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HPU speech and debate students earn awards, champion titles at national tournaments

BROWNWOOD – April 27, 2023 – Howard Payne University’s Student Speaker Bureau speech and debate team recently earned top honors at two national tournaments. The team attended the International Public Debate Association (IPDA) national tournament at Boise State University, followed by the National Christian College Forensics Association (NCCFA) national tournament at Northwest Nazarene University, in Nampa, Idaho.

Four HPU students competed at the IPDA tournament: Landon Chenault of Denton, Luke Moss of Brownwood, Devin Schurman of San Antonio and Katelyn Sims of Cleburne. Chenault, a junior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and jurisprudence major, won fifth place top speaker in the tournament. He and Schurman, a senior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, strategic communication and public policy major, both advanced to the double-octofinal round at the tournament.

“This is a very large national tournament – there were 48 schools and 84 competitors in varsity IPDA debate,” said Dr. Julie Welker, coach of the speech and debate team, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication. “Devin and Landon did exceptionally well against some very large, debate-only schools. Landon was 7-1 in prelims, and Devin had a winning record as well. Most of these universities only compete in IPDA debate, unlike our team, which does a variety of debate styles and individual speech events.”

Sims, a freshman Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, global studies and strategic communication major, advanced to the double-octofinals round in novice IPDA debate. Moss, a freshman English major, also competed in novice IPDA debate.

The four competitors were joined by the rest of the team – Cora Raub of Celina, Rishona Raub of Celina, Ben Sartain of San Antonio and Adrielle Sloan of Blue Ridge – the following weekend at the NCCFA national tournament, in a field of 18 universities from across the nation. HPU’s team of eight competed in both speech and debate events and won second place overall sweepstakes in Division II (schools with smaller entries).

Schurman won top honors, winning national championship titles in both IPDA varsity debate and extemporaneous speaking. He also ranked as the third place IPDA speaker.

“Winning a national championship in and of itself is such a surreal experience,” said Schurman, “but winning two at the same time really felt like a true culmination of all the time our team has put into speech and debate this year. I am so happy to have been able to bring back two national championships for Howard Payne.”

Ben Sartain, a senior strategic communication major, was named the national champion in homiletics, a speaking event in which students deliver an original speech designed as either a sermon or a devotional. Sartain said homiletics is a unique but encouraging event in which to compete.

“I felt uplifted in hearing the other student’s sermons,” Sartain said. He also was gratified by the success the team experienced through the competitive process.

“It was so rewarding to see all of our hard work lead to such great results,” he added. “Coming to HPU as a transfer student with no competitive speech experience, I’m amazed to be graduating a national champion in a speech event after just two years. I’m so thankful for all the training and feedback that gave me the opportunity to have this success.”

Chenault was top speaker in IPDA debate, entering semi-finals undefeated. He also won fifth place in impromptu speaking and fifth place in extemporaneous speaking. This academic year alone, Chenault has won top speaker at five competitions.

“This competition was a perfect ending to the academic year,” Chenault said. “To win alongside my senior teammates made for a special event and one that I won’t forget.”

Dr. Welker appreciates the magnitude of what Schurman, Sartain and Chenault accomplished.

“These three young men made HPU history by bringing home national titles,” said Dr. Welker. “Competing is never easy, especially at national tournaments where the field is much broader. Also, they were competing against schools that have large forensics programs that travel year-round and that can be intimidating. Devin, Ben and Landon showed up and won, and that’s impressive.”

Several freshmen brought home awards as well. Cora Raub, a freshman Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and nursing major, won sixth place in novice impromptu and was ranked sixth place top JV IPDA speaker. Sims advanced to novice quarterfinals in IPDA debate and was fifth place novice IPDA speaker.

“Our freshmen have really stepped up this year, competed exceptionally well and worked hard on the team,” said Dr. Welker. “I’m excited to see them move into the next year of competition with such a winning season behind them.”

Other participants were Rishona Raub, a Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and strategic communication major; Sloan, a Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and strategic communication major; and Moss.

“It takes a team to be successful at these tournaments, and I am so proud of the way these students competed, presented themselves and represented HPU,” said Welker. “Everyone had a part in bringing home these awards. We work as a team, practice as a team and win as a team.”

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: HPU’s award-winning Student Speaker Bureau includes, from left, Dr. Julie Welker, the team’s coach, and students Katelyn Sims, Landon Chenault, Devin Schurman, Luke Moss, Ben Sartain, Cora Raub, Rishona Raub and Adrielle Sloan.