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Catherine Mullaney – NCCFI Nationals with SSB!

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Catherine Mullaney is a recent graduate from Boylston, MA. She was an English major and a member of the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy.

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The Howard Payne University Speech and Debate Team – Student Speaker Bureau – is a group of students from all majors and disciplines at HPU who compete at intercollegiate speech and debate tournaments, host our own high school UIL speech and debate workshops, adjudicate elementary, middle and high school UIL tournaments, and emcee HPU and area public events. We are members of the National Christian College Forensics Association (NCCFA), the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA), the American Forensics Association (AFA), the National Forensics Association (NFA), and the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA). The team also competes in World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) tournaments and the International Public Debate Association (IPDA). For more information on this program contact Dr. Julie Welker.

This spring, the Student Speaker Bureau (SSB) speech and debate team traveled to California to compete in the invitational tournament for the National Christian College Forensics Association (NCCFI). The team spent the first half of Spring Break at California Baptist University competing in a wide variety of events from two forms of debate to speeches ranging from prepared persuasive presentations to impromptu or limited preparation events. We also had an amazing time traveling to Disneyland together and sleeping on each other’s shoulders on plane rides.

Benjamin Palmer, my fellow team captain, and I led discussions during preparation time for NPDA (parliamentary) debate rounds. Each school team only gets 15 minutes to prepare for debating each topic presented to the debaters, whose sides have already been chosen for them by tournament officials. Debate prep is an exhilarating time filled with Google searches, frantic scribbling of notes, and occasional jokes about funding policy proposals with government cheese.

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These times of preparation, and the debate rounds that follow, have been one of the most educational experiences of my time at Howard Payne. Not only do we learn about history and philosophy, we are able to apply these facts and concepts to events happening in the world today.

Many members of the team also competed in International Public Debate Association (IPDA) style debate, an individual event that SSB has never competed in before. Andres Zambrano, a freshman on the team this year, advanced to the bronze medal round. Jaclyn Bonner, also a

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freshman, was named national novice informative speaking champion. Adam Jones, sophomore, received the third place award in extemporaneous speaking. Each of these nationally ranked students exemplifies the excellence that we strive for as a team.

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After the successful tournament, the team headed to Disneyland for a day to wind down and spend time together following the last event of the year. We stood in many lines together, ate overpriced food, and met a cast of characters I can only imagine were actually exuberant actors sweating inside costumes with gigantic heads. Our experience at Disneyland is indicative of many times we’ve shared together as a team – fun, memorable, and incredibly exhausting. SSB has been an amazing blessing to me during my time at HPU; without

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the guidance and support of Dr. Julie Welker and Professor Kim Bryant none of our successes or good times had on trips would have been possible. This team is a family and no matter how often it changes its makeup we remain close and have fun while working tirelessly to bring awards back to school and represent Howard Payne well. I’ll never forget the amazing experiences I have had as a member of SSB, including this unforgettable trip to California!

Photo cutlines, from top: Catherine Mullaney with teammate Marcos Corley.

Catherine, right, with Dr. Julie Welker and Kim Bryant.

Team picture outside the convention center where final rounds were held.

Team picture at dinner.

Marcos Corley inside a teacup at Disneyland.

Members of the SSB at the park entrance.


Rebekah Johnson – My London Experience

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Rebekah Johnson is a senior majoring in History and Youth Ministry from Buda, TX. For more details on the HPU London studies program, visit

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Coming on this study abroad tour has been such an amazing opportunity. I had no idea what to expect when I got here, but from the moment I landed in the Heathrow Airport I have absolutely loved every minute of studying in London. I have had the opportunity to make new friendships, experience London, and live with students from UMHB and HSU. We all live in flats here in Central London. The flats are great, and because we live in such a great place in the City, I am always prepared for the daily adventures and sights that London might bring. You never know if you might get your shirt or backpack stuck in the door jumping onto the tube, or when you’ll get lost in the British museum.

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Getting to take classes here has been an unforgettable experience. Most classes are tours of the city or of an amazing art exhibit. In the morning I could be looking at the crown jewels, and the in the afternoon I could be learning the Tudor history in the National Portrait Gallery. The shows we have gotten to see have been wonderful; my personal favorite was Billy Elliot, but I will never forget, waiting at the stage door to get Jude Law’s autograph in the rain after seeing Henry V. We have taken several day trips to Bath, Cambridge, Oxford, and even to Canterbury where we toured the beautiful Canterbury Cathedral.

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All in all favorite part of this experience has by far been the friends I have made, the history that this city holds for me to see, and of course learning to love the fog and drizzling rain.

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“I saw the Queen today!”

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Sometimes we live vicariously through others — like when your roommate decides to spend a semester studying in London, or Austria or Costa Rica. But there’s only so much stalking we can do of their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds. As happy as you may be for your friend, there are only so many times you can see her posing just-so in front of The Globe theatre, Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum, the Alps or a real-live Costa Rican volcano. When you get to that point, maybe you should come talk to me. I can help you get some pictures like that of your own.

I am Prof. Jennifer McNiece, and I am Howard Payne University’s Director of Academic Travel and Study Abroad. I wanted a space like this blog to do both of the things I just described above. I want for there to be a place where Howard Payne students can tell the world about the amazing experiences they are having all across God’s creation—and I want their experiences to make you want to do the same!

At Howard Payne University, we are strong believers in the value of experiential learning. Basically, this means: Learning by doing. Sometimes this can happen in a traditional classroom setting, like a science lab, or a music or theatre performance, or a mock-election in a government class. Sometimes lessons need to be lived out to be learned.

Through a variety of programs, HPU students have the world as their classroom. In the London Semester Program, in partnership with Hardin-Simmons University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, 10 Yellow Jackets spend the spring living and learning in London. There they can take art appreciation by going to museums like the Victoria and Albert or the National Portrait Gallery, theatre by attending shows in the West End, and history and culture by visiting sites like Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Scottish Highlands, and the pastoral Lake District.

“I absolutely loved my semester studying in London and traveling around the British Isles. Traveling internationally is an experience all students should take advantage of if possible. I will always remember the incredible experiences I had there with all the friends I met. I built a fort in the hills of Scotland, hid in a castle in Wales, wandered the lake district of England, and saw the beauty of Ireland. I would go tomorrow if I could, and you should too.” – Tim Hardy, political science and international studies major from Corpus Christi, TX tim hardy london


If you like the mountains more than the big city of London, maybe you’d be interested in studying for a semester in Salzburg, Austria. Through a partnership with Salzburg College, Howard Payne students can take classes ranging from international politics to voice lessons and music performance (including, if you’re up for the challenge, “Alpine Sports”).

“Studying abroad at Salzburg College is the best decision that I have ever made. Not only was I able to live in a European city and completely immerse myself in Austrian culture, I was able to spend much of the semester traveling around central and southern Europe. My experience abroad has shaped my worldviews and has inspired me to want to take on a career in international relations.” – Kerrie Ford, political science major with a specialization in international studies from Houston, TX kerrie ford salzburg


Or maybe you’d rather brush up your Spanish than your German. If so, consider a program in Latin America offered by BestSemester. Thanks to Howard Payne’s membership in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), we are able to offer you experiential learning opportunities living with families in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, or studying the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia or social work in Uganda. And the recent partnership of the Consortium for Global Education (CGE) with CAPA International provides even more opportunities around the world for Yellow Jackets to learn-by-doing.

“Living with host families in Central America allowed me to experience full cultural and linguistic immersion, which provided me with opportunities to converse with Latinos about their political views, their thoughts on international economics, and global affairs, thus enabling me to gain an understanding of issues that cannot be absorbed in a university classroom. It was a life-changing and paradigm-shaping experience.” – Landon Hankins, 2013 graduate from Decatur, TX, who majored in political science and Spanish

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From China to India to Italy; from London to Tokyo to Istanbul; and just about anywhere in between, the world can be your classroom through Howard Payne University’s study abroad opportunities.

Of course, not everyone wants or needs the same things. This is why our study abroad and academic travel programs can be general in nature, or intensive and specific to your individual major. Learning-by-doing doesn’t always have to be a semester-long thing; sometimes it happens in just a few days or weeks, like when a Spanish class travels to Spain or Latin America or future educators spend a week in London classrooms trading tips with British teachers. And few experiential learning opportunities are as personally moving as a trip to the Holy Land with Christian Studies faculty.

Spanish Spanish language students hiked through the Arenal National Park in Costa Rica to learn about the devastation of the volcanic eruption and the current state of recuperation of the affected area.


Israel Trip HPU students and faculty are pictured in the Dead Sea on a tour titled “Walking Where Jesus Walked: A Study Tour of Israel.” The trip toured key biblical sites, participated in simulations of first-century life, and held nightly lectures and discussions.


So: whether it’s for a whole semester or a couple weeks; regardless of your major; HPU wants you to experience learning. We’ll use this space to highlight a variety of experience from the student’s perspective. Check back here to share in travel and learning experiences with Yellow Jackets all over the world

For more information about these programs and the many more like them that I just don’t have space to list here, please contact me at the phone number, email address or office location listed below. In the meantime, be sure to also check out the rest of the information on our main academic travel and study abroad site:

Be sure to bookmark this blog and check back in regularly for program updates, messages from Yellow Jackets sharing their experiences, and exciting new opportunities!

–Prof. Jennifer McNiece
(325) 649-8179
Academy 201