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Debate Team2020-11-05T15:49:59-05:00

Debate Team

The Belmont Abbey College Debate Team was started in the early days of the college by Abbot Leo Haid, offering students opportunities for debate and discussion and representing one of the premier programs on campus. Although dormant for about four decades, it was revived for a new generation of students at Belmont Abbey College. This team, which houses the competitive debate squad, offers students the opportunity to develop and to test their abilities to reason well and communicate articulately. Members of the squad will travel to tournaments and compete against students from colleges and universities across the United States, which can include Ivy League institutions and flagship state universities. Unlike athletic teams, debate programs are not classified by the size of a college’s student enrollment or major interest. Consequently, students will debate individuals from various academic backgrounds and those representing renowned research institutions to those from smaller liberal arts colleges While competing for the debate society requires a time commitment, the rewards are significant. Students will immediately see their writing, research, and public speaking improve.  They will learn to see the heart of an issue, to derive the principle, and apply that the ever growing supply of knowledge from every discipline. By extension, the cultivation of this habit prepares students to be good fathers, mothers, stewards, and citizens with the ability to intellectually defend those principles in a civilized and humane fashion. Finally, and in a practical sense, participation in debate further prepares students for excellence in law school, medical school, at a seminary, in graduate school, for employment and as citizens, parishioners, and parents. For more information about joining the society, please contact Emily Mikkelsen, Director of Debate, at emilymikkelsen@bac.edu.

Debate Team

Meet Emily Mikkelsen

Emily MikkelsenEmily Mikkelsen joined Belmont Abbey College as the Director of Debate in 2016 after graduating from UNC Greensboro with her M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies, concentrating in International Peace Development. In addition to coaching, Emily is pursuing her doctoral degree at UNC Charlotte in Public Policy. As a competitor, Emily and her collegiate debate partner were ranked second in the country for National Parliamentary Debate in December 2013, placing at every tournament she attended that season. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Emily spent time assistant coaching Appalachian State University’s first year team; some students were placed in the top 50 teams nationally by March. Since 2016, Emily has been working alongside the Belmont Abbey College team, which has won the International Public Debate Association National Tournament in the J.V. division and has received several national semifinalist and quarterfinalist awards since that time.

Our Debate Scholarship

Debate participants may be eligible for a stackable $1,000 scholarship. For more information, contact our director Emily Mikkelsen.


There are two tracks of debate:

  1. IPDA, or public debate, focuses on persuasive speaking. Students are invited to help select their topics each round and debate a variety of concepts from public policy to significant pop culture events. Students may compete both individually and with a partner. This format is open to any team member and retains a conversation-style approach.
  2. NFA-LD, or Lincoln Douglas Debate, adds technical elements to the debate. Students will often hear faster rounds, more in-depth research, and be expected to document their evidence used in round. Unlike IPDA, Lincoln Douglas retains one topic throughout the year, which students will research intensively and compete in defense of either side of the resolution. Lincoln Douglas is individual debate, where two students compete on opposite sides of the resolution.

Yes. Scholarships are currently available for incoming first-year students. Please contact EmilyMikkelsen@bac.edu for additional details.

Yes. While not required for the team, students may enroll in a renewable one-credit practicum each semester they are actively participating in debate.

There are no requirements regarding major. All current Belmont Abbey College students are eligible to seek a position on the team. Admission to and retention on the team, as well as travel rosters, are confirmed by the director.

No. We welcome anyone interested, and often those without debate experience during their secondary education have tremendous competitive and intellectual success in college.

The travel schedule for 2019-2020 will be up shortly. This year, students traveled to colleges including the University of Vermont, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Central Arkansas.

The college program will provide all lodging, transportation, tournament expenses, and meals during travel.

Not counting the weekends for travel, to begin gaining some competency in the activity will require five hours per week for public debate. For those hoping to compete on the more selective Lincoln Douglas team, this number increases to an average of 10 hours weekly. Debates will happen each week and then students are expected to conduct research on their own. Of course, the more a person works on this, the greater the success and the easier the activity becomes. Happily, however, the grounding from classes helps. Unlike other activities that require unique knowledge, debate requires students understand and focus the knowledge they have learned in class. Just being an excellent student or learning to be an excellent student will often reduce the workload for debate. The opposite is also true. The more proficient the individual becomes at debate, the less difficult certain projects will be for class.

Student Testimonials

Logan TorveDebating for Belmont Abbey College has been the hardest yet most rewarding activity I’ve taken part in this school year. It pushed my limits socially and academically. I think one of the most difficult challenges that people face in life is communicating your ideas effectively to others, as it impacts personal relationships, businesses endeavors, and success as a student. As Christians it’s also important to be able to defend what you believe in. Debating this semester is something that has helped me extremely in both of these areas. It has given me the ability to vocalize and communicate my ideas in a concise and understandable manner, in addition to developing the ability to successfully defend something that I believe is right.

-Logan Torve

Mary Rose Stepnowski

Debate has been crucial to forming my critical thinking skills, enabling me to employ my liberal arts education and enhancing my understanding of the world it a fun and engaging way.

-Mary Rose Stepnowski

Debate Team Schedule

Lafayette College VirtualOctober 3-4LD & Varsity IPDA
University of Arkansas at Monticello VirtualOctober 3-4Novice IPDA
Penn State University VirtualOctober 17-18LD & IPDA
St. Anselm College VirtualNovember 7LD & IPDA
Abilene Christian University VirtualDecember 4-5IPDA
Southern Forensics Championship Tournament VirtualJanuary 29-31IPDA
North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Ethics Bowl VirtualFebruary 20Panel
University of Central ArkansasPendingMarch 12-14IPDA
International Public Debate Association National ChampionshipCurrently scheduled to be hosted at Abilene Christian UniversityApril 9-12IPDA
National Forensic Association National ChampionshipCurrently scheduled to be hosted at the University of Illinois- ChicagoApril 16-20LD
Lafayette DebatesTraditionally hosted at George Washington University and the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C.April TBDTeam

Our Results

Belmont Abbey Debate Finishes in Top 30% at Nationals

Belmont Abbey Debate concluded its 2020-2021 season this weekend at the IPDA National Championship. This year, the tournament welcomed over 300 competitors, ranging from state schools like UCLA and the University of Florida to private schools including St. Anselm College and Patrick Henry College. After completing eight preliminary rounds, all of our students were in the top half of competitors for their respective divisions and were honored with a speaking and/or placement award.

In novice, freshman Carter Keller concluded his second full tournament as the 17th seed out of 100 first-year students, earning six of eight preliminary ballots. He advanced through triple-octofinals before concluding in double-octofinals. His opponent from Abilene Christian University went on to the semi-finals. Carter was also honored with a speaking award for the top 30%.

In junior varsity, sophomore Paloma Shrauder was ranked 22nd out of 102 competitors, winning six of eight preliminary rounds. Paloma advanced through triple-octofinals and concluded as a double-octofinalist in a round against Valdosta State University.

In varsity, junior Blake Traylor earned four out of eight ballots, narrowly missing advancement to elimination rounds and ranking in the top half of competitors based on preliminary records. Blake was also awarded with a speaking award for scoring in the top 30% of 94 varsity students.

This concludes our academic season; we look forward to beginning preparations for next year.

Debate April 2021

Belmont Abbey Debate Competes at Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Online Tournament

The Belmont Abbey Debate Team most recently competed at the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament. While our main national competition will occur April 9-11 for IPDA Nationals, three of our students also participated in the virtual PKD format. The tournament welcomed approximately 270 debate students from across the country, and featured several state university teams.

In IPDA, Paloma Shrauder competed in the junior varsity division for the first time, winning three out of five preliminary ballots. The tie for advancement to elimination rounds was broken by speaking points, for which Paloma averaged 33 out of 40. In varsity, Blake Traylor earned two ballots, missing advancement in the tournament by one round. Nonetheless, Blake excelled with an average speaking score of 36.6 out of 40.

Freshman Kayleigh Guffey also competed in Lincoln Douglas Debate. As a first-year student, Kayleigh competed against students with far more experience and averaged 26.3 out of 30 speaking points for rounds she attended.

Debate March 2021

10th Annual NCICU Ethics Bowl

The Belmont Abbey College Debate Team participated in the 10th Annual NCICU Ethics Bowl February 20th, focusing on compassionate decision-making in the context of a pandemic. Our students represented Belmont Abbey as a panel, weighing issues about vaccination policies and equity in public school education. The final presentations balanced ideal goals of government agencies with current limitations, advocating for the diverse needs of communities.

Belmont Abbey students spent the day refining their own advocacy among peers from NCICU institutions and learning from experienced practitioners in the field. This year, the NCICU Ethics Bowl did not have a competitive structure. While judges provided positive feedback to our students, no wins or losses were assigned. Instead, this year emphasized keynote speakers who have played key roles in managing North Carolina’s response to Covid-19. These included: Mike Sprayberry, Deputy Director of NC Emergency Management; Geoff Coltrane, Senior Education Advisor to Governor Cooper; and Mark Benton, Assistant Secretary for Public Health in the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Our next competition will be the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, beginning on March 19th. Pi Kappa Delta is among the oldest forensics honor societies globally and represents a uniquely large national competition. This will be Belmont Abbey’s first year at the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament, and we are hopeful to introduce our students to the full in-person experience next year.

To see our team in action, click one of the videos below:

Session 1 – Breakout Room 1

Session 2 – Breakout Room 2

Belmont Abbey Debater Named Third Place Speaker at St. Anselm

The Belmont Abbey College Debate Team took two of our second-year students to compete at the virtual St. Anselm College tournament last weekend. Overall, the tournament welcomed 20 schools from across the country. This included several fellow Northern Tier Debate Conference institutions, from Penn State University to Hillsdale College. Isabella Barrett competed in IPDA, while Paloma Shrauder participated in Lincoln Douglas.

IPDA hosted one open division for students with varying years of experience. While sophomore Isabella Barrett is still a novice for debate, she tied for sixth place in win/loss records and narrowly missed quarterfinals based on secondary tie-breakers. Isabella also earned an impressive 94% of total speaking points possible and was honored with third place for overall speaking.

The primary goal of this tournament for Lincoln Douglas was to serve as a learning experience for students beginning the LD debate format for the year. In that endeavor, sophomore Paloma Shrauder performed well in the junior varsity division, earning over 85% of possible speaking points.

Abbey Debate Conclude in Top 10 at BGSU Cyber Falcon Tournament

The Belmont Abbey Debate Team competed this weekend in the Bowling Green State University Cyber Falcon Tournament. The competition welcomed students from 41 schools across 18 states to compete synchronously online. While team sweepstakes specific to debate are not available for the tournament, our students did well individually as we continue to adjust to the online format.

In novice, freshman Carter Keller competed in his first tournament and was honored as the ninth place speaker . Simultaneously, sophomore Paloma Shrauder placed fourth overall with a 3-1 record and was honored as the 10th place speaker. Paloma concluded as a quarterfinalist, dropping on a 2-1 decision against the co-champion in novice IPDA.

In varsity, senior Isabelle Robertson concluded her tournament with a 2-2 record, placing one ballot away from advancing to elimination rounds. Isabelle also did well in individual speaking points, accumulating nearly 80% of the available points in preliminary rounds. Finally, Blake Traylor had several close decisions in rounds; while he did not advance to elimination rounds, he averaged 82.5% of possible speaking points.

Our next tournament is scheduled for November 7, when St. Anselm College will host both Lincoln Douglas and IPDA debate.

BAC Takes 2nd at Ethics Bowl 2020

The Belmont Abbey Ethics Bowl Team returned Saturday evening after competing at the annual North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities 2020 Ethics Bowl. The competition focused on ethics in agriculture, exploring issues from animal welfare standards to agricultural regulations. Our team included senior Adrianna Hodges and freshmen Daniyil Potapenko, Isabella Barrett, Paloma Shrauder, and Samuel Wallick.

The Belmont Abbey team went undefeated in the four preliminary rounds, debating ethical proposals with the following schools: Wake Forest University, Chowan University, Mars Hill University, and Louisburg College.

In semifinals at the North Carolina Legislature, a panel consisting of our four freshmen debated North Carolina Wesleyan University on a question of genetically-modified and gene-edited foods. Our students advocated the use of technology to extend healthy food options to vulnerable population groups, including homeless communities and families displaced by armed conflict. Belmont Abbey was declared the winning team and invited to compete in the final round at the North Carolina Museum of History.

In the final round, our students debated the ethics at the intersection of agriculture and immigration with a team of upperclassmen from High Point University. The Belmont Abbey panel of Isabella, Adrianna, Samuel, and Daniyil considered the balance of upholding legal processes and human rights. On a divided judging decision, our students were honored with second place, concluding the 2020 NCICU Ethics Bowl as finalists.

Our next competition is the International Public Debate Association National Tournament in Tennessee, taking place March 13-17.

BAC Debate Team
Debate Team

Belmont Abbey Debate Wins Second Place

Belmont Abbey Debate kicked off our 2019-2020 season in a tournament hosted on our campus this weekend! The Queen City Debates welcomed Appalachian State University (NC), the University of the Cumberlands (KY), and Davis and Elkins College (WV) to begin the season with six rounds of IPDA public debate before breaking to octofinals in an open division, along with a semifinal novice breakout division. Approximately 50 people were included in the competition and judging of the event. Our students collectively earned second place for both traditional sweepstakes awards as well as honors to recognize teams with the highest percentage of ballots won in the preliminary rounds. Every student competing for Belmont Abbey was recognized for a top speaker award and/or a top tournament placement during the awards ceremony on Sunday.

In novice, freshman Paloma Shrauder excelled in her first debate tournament by earning fifth place as a top speaker in the category. Bryanna Farmer, a senior competing in her second semester, won first place for novice speaking overall and second place for top novices competing in the open elimination rounds. She concluded the open competition as an octofinalist.

In open, each varsity team member earned winning records in the preliminary rounds. Consequently, 75% of the first elimination rounds included a Belmont Abbey debater. We had three students conclude the tournament as octofinalists: sophomore Blake Traylor, junior Anastasjiah McGriff, and junior Isabelle Robertson. Freshman Zoe Lamborn won her open octofinal round a 3-0 decision, and senior Adrianna Hodges won her octofinal round on a 2-1 decision. Zoe and Adrianna met in the bracket during quarterfinals; Zoe concluded as a quarterfinalist, while Adrianna continued to win semifinals on a 2-1 decision. Adrianna concluded the tournament as second place overall. Both Adrianna and Zoe were recognized as top speakers for the tournament, taking second and third respectively.

Our students represented Belmont Abbey College remarkably well, both as debaters and hosts for our inaugural competition. Given scheduling conflicts and the need to balance student academics, we are replacing the Lafayette College tournament next weekend. We are excited to continue our season at Penn State University in October!

Belmont Abbey Debaters Compete at Stanford University

The Belmont Abbey Debate Team returned Tuesday morning from Palo Alto, California for the United States Universities Debate Championships. Stanford University hosted approximately 500 debaters from across the country for three days of British Parliamentary Debate. The list of participating institutions is attached, along with the number of teams in parentheses.


Belmont Abbey students, Mary Rose Stepnowski and Adrianna Hodges, finished with a total of seven points. Finalized results show them placed about two points behind the average regional team that competes in the British Parliamentary format regularly. Advancing teams were almost exclusively Ivy League. Of four teams in each round, the debaters improved continually throughout the weekend, moving from fourth place finishes to a second place finish on Sunday. The duo finished first place in their final round. Furthermore, senior Mary Rose Stepnowski concluded her final college debate as the best of eight speakers.


This tournament concluded our 2017-2018 season. We look forward to sending off our seniors at the team party next week, and beginning plans for the following season. Thank you all for your continued support throughout this year. We look forward to continuing to build on the program’s foundation next semester!


Click here for the results!
BAC Debate
BAC Debate

Belmont Abbey Students Debate Protest Ethics with French Officers from École de Guerre

The Belmont Abbey Debate Team returned from Washington, D.C. earlier this week after competing in the Lafayette Debates, hosted by George Washington University and the French Embassy. This year created the unique opportunity for debaters from the Ecole de Guerre, the United States Military Academy, and the United States Naval Academy to compete with traditional college students. The competition hosted four preliminary rounds, three of which engaged our students directly against French debaters who had travelled from Paris to compete. Our assigned topic discussed the motto “Sous les paves, la plage” specific to the 1968 protests in Paris. It was an honor to discuss French history and service with officers who have extensively studied the topic. While our students did not advance to the final debates, we were honored to be counted as a top American university per our participation in the competition.
Our final tournament for the season will take place at Stanford University this weekend. We look forward to the challenge in competition!

Belmont Abbey Debate: Southern Forensics Championship

The Belmont Abbey Debate Team returned from Spokane, Washington on Wednesday, March 28 after competing in the International Public Debate Association’s National Championship. In individual debate, four of six students broke into the top 32 for their divisions, and all advanced into the top 16 rounds.

In novice, freshman Anastasjiah McGriff won five of eight preliminary rounds, advancing to double-octofinals. She won her first elimination round against the University of Tennessee- Knoxville before placing as an octofinalist in her next round. Freshman Hunter Owen earned a 3-5 preliminary record, placing him a ballot away from potential advancement. In junior varsity, Adrianna Hodges was two ballots away from potential advancement.

In varsity, all three team members advanced to the double-octofinal round. Seniors Mary Rose Stepnowski and Eric Swartz each earned 5-3 records, while Logan Torve’s 7-1 record placed him as the first seed in elimination rounds and second overall varsity speaker at the National Championship. In double-octofinals, the three upperclassmen collected eight of nine possible ballots, defeating debaters from Boise State University, Drury University, and the University of Arkansas- Monticello. Logan and Mary Rose each concluded their individual tournaments as varsity octofinalists in the next round. Eric continued into the quarterfinals round in which he debated the merits of Just War Theory, but ultimately tied for fifth place in varsity on a 1-2 decision against Bossier Parish College.

In team debate, Logan Torve and Mary Rose Stepnowski went 3-1 in preliminary rounds, advancing to octofinals. They won both octofinals and quarterfinals before placing third overall after dropping on a 1-2 decision in quarterfinals. Logan Torve also won ninth top speaker overall in the division. Eric Swartz and Hunter Owen went 2-2, barely missing elimination rounds. Freshmen duo Anastasjiah McGriff and Isabelle Robertson went 1-3 in varsity-level competition, setting them up well for continued novice and junior varsity debate next year.

This concludes the regular season for our team, though we do still have two remaining tournaments for a few upperclassmen. The next competition will be at George Washington University and the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. April 7-8. We are also excited to announce that we have been accepted as competitors at the United States Universities British Parliamentary Championships April 14-16, hosted at Stanford University.

BAC Debate
BAC Debate
BAC Debate

Belmont Abbey Debate: Southern Forensics Championship

The Belmont Abbey College Debate Team returned Monday from Russellville, Arkansas after competing in the 2018 Southern Forensics Championship. The competition saw 24 schools from the Southern United States, with approximately 50 students competing in the varsity division alone. The Belmont Abbey team placed in the top eight for team debate, in the top 16 for individual debate, and second place for overall speaking awards!

In team debate, Mary Rose Stepnowski and Logan Torve went undefeated in preliminary rounds, advancing to quarterfinals and finishing in the top eight. Logan also earned second place for overall speaking in the team division.

In varsity individual debate, Logan Torve and Eric Swartz each went 5-1 in preliminary rounds, earning fifth and ninth place respective rankings going into elimination rounds. These placements earned both debaters an automatic win in partial double-octofinals, setting up pairings in the octofinal rounds. Logan lost on a 1-2 decision against Drury University; Eric dropped in a round against the University of Central Arkansas. While we are still waiting for official cumulative results, but the collective success of all three debaters likely places Belmont Abbey College as a top five school at the varsity level at this year’s Southern Forensics Championship.

Our next competition will be the NCICU Ethics Bowl in Raleigh February 16-17.

BAC Debate

Belmont Abbey Debate Claims Second Place Speaking Award at New York Competition

The Belmont Abbey College Debate Team returned Sunday from Garden City, New York after competing in the Off Broadway Swing competition. In addition to individual success, the team collectively earned fourth place in the debate competition sweepstakes, in a field of 11 teams ranging from Seton Hall University to Colorado Christian University. Mary Rose Stepnowski and Logan Torve both concluded in the top 15% of competitors. Mary Rose was also awarded the gavel for second place in overall speaking points out of 54 competitors!

The tournament was run accordingly to Phi Ro Pi IPDA guidelines, which are catered to be more inclusive of two-year programs. Consequently, all students competed in varsity, including freshmen Hunter Owen and Isabelle Robertson. Belmont Abbey’s second and third year debaters all finished the four-round preliminary competition with winning records. Eric Swartz and Adrianna Hodges each won two rounds, while Mary Rose Stepnowski and Logan Torve both earned ballots in three of four rounds.

The 54 debaters were narrowed to a field of 16 for the “bronze round”. With 75% success records in preliminary rounds, Mary Rose and Logan were both selected to advance. Mary Rose won all three ballots to advance to the final “gold round”. Earning two of three ballots, Logan also advanced to the final round.
The final round proved more difficult, with Mary Rose winning one of three ballots to be named a silver award winner. Logan also dropped in the final round, positioning him as a second silver medalist for the team.

The students rounded out a successful semester by competing at a tournament in which only five schools advanced to elimination rounds. This type of competition is expected to challenge students even more than an average tournament, and our students certainly stepped up to that goal!

Belmont Abbey Placed Eight Nationally

While the International Public Debate Association is still entering numbers for some of our recent tournaments, current varsity rankings have Belmont Abbey placed eighth nationally!

The Belmont Abbey College Debate Team also traveled to Spokane, Washington last weekend to compete in the Nationals preview competition at Whitworth University. Following preliminary rounds, Belmont Abbey was ranked third overall out of 10 schools. In novice, freshman Hunter Owen was consistently ranked well as a speaker, earning seventh place honors out of 19. Anastasjiah McGriff won two ballots, placing her a single ballot away from elimination rounds.

In the open division, Eric Swartz won four out of five rounds, which placed him as ninth seed in a field of 40 varsity debaters. Logan Torve won three of five rounds, placing him in a tie for 11th seed of the same field and securing seventh place for varsity in speaking points. Mary Rose Stepnowski rounded out the varsity team by winning two ballots, including a round with a perfect speaking points score of 40. These contributions allowed the varsity team to collectively defeat Azusa Pacific University for team rankings following preliminary rounds.

Berea 2017

The Belmont Abbey Debate Team traveled to Berea, Kentucky this weekend to compete at Berea College. This tournament hosted a shortened version of several events, including both performance-based individual events and parliamentary debate. We concluded the weekend with two debate semifinalists and a second place speaker in varsity! Our major competition occurred in IPDA debate; five Belmont Abbey students competed in four preliminary rounds. In novice, Anastasjiah McGriff went 2-2, missing elimination rounds by one ballot. Maximilian Marck won all four preliminary ballots, advancing to quarterfinals. Max won the quarterfinal round against Morehouse College on a 3-0 decision before dropping in semifinals to Berea College on a 1-2 decision. In open debate, Mary Rose went 1-3 and Adrianna Hodges went 3-1. Due to a round with slightly lower than average speaking points, Addie missed qualification to quarterfinals; she tied for ninth place overall. Eric Swartz also won three of his preliminary ballots, advancing to elimination rounds as the second place varsity speaker. He won quarterfinals against the University of Kentucky on a 2-1 decision before dropping to a debater from Transylvania University. The cumulative record placed Belmont in the top five of 15 schools at the Berea Tournament!

BAC Debate