The University of West Georgia’s debate team of Monique Hyman, a senior from Stockbridge, and Saleema Lee, a sophomore from Lawrenceville, became the first UWG team to win the Novice National Debate Championship.
“This is an amazing accomplishment, something our entire university can take great pride in,” said Dr. Michael Hester, director of UWG Debate and dean of the Honors College and Trans-disciplinary Programs.
The team of Hyman and Lee achieved this feat with their unanimous decision victory over George Mason University at the 2015 American Debate Association held at the University of Georgia, March 13-15. In addition to claiming the crown as the top novice team in the country, Monique Hyman was also recognized as the second place individual speaker.
“Winning a national policy debate tournament was such a fulfilling experience for me,” said Hyman. “For someone who joined debate in the last years of my college career, I believed that winning a national tournament was something out of my reach. Taking the ADA Nationals Championship this year reminded me that with hard work, dedication, and faith, it's never too late to accomplish even the most prestigious goals.”
UWG’s status as one of the top programs in intercollegiate debate goes back more than 40 years, including national championships in 2000 and 2001, runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2013, as well as third place finishes in 1979, 2002, and 2009. However, these students are different from their predecessors in that neither Monique nor Lee had any prior debate experience before coming to UWG. The “novice” division in intercollegiate debate is reserved for those students with no high school debate experience.
“Our national success, which began under Dr. Chester Gibson in the 1970s, has usually been achieved by debaters whom we recruited based on their excellence in high school,” said Hester. “But these students are different. Monique was a student in my class, and after observing her rhetorical and critical thinking skills, I asked her to give debate a try. Saleema has been a student assistant working in the Honors College. In a very short time, they have become skilled debaters and now national champions.”
“The ADA National tournament was the most trying experience of my college career thus far,” said Lee. “Policy debate not only challenges me intellectually but emotionally as well. In moments of utter anxiousness I always have to center myself and remember why I do what I do. It's not about the points or the win of the ballot. It's much bigger than that. I work to bring more diversity and inclusion. I work to expand the traditional argumentative frameworks of policy debate. Name it, and it shall be yours.”
The American Debate Association has sixty-six member institutions, including universities such as Boston College, Florida, Georgetown, Georgia State, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, the Naval Academy, UGA, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest. Over the course of the weekend, the team of Hyman and Lee defeated teams from Emory, George Mason, Liberty, and Mary Washington.
UWG’s varsity squad continues preparing for their upcoming participation at national championship tournaments of the Cross Examination Debate Association and the National Debate Tournament.