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SSB speech and debate team makes HPU history by winning overall and debate sweepstakes

BROWNWOOD – December 3, 2020 – Howard Payne University’s Student Speaker Bureau speech and debate team recently competed at the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) Fall Championship tournament, held virtually. The team was the first in HPU history to claim overall sweepstakes and debate sweepstakes in the tournament.

The team is coached by Dr. Julie Welker, professor of communication and department chair.

“I am overjoyed at this success,” said Dr. Welker. “Our team has won debate sweeps before, but never overall sweeps. It’s hard for us as a smaller school to compete on a larger scale with Division I schools, but we finally claimed that victory.”

HPU competes in International Public Debate Association (IPDA) debate, National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) debate and individual events (IE). The success was fueled by contributions from everyone on the team.

Devin Schurman, sophomore Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, strategic communication and public policy major from San Antonio, won the championship in IPDA debate on a 3-0 decision in finals.

In addition to Schurman’s win, every HPU competitor in IPDA debate advanced. Teammate Parker Brown, junior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and jurisprudence major from Fairfax County, Virginia, advanced to semifinals. Quarterfinalists were Esmeralda Maldonado, senior strategic communication major from Whitney; Lucy Manning, senior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy, strategic communication and jurisprudence major from Fort Worth; Abigail Poling, freshman Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and theatre major from Bangs; and Rishona Raub, junior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and strategic communication major from Celina. Additionally, Poling was named Top Novice in IPDA debate.

NPDA debate consists of teams of two debating in five preliminary rounds, each round featuring a new topic. At TIFA, participants debated topics including the electoral college, term limits for Supreme Court justices, charter schools in Texas, plea bargains and many others. Teams with winning records advance to out-rounds.

HPU’s NPDA debate teams included Brown and Schurman; Manning and Raub; and Maldonado and Poling. Brown and Schurman advanced to finals, earning second place in a 2-1 decision. Manning and Raub advanced to semifinals, and Maldonado and Poling advanced to quarterfinals.

“We had three teams in quarterfinals, and kept advancing through to finals,” said Dr. Welker. “Parker Brown and Devin Schurman had a tough final round, but debated exceptionally well.”

HPU also earned two of the top three speaker awards in NPDA debate, with Maldonado winning second place top speaker and Brown winning third place top speaker.

In individual events, Alek Mendoza, junior theatre major from Bangs, advanced to finals in programmed oral interpretation, placing sixth overall.

Jewel Schoppe, freshman biology major from Junction, also competed in IE events.

“It is difficult to express how competitive this tournament is,” said Dr. Welker. “Our students consistently rank high and beat some of the largest state universities in Texas and other states.”

HPU competed against 18 colleges and universities from California, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas. HPU was the only private Baptist, Division III university competing from Texas. Notable universities competing were George Fox University, University of South Carolina, The University of Texas at Austin and Dallas, Rice University, California State University, University of North Texas and West Texas A&M University.

All collegiate speech and debate tournaments are virtual for the 2020-2021 season. HPU will compete next at the Climb the Mountain Tournament in Seattle and the Abilene Christian University Joseph J. Cardo Forensic Invitational.


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.

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