Fall is in the Air: Thoughts on a New Season

As the second full week of classes is set to begin after the Labor Day holiday, excitement for Fall can be felt all across campus. Many students are ecstatic for Tennessee Volunteer Football to get into full swing. Just as many people are most likely welcoming the cooler weather and upcoming Fall holiday events. However, the beginning Fall ushers in a unique feeling of anxiousness for the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society: the beginning of a new season filled with a new slate of debate tournaments!

This Friday and Saturday, September 8th and 9th, 2017, the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society will begin our Road to Nationals at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky. This season is shaping up to be another promising one, as our team is looking to tack on our 5th-consecutive national championship in the International Public Debate Association. Our team has two returning national champions from the 2016–2017 season, sophomore member and team Secretary Symantha Gregorash, who is returning from a novice national championship in 2016–2017, and team President Mickayla Stogsdill, who is returning after back-to-back national championship seasons in the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 seasons. Our team is also looking forward to the addition of several new members, consisting of new freshmen, transfer students, and a variety of older UT students who want to try out debate!

The team at the University of the Cumberlands two years ago sweeping two divisions!

For the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society, a new season means a bundle of new adventures, memories, team bonding, and traveling to new places to compete. However, our team’s excitement for a new season is not confined to solely competing in weekend tournaments. Instead, not only do we return to our travel and competitive experiences, we also return to hosting public forums on relevant, hot-button political issues, weekly practices on Thursdays, mock tournaments on off-weekends to sharpen our skills, trivia night on Wednesdays at local restaurants, community service opportunities, and, of course, our annual alumni clinic!

To express our team’s sentiment regarding the joy and anticipation a new season brings, we have asked several members, both new to UTK Debate and returning members, what they are most excited about for this upcoming season:

“As a student-run team, new seasons mean a lot for the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society, especially as the president. For the past two seasons, I was very focused on winning during tournaments and that was really it. This year, I hope to take a step away from such a competitive role and really reflect on the value of debate as a whole. I hope to teach the skills which led me to winning two consecutive national championships, and take on more of a coaching role than a strictly competitor role. Of course, I’d love if that meant winning some tournaments and ensuring the success of the team as a whole, but I’m most excited for a new generation of debaters to learn, compete, and have some fun.”
— Mickayla Stogsdill, President, IPDA Novice National Champion 2015–2016, Junior Varsity National Champion 2016–2017
Denizhan Pak (left) and Mickayla Stogsdill (right) after UT’s sweep of the State Championships two years ago!
This upcoming season is truly unlike any opportunity TSDS has gotten before.
It is very rare in IPDA that the team from a year before graduates no one, let alone brings back two national champions, multiple tournament champions, and a band of veteran debaters mentoring novices to be elite. The team we have right now has no ceiling because the sky is truly the limit to what we may be able to accomplish during the 2017–2018 season, and I truly do believe that as should every other team member.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we are not a club, we are not a social group.
We are a program and we are a dynasty.
And our legacy can be further expanded and cemented with the possibilities this season has to offer, and I, for one, cannot wait to see what it holds. — Kenny Cody, Senior, Vice President
Kenny teaching a breakout session on public speaking in our recent camp at Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy!
“I’m excited for the beginning of the IPDA season for a lot of reasons. Mainly, it’s my last year competing in IPDA and UT hasn’t ever had a team this good. I’m expecting us to compete for a lot of prestigious awards this year.”
— Stephen Boyette, IPDA National Championship Varsity Semifinalist 2016–2017
Stephen Boyette, Denizhan Pak, and Mickayla Stogsdill prepping for cases at UCA last year!
“With the new debate season coming up I have been anticipating many parts of the new year. The most exciting things I anticipate include the new challenges, such as the increased skill level of other debaters, and the new opportunity to win. After the past year, having come in first as National Season-Long Speaker Champion, I am hungry for an opportunity to go even farther in challenges and learning, and attempt another national championship. Hopefully this new season will be exciting and come with many victories for myself and the team as a whole”
— Symantha Gregorash, IPDA Novice National Champion 2016–2017
UT brought home a lot of hardware last year at MTSU!
“Wanting to debate at the University of Tennessee was a major reason why I decided to transfer. I debated for one year at Bryan College and became very familiar with the UT team. 
They were usually the loudest and having the most fun, and you definitely got to know their names when it came around to awards ceremony. After a while it became a sickening hearing: “And from the University of Tennessee Debate team…” When I finally decided to leave Bryan I knew it would be a short-sided decision not to reach out to the team; they’re perennial National Champions you cannot get any better than that. I messaged the VP Kenny Cody during the summer and got a response within the hour. Since then they have taken me in like a brother and I could not be more excited to get this season on the road and go after another National Championship.”
— Cole Hughes, Junior transfer member
Cole Hughes (left) and a teammate holding a speaker award!
“I’m excited to go to my first tournament so that I can get involved with debate again in college. From sophomore to senior year of high school, I went to every single debate tournament in the local and state circuit. I loved speech and debate in high school because I met like-minded individuals who were actively engaged with researching and discussing current events. On the weekends, I would meet the most intelligent and hardworking individuals at debate competitions, and I still miss this aspect from high school. Last year, I went to a college where the debate team was sub-par, and I couldn’t connect with anyone on my team. Hopefully, I’ll feel more at home on UT’s debate team after this year. Go Vols!”
— Diana Pope, Sophomore transfer member
Diana (far left) and her high school debate team!

Needless to say, the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society cannot wait to begin our Road to Nationals. As always, you can join us on this ride! You can start by coming to our weekly practice at 8pm in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, if competitive debate piques your interest or just to casually improve your public speaking skills. We’ll see you then!

Want to join UTK Debate? Like and follow us on Facebook, and we will respond to any questions you may have.

Want to keep up with the happenings of the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society? Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to never miss an update.

Want to debate but don’t go to UTK? Email us at utkdebateteam@gmail.com and we will help you find a debate team in your area (high school and up only).

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