Debate Team Holds on to National Ranking

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The UWG debate team recently brought in the new year with a victory over 76 other teams from across the nation at the University of Texas-Dallas and the University of North Texas.

The team of Osayame Gaius-Obaseki, a junior from Miami, and Hakeem Muhammad, a freshman from Chicago, defeated teams from Baylor, Emory, University of Michigan, Indiana University, University of Oklahoma and Wyoming at the UT-Dallas tournament. Gaius-Obaseki placed fourth as an individual speaker, Muhammad placed 25th. The strong showing by Gaius-Obaseki and Muhammad solidifies their position as one of the top 20 teams in the nation. This win is a repeat for the debate team, which also won the UT-Dallas tournament last year.

The team capped their trip to Texas by also winning the tournament hosted by the University of North Texas. In the field of 66 teams, Gaius-Obaseki and Muhammad defeated teams from the University of Indiana, Kansas University, University of Michigan, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas-San Antonio and Trinity University. Gaius-Obaseki was recognized as the top individual speaker, while Muhammad was eighth. Their combined record of 23-1 between the two tournaments included a preliminary round record of 13-1, which earned them the “Best Two Steppers” swing trophy. This performance marks the third consecutive tournament in which a UWG team has reached the championship round, something only the Northwestern and Georgetown teams have accomplished this season.

“The UWG debate program’s sustained national success is the result of hard work and determination,” said Dr. Michael Hester, dean of honors college and trans-disciplinary programs and director of debate for 18 years. “This success is not just on the part of the debaters, but also the faculty and staff at UWG who are committed to the motto – ‘educational excellence in a personal environment’.”

This year marks the third consecutive year the UWG debate team has had a freshman win a national varsity tournament. In 2011, Vanova Robles and her partner, a sophomore, won the Vanderbilt tournament. In 2012, Damiyr Davis and Miguel Feliciano, both freshmen, won the UT-Dallas tournament. This is also the third consecutive season an African American male UWG debater has won a varsity tournament, a feat unmatched by any other school during that time.

“Hakeem’s tremendous season thus far highlights the success of UWG’s inaugural Summer Transition Program,” said Hester. “He came to West Georgia from an inner-city Chicago high school with a less than stellar academic high school record. After the summer program and fall semester, Hakeem has made himself eligible for the Honors College and is on the verge of a magna cum laude-level grade point average.”

The Summer Transition Program, newly renamed the Ignite Program, identifies students who do not meet university admission standards but have the potential to succeed. The program conditionally accepts them to the university with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to succeed at college-level work.

“Hakeem was given an opportunity by the innovative programs of Dr. Lingrell and his staff, and taught by the faculty here,” Hester continued. “He has proven to be an excellent student and is well on his way to achieving great things at UWG and later in life.”

This season’s resolution is “The United States Federal Government should substantially reduce restrictions on and/or substantially increase financial incentives for energy production in the United States for one or more of the following: coal, crude oil, natural gas, nuclear power, solar power, wind power.”

For more information contact Dr. Michael Hester at 678-839-6636.

Photo 1: Left: Hakeem Muhammad, freshman; Right: Osayame Gaius-OBaseki