain, UNT professor in the Department of Communication Studies and director of the UNT Debate Team. “It means that the national governing organization recognizes these students as among the best and the national tournament will be the best against the best in speech and debate. For each of the events they will crown a national champion as well as name the schools that have the most champions or runners up.”
For more than 120 years, organized campus debate has had a strong presence at UNT, going back to the formation of the Kendall-Bruce Literary Society and the McKinley Literary Society, predecessors to modern debate teams. In 1904, members of these groups evolved to form the Oratorical Association of the North Texas State Normal College. Intercollegiate debated continued to gain popularity, and at the end of the 1926-27 debate season, the Texas Eta chapter of Pi Kappa Delta, a national honorary forensic fraternity, was established on campus.
Aaron Delgado, a senior studying communications and political science, shared thoughts about heading into this tournament.
“Whenever I walk into that room to compete, I’m sharing a message ‘I’ve worked hard to research while advocating for others,’” said Delgado. “My goal is to impact even one person and make them think about something in a way they haven’t thought of before.”
Through the years, several alumni of the UNT debate team have left inspiring legacies, including Cathy Krendl (’67), who forged space for women on the debate team and paved the way for women to study law. She worked for a prominent law firm in New York and then later established a law firm with her husband in Denver. Krendl was the first female tenured professor at the University of Denver and wrote eight books for Colorado law.
Freshman Anaia Dickson, now studying technical communications at UNT, said she first participated in debate while she was in high school. Now, debate gives her an opportunity as “a woman of color” to have “a position of authority and a voice”.
“Joining the team here at UNT was a natural fit,” said Dickson. “That feeling of prestige and pride I get is my favorite part of being on the UNT Debate Team. Debate has given me confidence in many aspects of my life—in my education and in my professional and personal life.”