Many might not know it, but UAA boasts one of the best university debated teams on the planet. The talent of the debate team has allowed UAA host the United States Universities Debate Championship, or USUDC, April 11-13.
Seawolf Debate team member Matthieu Ostrander said it is “a really unique opportunity” to have the university host so many talented competitive debaters.
The USUDC is the biggest debate competition in the country that hosts only the best of the best at argumentation.
“I don’t know if UAA has ever done something this large,” said Seawolf Debate assistant coach Amie Stanley.
The USUDC website says, “The Seawolf Debate Program has a deep history of involvement with the USUDC.”
UAA also makes regular contributions to local debate. The coaches and students consistently make time to contribute to middle school and high school debate programs by judging and hosting debate tournaments. The Anchorage community has now returned the favor in support of the USUDC by funding the competition.
“This event is going to cost a lot of money to put on, but not a single dollar of that came from within the university,” Stanley said.
“Not a penny is being paid for out of student fees … (or) out of money from the state,” Ostrander said. “There are several sponsors who have contributed a substantial amount to making the event a success, and who do regularly to making debate in Alaska a success. The level of support that we’ve seen is just truly astounding.”
Stanley said the coaches have been assigning research briefs on current events to the debaters in preparation for USUDC. In addition to this training, the team runs debate scrimmages against one another during practice. The coaches also have office hours available to help individuals and team pairs hone their skills.
The coaches themselves are not involved with choosing debate topics for the tournament, so it’s important for the teams to stay up to date on the news and on their skills.
“As a team, we all contribute to the collective knowledge of the entire team,” said Seawolf Debate member Jonathon Taylor.
USUDC will host 200 teams, each made up of two people, who will compete in British Parliamentary style debate. The Seawolf debate program will be entering seven teams, including two novice teams — but don’t be fooled by the novice title.
“We’ve taken the top novice speakers awards in regional tournaments,” Stanley said. “We definitely have some high performing teams.”
Taylor said his team made it to the quarterfinals last year. He almost forgot to mention that he received Top Novice Speaker award at his first national debate tournament. His debate partner is Ostrander, who has been to nationals three times.
“I’m a novice — this is my first year debating,” said Seawolf debater Stacey Lucason.
Lucason and her partner have never been to nationals. It’s very expensive to send students across the country and world for tournaments. However, UAA has the chance to enter more competitors at home, like Lucason and her partner.
There were varying opinions on if being on home turf would cause more pressure, but Taylor seemed like he’s not about to let it phase him.
“I think there are expectations,” he said. “I don’t know if I would call it pressure. I’m actually quite excited about it … I see it as more positive.”
The Seawolf Debate Program is thrilled to show off the campus to the debate community, and share what they do with the community and their loyal sponsors.