MACON – Mercer University's debate team had an impressive showing at this past weekend's Valdosta State University Blazer Classic, led by freshman Cassie Malcolm, who won first place in her first-ever collegiate debate tournament.
Malcolm took the top prize – a first for Mercer at this event – in International Public Debate Association (IPDA) competition, in which contestants were given a topic and only 30 minutes to construct an argument about that topic. Topics in the elimination rounds ranged from cyberterrorism to the legal rights of permanent residents in the U.S. to whale hunting.
"To be successful at this type of debate, Cassie has to learn and memorize information about dozens of topics on a regular basis, understand them well enough to craft cogent and persuasive arguments, and then have both the ability and the confidence to present those arguments to a room full of strangers," said Dr. Vasile Stanescu, director of debate at Mercer.
"Cassie had never competed in college debate before and could have chosen to compete in the novice category. Instead, she chose to compete in the varsity category, and in the elimination rounds, against juniors and seniors, she proceeded to beat all of them."
Additionally at the Blazer Classic, which featured both IPDA and National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) competitions, freshman Desirrae Jones – also participating in her first collegiate debate tournament – won a second-place speaker award and reached the elimination rounds in both competitions.
Sophomore Jaz Buckley, last year's NPDA nationals top speaker, reached the elimination rounds and was named one of the top speakers in NPDA competition, and sophomore Kevin Lee-Alston, along with his partner Malcolm, advanced to the NPDA semifinals in his first varsity tournament.
Furthermore, Dr. Stanescu was presented the Coach of the Year award based on the team's performance over the past year.
"As I told the team, this award does not belong to me, but to the debaters. I am blessed with brilliant, ethical and motivated students. They are the only reason that we enjoy such sustained competitive success," he said.