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HPU speech and debate clinches debate sweepstakes at TIFA; two students named to Texas All State Forensics Squad

BROWNWOOD – February 16, 2023 – Howard Payne University’s Student Speaker Bureau speech and debate team clinched the debate sweepstakes at the recent Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) Championship and won third place overall sweepstakes.

Competing against much larger Division I and Division II schools, HPU students claimed top honors in both National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) debate and International Public Debate Association (IPDA) debate. The tournament was held at Texas State University.

Landon Chenault, junior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and jurisprudence major from Denton, and Devin Schurman, senior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, strategic communication and public policy major from San Antonio, clinched both the IPDA debate individual championship and were semifinalists in NPDA debate. Chenault and Schurman tied for top speakers in debate.

Dr. Julie Welker, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication, coaches the team.

“We had three of the top four semifinalists in IPDA debate, and Devin and Landon closed out finals,” said Dr. Welker. “It’s pretty amazing when a team closes out finals, and it’s even sweeter when you’re competing against really large schools with big programs. Additionally, we had the top novice NPDA team, and that is such an honor for our first-year competitors.”

Senior Ben Sartain, strategic communication major from San Antonio, was the other HPU semifinalist in IPDA debate. Earning top novice team in NPDA was Luke Moss, freshman English major from Brownwood, and Katelyn Sims, freshman Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, global studies and strategic communication major from Cleburne.

In IPDA debate, HPU had four of the top 10 ranking speakers: Schurman, first; Chenault, third; Cora Raub, freshman Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and nursing major from Celina, sixth; and Sartain, tenth.

“Our students practice during class and have an extra debate practice led by Devin, our team captain,” said Dr. Welker. “We work really hard on developing solid arguments, excellent presentational skills and correct structure. These students put in a lot of extra time to compete at this level.”

In individual speech events, Rishona Raub, Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and strategic communication major from Celina, placed fifth in extemporaneous speaking.

“Rishona competed exceptionally well in extemporaneous speaking,” added Dr. Welker. “HPU was the only small school in the top six schools in this event – she was a finalist with students from UT, UT Dallas and West Texas A&M. That makes me incredibly proud to see HPU represented at this level.”

Additionally, both Schurman and Sartain were named to the prestigious Texas All-State Forensics Squad. Schurman has competed on the HPU speech and debate team for four years, served as team captain for three years, has won multiple honors in both individual speaking and debate, and holds an overall winning record in debate competition. Sartain transferred into the team last year and has won many debate and speaker awards in his four semesters competing at HPU.

“Being chosen as a Texas All State Forensics Squad member is such an honor,” said Dr. Welker. “Students are nominated by coaches, and there are many requirements that must be met. Then, a committee of TIFA coaches chooses the final members. There were 12 selected this year, and Devin and Ben definitely earned this honor.”

Also competing in the tournament were Jordan Sager, sophomore Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and social science global studies major from Norfolk, Nebraska; and Adrielle Sloan, freshman Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and strategic communication major from Blue Ridge.

HPU competed against 14 colleges and universities from Texas and Louisiana, and was the only Texas Baptist university competing and to earn top honors.

In March, the HPU speech and debate team will compete in the International Public Debate Association national tournament held at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, followed by the National Christian College Forensics Association national tournament at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, the next weekend.

To support HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau with funds to help with travel expenses and other related needs, please visit and select “Other” below the “Designation” heading. A space will then be provided to type “Student Speaker Bureau,” and the donation form can then be completed accordingly.

High school students interested in pursuing their undergraduate education at HPU and competing on the team should contact Dr. Welker at All members of the team must audition and receive a scholarship based on their previous speech and debate accomplishments.

Applications for admission to HPU for the fall 2023 semester are being accepted. Those interested in applying can contact the Office of Admissions at 325-649-8020 or or visit


Cutline for photo: Pictured following their recent victory at the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association Championship are HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau speech and debate team members (from left) Katelyn Sims, Adrielle Sloan, Cora Raub, Landon Chenault, Luke Moss, Devin Schurman, Ben Sartain and Rishona Raub, with Dr. Julie Welker, the team’s coach.