Recent News News Archives News Categories

HPU Student Speaker Bureau wins individual, team awards at national championship

SSB Team PhotoBROWNWOOD – April 27, 2017 – Student Speaker Bureau, Howard Payne University’s speech and debate team, competed at the 20th annual National Christian College Forensics Association Invitational National Championships, held in March at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. The team won numerous awards for their performances in both individual events and debate.

Freshmen Erin Haley, communication major from Mason, and Brooklyn Britton, theatre major from Brownwood, were awarded novice national champions in dramatic duo interpretation.

“I am thrilled that Erin and Brooklyn won the title of novice national champions for their outstanding performance,” said Dr. Julie Welker, Student Speaker Bureau team coach and chair of the Department of Communication. “These two young ladies have worked all year to perfect this piece, and it certainly paid off for them.”

Senior Gabby McWhirter, theatre major from Brownwood, and junior Reagan Grisham, communication major from Arlington, won fifth place overall in open dramatic duo.

“This is the first time in several years that we have had duo competitors do so well,” said Dr. Welker. “It was exciting to have them place in both novice and open divisions.”

In parliamentary debate, the HPU team won third place overall debate sweepstakes.

The junior varsity team of Christopher Freeland, sophomore biochemistry major from Bangs, and Tyler Olin, sophomore social science jurisprudence and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Howe, advanced to the final round. The team lost on a 2-1 decision to Colorado Christian University. Olin was named fourth top junior varsity speaker, and Freeland was named seventh top junior varsity speaker.

The junior varsity parliamentary debate teams of Morgan Ashmore, communication major from Brock, and Reagan Grisham, junior communication major from Arlington, advanced to semifinals.

The novice parliamentary debate team of Madi Neal, freshman communication and social science jurisprudence major from Chandler, and Isabelle Stahrfisher, freshman communication major from Fort Worth, advanced to the semifinals round.

Other students competing in the tournament were Braxton Clark, senior social science global studies major from Southlake; Aimee Orozco, junior communication major from Shepherd; Isaac Sommers, senior social science jurisprudence and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Boerne; and Haylee Williams, freshman communication major from Bellville. Sidni Carruthers, instructor of communication, assists with the team.

This year, 23 universities from across the nation participated in NCCFI. All schools are members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. More than 250 students competed in the tournament.

“Having nine of 13 HPU students advance or win some type of speaker award is success by any measure,” said Dr. Welker. “We were competing against some of the best debate and individual events schools in Christian higher education. Our HPU students did a fabulous job!”

While in Phoenix, the team traveled to the Grand Canyon National Park for sightseeing.

“These trips are about more than just competing,” said Dr. Welker. “We want our students to have a well-rounded education through travel and experience the culture of each city we visit. While competition is our primary focus, getting out and about and networking with alumni is an important part, too.”

Applications are still being accepted for the fall 2017 semester at Howard Payne University. HPU offers a variety of financial aid options including the Heart of Texas Scholarship, which awards $60,000 to students from Brown County and surrounding counties. For more information about HPU, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at


Photo cutline: HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau includes, from left, Dr. Julie Welker, Morgan Ashmore, Braxton Clark, Aimee Orozco, Isabella Stahrfisher, Madison Neal, Christopher Freeland, Gabi McWhirter, Erin Haley, Brooklyn Britton, Isaac Sommers, Andrea Balderas, Haylee Williams, Reagan Grisham, Tyler Olin and Ms. Sidni Carruthers.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on tumblr
Share on email