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HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau competes in San Diego tournament

SSB in San DiegoBROWNWOOD – April 7, 2016 – Student Speaker Bureau, Howard Payne University’s speech and debate team, recently competed at the National Christian College Forensics Association Invitational National Championships. The tournament was held in early March at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California.

Braxton Clark, junior global studies major from Southlake, was named second-place overall debate speaker at the tournament.

“I am very proud of Braxton’s performance,” said Dr. Julie Welker, team coach and chair of the Department of Communication. “This is the most difficult tournament we attend, and for Braxton to be named second top speaker is outstanding.”

The parliamentary debate team of Clark and Isaac Sommers, junior from Boerne majoring in jurisprudence, English and public policy (Academy), advanced to the quarterfinals round in open parliamentary debate.

Sophomore Reagan Grisham, communication major from Arlington, was named sixth-place speaker in novice parliamentary debate.

Sommers also advanced to semifinals in open extemporaneous speaking and teammate Christopher Freeland, freshman biochemistry major from Bangs, advanced to semifinals in novice extemporaneous speaking.

Freeland stated that Student Speaker Bureau has helped sharpen his communication skills with firsthand trial-and-error experience.

“As a freshman, I found parliamentary debate to be a valuable learning experience through which I walked out of every debate round knowing what worked and what needed improvement,” he said. “As we competed in more and more tournaments, my confidence and competence grew and showed me debate is a tool used for effective communication of ideas.”

Freeland also competes in oral interpretation events of prose and poetry, and he added that these interpretative events have taught him about different artistic points of view.

Other students competing in the tournament were Morgan Ashmore, junior communication major from Brock; Andrea Balderas, junior biology major from Lytle; and Aimee Orozco, sophomore communication major from Shepherd. Each member of HPU’s Student Speaker Bureau auditions for a spot on the team and scholarships are awarded to the individuals based on experience and level of performance.

Students competed in both debate and individuals events throughout the three-day tournament. This year, 23 universities from across the nation participated in NCCFA. All schools are members of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Almost 300 students competed in the tournament.

“Having four of the seven 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 largest and most prestigious schools in Christian higher education. Our HPU students did a fabulous job.”

While in San Diego, the team visited the USS Midway and went on a whale-watching boat tour to see the migrating whales.

“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 is an important part, too.”

In her first year on the team, Ashmore said that her travels with Student Speaker Bureau have been an important part of her learning experience.

“This semester, I have had the amazing opportunity to travel to Colorado, California and England,” she said. “Traveling with Student Speaker Bureau has helped me develop critical-thinking skills and become more well-rounded. Getting to travel to Oxford and London with the team was easily the best experience I’ve had at HPU. I was able to make friends with students from all over the world and experience a new culture.”

Freeland agreed.

“Being a successful new member on the team means commitment, but the experience is worth the time invested,” he said. “The team members learn together, debate together and have fun at the tournaments together. Being part of the Student Speaker Bureau family is an honor and I look forward to new experiences next year with veteran and novice members.”

Applications are still being accepted for the fall 2016 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 is pictured at Point Loma Nazarene University’s famous stoa. Pictured from left to right are Dr. Julie Welker, Braxton Clark, Aimee Orozco, Christopher Freeland, Andrea Balderas, Morgan Ashmore, Reagan Grisham and Isaac Sommers.

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