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Communication & Journalism Department


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.

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