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Big MAC: Debate Team Brings Home Prizes, Accolades

Six debates, two hours each, build student leadership and presentation skills

The SMU Meadows debate team battled fierce competition and snowstorms at the first annual Mid American Championships (MAC), hosted by University of Central Oklahoma in Edmund, February 22-25. SMU brought home prizes, accolades and career-building experience.

Debate tournaments typically include elimination rounds, but snowstorms the day before the event and on the final day caused MAC organizers to cancel those rounds. Despite travel delays and tournament changes, the SMU team won four of its six debates.

The novice team of Basma Raza (B.A. Communication Studies, ’14) and Alex Zier (B.A. Communication Studies, ’14) took third at the competition with four wins and two losses in preliminary rounds, besting University of Houston - one of the top teams at the tournament - in the sixth round.

Raza and Zier spoke on topics of wind power and global warming.

“You have to ensure that you answer every argument because dropped arguments become the basis for a loss,” says Raza.

For Zier, the best part of the tournament was the competitiveness and the chance to build his presentation skills. “The experience has given me more confidence as a speaker and a better understanding of how to form more organized logical arguments,” says the first-time competitor.

Raza was also selected by judges as the second speaker overall in the novice division; teammate Lila Friedlander, a sophomore with interest in communications and Spanish, was honored as fifth speaker overall.

“Every SMU debate team in the novice division won a debate even though most of our four teams had never debated in college and were facing opponents who had been debating since September,” says Director of Debate and Chair of Communication Studies Dr. Ben Voth. “These students took a powerful step forward in being able to have a strong public voice that will help them both in careers and life.”

Raza says her debate experience, especially the argumentation aspect, will have a positive effect on her future career as a lawyer.

“It's an exhilarating time when you are in the middle of a debate and you are answering the other teams’ every argument,” she says. “It’s an adrenaline rush when you know the judge is going to vote for you.”

The team will compete again on March 15 when they face competition at the Junior Varsity National Tournament in Kansas City.

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