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HPU speech and debate team boasts finalists at recent debate competitions

BROWNWOOD – November 10, 2020 – After earning two national championships in the spring 2020 semester, Howard Payne University’s speech and debate team, Student Speaker Bureau, started the new year of competition with four students as finalists in debate competition.

Senior Lucy Manning, Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, strategic communication and jurisprudence major from Fort Worth, advanced to finals in varsity International Public Debate Association (IPDA) debate at the Bowling Green State University CyberFalcon tournament.

The team is coached by Dr. Julie Welker, professor of communication, chair of the Department of Communication.

“This was by far the most difficult tournament in which we’ve competed, and Lucy rose to the top,” said Dr. Welker. “She debated students from all over the nation, from DI to Ivy League schools. I could not be prouder of her.”

Parker Brown and debate partner Devin Schurman were semifinalists in the Louisiana State University Hot and Spicy tournament. Brown is a junior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and jurisprudence major from Fairfax County, Virginia. Schurman is a sophomore Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, strategic communication and public policy major from San Antonio.

“Parker and Devin competed against some of the best team IPDA schools in the nation,” said Dr. Welker. “They beat some very good schools, and to advance to semis in such a competitive field was outstanding.”

Freshman Abigail Poling, Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and theatre major from Bangs, advanced to quarterfinals in novice IPDA debate.

“It’s always impressive when a freshman advances, especially in only her second collegiate tournament,” said Dr. Welker. “Abigail ended up sixth overall. When you consider she beat teams from several DI universities, that makes it even better.”

Freshman Jewel Schoppe, biology major from Junction, placed fifth in poetry interpretation.

“Jewel is a talented speaker and this is just the beginning of a bright future for her,” said Dr. Welker.

All collegiate speech and debate tournaments are virtual for the 2020-2021 season, so the team has had to adapt to the new competition environment.

Schurman said that with virtual tournaments, the competition sphere has expanded outside of just the Texas schools.

“At the LSU tournament, we were able to debate colleges from Louisiana, Tennessee and Alaska,” he said. “This is always helpful because it helps us learn different techniques that other schools use to help them be successful in speech and debate.”

Brown added that dealing with technology has added new challenges to an already competitive environment.

“Your computer will disconnect, your microphones will have feedback, sound will drop out and the video feed will lag,” Brown said. “Debating online is certainly a challenge. Nonetheless, it is still refreshing to be able to compete without the need for lengthy travel, preparation, and sleep deprivation.”

Other team members competing were Esmeralda Maldonado, senior strategic communication major from Whitney, in IPDA debate; Alek Mendoza, junior theatre major from Bangs, in dramatic interpretation and program oral interpretation; Rishona Raub, Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and strategic communication major from Celina, in extemporaneous and impromptu speaking; and Jewel Schoppe, freshman biology major from Junction, in dramatic interpretation and poetry interpretation.


Cutline: HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau successfully competed at recent debate competitions. Pictured from left to right are, Alek Mendoza, Lucy Manning, Abigail Poling, Parker Brown, Jewel Schoppe, Rishona Raub, Esmeralda Maldonado, Devin Schurman and Dr. Julie Welker. (Masks were removed for photo purposes.)