Skip to Main Navigation. Each navigation link will open a list of sub navigation links.

Skip to Main Content

Apply Now to the University of Wyoming apply now
Visit Campus
Download UW Viewbook
Give to UW

Communication & Journalism Department


Spring 2017 Update | Posted Apr. 6, 2017

The Pokes have concluded their season of competition with a strong showing throughout February and March. While the UW men’s basketball team missed out on the NCAA tournament, the debate team reached the “Big Dance,” qualifying for the National Debate Tournament for the 14th consecutive year! Let me hit some of the highlights. Scroll to the end of this update for details on how to RSVP for the alumni reunion on June 10-11. Download the details here.

Spring semester debates began in early February on the frozen shores of Lake Michigan at the Owen L. Coon Invitational hosted by Northwestern University. The frosh-frosh team of Yumasie Hellebuick (Salt Lake City, UT) and Brent Lamb (Kansas City, MO) continued their steady improvement with wins against tough opponents such as Gonzaga University, California State-Fullerton, and Concordia College. Fourth-year debaters Spencer Culver (Kansas City, MO) and Carter Henman (Cheyenne) entered the tournament looking to keep their hopes to qualify for the National Debate Tournament open; they would need at least four wins to extend their season. The duo performed admirably, posting victories over Baylor, the University of Georgia, Central Oklahoma, and Missouri State. They narrowly missed a fifth victory (and thus the elimination rounds) in a close final debate against the University of California.

Both teams were back in action a few weeks later at the Western Speech Communication Association annual forensics tournament, hosted by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Hellebuick and Lamb earned key victories over teams from Utah and Northwest College. Henman and Culver did the same, amassing a 5-1 record in the preliminary rounds. The crafty veterans ran through the elimination field, eventually reaching the Final Four where they were defeated by the eventual champions from Utah. The pair was also honored for their speaking prowess with Culver and Henman being named the tournament’s top two individual speakers.

On the van ride back from Salt Lake, the Pokes received the news that Culver and Henman’s regular season performance was enough to qualify to the 71st annual National Debate Tournament, hosted this year by the University of Kansas. As the final seed to qualify from District II, the Pokes just sneaked across the finish line. Although the frosh pair of Hellebuick and Lamb missed the cut to qualify (thus ending their season), the young debaters eagerly set their sights on helping the squad prepare for the championship.

Reaching the National Debate Tournament is exceptionally difficult, with only 78 total teams around the country being admitted. Qualification alone is an enormous accomplishment that reflects the excellence of every single student on the Wyoming debate team, not only those who compete directly. While many UW undergraduates were on Spring Break escaping Laramie for a few days, the squad “locked-in” for a long session of research and practice before debates began on March 24th.

Although Culver and Henman entered the tournament as underdogs, they performed admirably. The Pokes claimed victories against Georgetown University, James Madison University, and the University of Texas-Dallas. Even when they came up short, they ensured it was an extremely close debate, forcing split decisions against Gonzaga University and Binghamton. Although it was not the Pokes most successful outing at the NDT (nor the worst!), all four debaters and assistant coaches are returning next year, so expect big things from this team!

We have also finalized the details for our alumni reunion on June 10-11. We will be inducting our fifth class into the Wyoming Debate Hall of Fame. I would also like pitch a battle between some of UW Debate’s finest across the generations in a low-stakes (and entertaining) debate. If you are game and would like to volunteer, please backchannel me (I also am prepared to contact your old coaches and directors to guilt you into participating…). I have attached an invitation to this email. Please RSVP for the event by following the link below. We will base our counts for catering off the EventBrite website so please RSVP by June 2nd. There is no fee to attend, but donations to help cover costs and to help the team are very welcome.

I look forward to seeing many of you this June and celebrating what makes Wyoming Debate the best organization on this campus. GO POKES!

RSVP and event information:

Winter 2017 Update | Posted Feb. 24, 2017

The University of Wyoming Debate Team continued its impressive semester. This weekend, Spencer Culver and Carter Henman reached the semi-finals of the Western States Communication Association forensics tournament in parliamentary debate. The duo claimed first and second speaker as well! Upon arriving back in Laramie, the team learned they have qualified to the prestigious National Debate Tournament. This is Wyoming's 32 time reaching the tournament, with the current streak of qualification reaching all the way back to 2004. GO POKES

Winter 2017 Summary | Posted Feb. 2, 2017

As most UW students regrouped from the fall semester with a few weeks of winter vacation, the Wyoming Debate team was out on the road, having one of its most successful Januarys in several years. The Pokes went up against some very strong competition with back-to-back tournaments in Dallas and another in Wichita.

The Pokes’ winter debates began shortly after New Year’s with a trip to Dallas for the “Fear and Loathing in Dallas” invitational, hosted by the University of Texas-Dallas. With over 50 teams from around the country in attendance, the debates were extremely competitive; debaters representing some of the strongest public and private research universities in the country were present. The freshman duo of Brent Lamb (Kansas City, MO) and Yumasie Hellebuick (Salt Lake City, UT) continued their steady improvement throughout the season with a .500 record in the preliminary debates. The duo claimed wins against the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Kansas City Kansas Community College.  The veteran team of Spencer Culver (Kansas City, MO) and Carter Henman (Cheyenne) broke away from the pack early, racking up three quick victories against the University of Kansas, Concordia College, and Texas-Dallas. Despite the fast start, Culver and Henman ran into trouble against Kansas State and Wichita State (teams that would both finish in the top 8 that weekend). The Pokes’ chances of advancing to the elimination rounds ended after a close debate against Missouri-Kansas City. Culver and Henman’s week in Dallas was just getting started, however.

Following quickly on the heels of “Fear and Loathing” were the William DeMougeot Debates, hosted by the University of North Texas in Denton. As the second half of the “Texas Two-Step” tournaments, the field of competition was as intense as it had been in Dallas. Hellebuick and Lamb continued to perform well for such a young team in the Open division, pulling in wins against the prestigious New York University and two teams from the University of Kansas. Culver and Henman, however, were on the verge of a monster performance.

During the preliminary debates, Culver and Henman pulled together a winning record in the preliminary debates with victories over Wichita State, the University of Iowa, Baylor, and Missouri State University. That performance earned them the 11th seed headed into the single-elimination rounds. These two Pokes proceeded to tear through the field, pulling off three consecutive upsets. The duo overtook the 6-seed from Concordia College in the round of 16, 3-seed Baylor in the next round, and 2-seed Wichita State in the semi-finals. Their run was finally halted in the finals by the undefeated (and tournament favorite) team from the University of Central Oklahoma. Culver and Henman were also among the tournament’s top 25 individual speakers. Their performance was nothing short of remarkable, reaching further than any University of Wyoming team in the history of the “Texas Two-Step.”

The Pokes were hungry after Dallas and had one more tournament to attend before the beginning of classes: the Moorehouse Debates, hosted by Wichita State University. Culver and Henman once again jumped out to a strong start, tearing off victories against Kansas, Northern Iowa, Texas, and Central Oklahoma. They reached the elimination rounds for the second straight tournament, but would drop in the round of 16 to the University of Kansas. Although they were not able to repeat their performance, Henman was honored as the tournament’s 20th best individual speaker. Hellebuick and Lamb were also in attendance, grabbing some key wins against Northern Iowa, Missouri State, Johnson County Community College, the University of Texas, and Central Oklahoma.

The Pokes are now sharpening their arguments and working hard for the last major policy tournament of the year, hosted by Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

In addition to their hard work preparing for competition, Wyoming Debate has big plans for the spring semester. These include hosting the regional high school community in March for competitions on campus, as well as the first annual University of Wyoming Intra-campus debates, a day-long opportunity for all UW undergraduates interested in debating on campus.

The work and effort that these students put into the activity is astonishing. UW debaters sacrificed their winter break and put in the time necessary to prove to the nation that the University of Wyoming is one of the best educational institutions around. You can look forward to hearing more about their accomplishments over the next few months.

Lastly, be on the lookout for information and invitations to our alumni reunion on June 10 and 11, here in Laramie. GO POKES!

Fall 2016 Summary | Posted Jan. 30, 2017

The Wyoming debate team has concluded another great semester! UW debaters appeared n the elimination rounds of multiple tournaments, reaching as far as the semi-finals of the District 2 Fall Championship. In addition, the debate team’s efforts to spread the benefits of argumentation and an appreciation for civic involvement were very successful, reaching hundreds of students on campus and throughout the state.

Two outstanding weekends of competition included the Sun Devil invitational in Tempe, Arizona and the Fall Championship, hosted by the University of Washington in Seattle. The Pokes exceled in the desert heat of Arizona, with seniors Carter Henman (Cheyenne) and Spencer Culver (Kansas City) achieving a 5-1 record in the preliminary debates with victories over the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Gonzaga, and the University of Texas. Although they would lose in the quarter-finals on a split decision, the duo built some momentum for their final tournaments of the semester. Also in attendance in Tempe was the frosh team of Yumasie Hellebuick (Salt Lake) and Brent Lamb (Kansas City). Although they missed advancing to the elimination rounds by a single ballot, the pair did claim wins against the University of Southern California, Arizona State, and San Francisco State.

Hellebuick and Lamb would keep up the solid work at the Fall Championship several weeks later in Seattle. Once again achieving a 3-3 record (one shy of advancing), these young Pokes still claimed victories against California-State Fullerton, Southwestern College, and the University of Washington. Expect big things of this young team over the next few years. Culver and Henman continued their strong debating in Seattle, achieving preliminary victories against the University of Washington, Gonzaga University, and Southwestern. With a 4-2 record, the seniors moved to elimination rounds to face off with Gonzaga, who they defeated on the negative. In the semi-final round, Culver and Henman faced the tournament’s top seed, also from Gonzaga. The Bulldogs edged by on a split decision, leaving Culver and Henman just one ballot short of reaching the final round of the fall championship. Wyoming also had a third team in attendance –freshman Bailee Harris (Cheyenne) and junior Erin Worley (Cody) – who contributed to the squad effort with a victory over Southwestern.

Since returning from Seattle, the Pokes have been gearing up for the stress of finals week and working hard to prepare for their next competition: the Texas Two-Step, hosted by the University of Texas-Dallas and the University of North Texas in Dallas in early January.

Wyoming debaters were also extremely busy throughout the semester on the non-competitive front, as well. Throughout October, the team hosted a series of events surrounding the 2016 election, including three Presidential Debate-watch parties, panel discussions between UW students and faculty, and a local candidate’s luncheon. The turnout was tremendous, with an average attendance of over 200 students per event!

The debate team also hosted the William Pitt Debating Society from the University of Pittsburgh for a public debate on the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan regulations aimed at curbing carbon dioxide emissions. The debate compared two different ways for states to meet the regulations and the possible effects (and side-effects) of either policy choice. An expert Q&A session followed with Senator Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie), Dr. Temple Stoellinger (Co-Director, Center for Law and Energy Resources in the Rockies  and Assistant Professor, Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources), Kipp Coddington (Director of UW’s Carbon Management Institute), and Dr. Robert Godby (Director for UW’s Energy Economics & Public Policies Center and Associate Professor in the College of Business) taking questions from the audience. The debate event is archived here: 

As the semester winds down, the Pokes will be building a game-plan for next semester’s on-campus programming, so stay tuned for those updates!

Lastly, please mark your calendars for an important event: a 2017 Wyoming Debate Alumni Reunion! It is far past due for a gathering of Debate Pokes in Laramie. This organization has helped thousands of us throughout the decades and we share the bond that only time spent in the crucible of debate competition at UW can forge. We are one large, eclectic and bizarre family and a reunion can help to celebrate that. Concrete information will be released over the coming months, but please reserve the weekend of June 10 & 11.

Contact Us

Dr. Travis Cram

422 Ross Hall

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-3122


Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window)

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
UW Operators (307) 766-1121 | Contact Us | Download Adobe Reader

Accreditation | Virtual Tour | Emergency Preparedness | Employment at UW | Privacy Policy | Harassment & Discrimination | Accessibility Accessibility information icon