NFA Council Elections

Candidates to fill vacated At-Large seat:

Bill Heinze – University of Minnesota

I’ve been a coach at the University of Minnesota for the past seven years. I began forensics and grad school working on a degree in music. I assumed that at some point, I would just move out. I never expected my journey with this activity to take me so far, or to have found such an amazing community, but my team, colleagues, and competitors continue to surprise me with their capacity for creativity and kindness. Because of this, I would be honored to be an NFA at-large member. 

I only began coaching in Minnesota because of an accident. I ran into a student running the team on our very large campus and he invited me to the first pre-tournament work day. By the time one of our first years closed their book, I knew that I had stumbled into something great. Together, those first year students became our first ever four-year class. It was a very rocky start. We were undersupported and at one particularly rough AFA, not old enough to rent a car. I’ve made almost every administrative mistake there is. (If you want a funny story ask an alumn about that time I forgot a MAFL…) However, together we put in the hard work to build a team infrastructure that has endured long past their graduation and continues to amplify our voices on campus. 

Despite the good fortune my team has had, coaching is getting harder. Institutional support is waning. Pandemic safety requires extra vigilance. Students are more than ever rightfully demanding that we meet them on their level. This is not to call these challenges nuisances, but to acknowledge that we have to rise to the occasion. Criticisms of the activity are both valid and deep. Beneath them, I can hear an optimism for what forensics could be and I am used to the work getting harder.

I’ve been on committees for other forensics bodies for numerous years. I was on the MAFL board from 2018-22, and secretary from 2020-22. I was the director of our MCFA state tournament this past February, and I am currently the graduate student rep for NFA. I have seen the work that our leaders are putting into building a safe and productive community, and I cannot wait to join them. I know how to pause, look for creative solutions, work with colleagues and most importantly ask for help and listen.  As an at-large member, I know I can use my skills to help our organization recover and thrive after the past two years and help us build the activity that we want to be a part of. Thank you for your consideration.

Brent Mitchell – Minnesota State University, Mankato

Throughout my time in this activity, I find myself continuing to re-evaluate and change my pedagogical values to align with
the always changing environment of forensics. I have dedicated myself to this activity because I believe in what forensics can do and what it can eventually become. This journey has had many ups and downs, but the impact that collegiate forensics has had on my life has been profound to say the least. Due to the experiences I have had, I believe I would be an ideal fit for the At-Large Representative position.

To gain a better understanding of organizational structure and how to impact change in the activity, I have stepped forward in numerous capacities during my time at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I served in interest groups for the Minnesota State Tournament, the Wellness Committee for NFA, as an executive committee member of the Valley Forensics League, and the NFA Graduate Student Representative. In all these roles, I have pushed for change which puts student wellness and student interest at the forefront of shifts in the activity while understanding the continued changes that students are advocating for. The experiences students have faced during the pandemic and will continue to face in the coming years must be accounted for my those who serve.

I believe if elected, I could contribute to the important work of the council in significant ways. As someone who is only a year out of their graduate program and did research about student perspectives, I believe I can serve as a unique voice to further the activity and NFA’s goals over the next term. I feel I can serve as a unique voice to help guide the organization through it’s journey toward more inclusiveness and access moving forward.

While I am still fresh out of my MFA program, I have been coaching, judging, and learning what it means to be on the other side of the ballot for 6 years now through my graduate programs. I believe I can be a strong voice to help create and implement changes that we as a community can be proud of if elected to serve as a member of the NFA National Council. Thank you for your consideration.

Brian Schanen – University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

Forensics started for me in middle school with a class assignment, that eventually became doing forensics in high school. When I went to college, doing forensics was something that I had loosely considered, but it took until I realized in my second week on campus that my Mass Communication instructor was the Director of Forensics at UW-Whitewater, that I solidified my commitment to joining. Over a decade later, that was the best decision I ever made, and I currently work with high schoolers to encourage them to pursue college forensics somewhere, because our community needs them. Forensics not only gave me the communication skills that are so well researched, but it also played a major role in my decision to enter higher education as a profession. Today I can say I have my dream job, teaching media production and co-directing the forensics program at UW-Whitewater. I often sum my job up by saying “I foster student’s voices.”

I have had the privilege of serving as an At-Large representative for the Mid-America Forensics League (MAFL), the last two seasons. In fall I will take over as the tournament director for MAFL and am excited for the opportunity. Additionally, I assisted NFA in April 2021, creating postings videos for the out rounds.

Stepping onto the ISU campus for an in-person NFA was a recharging moment. It quickly became apparent how much the pandemic has taken out of me, and I am certain, many others. We are forever in debt to all the work Megan Koch and her students at ISU put in to hosting a fabulous national tournament. (Having been slated to host in 2020, I can attest to all the work that goes into the tournament).

The pandemic has changed so many things in higher education, as has been discussed in many different forums, forensics is not immune. From budget cuts to challenging the norms that have been around longer than I have been a part of the activity. As we move into the next phase of the pandemic, whatever that phase may be, we have a new landscape to navigate. From tournament modalities to changed team profiles ranging from budget to membership to rightly increasing our focus on mental health, I know I am missing many a conversation, but now is the time to have the discussions of where we as a community want to see NFA in 5, 10 and 50 years.

It would be an honor and a privilege to serve an organization that gave me so many memories as a student competitor, from the friendships made between rounds, to the inspiring out round performances. And to help the organization step confidently into the future, because I believe with all my heart, that NFAs best days are still to come

David Bowers – Missouri Valley College

Hi there! My name is David Bowers, I’m the Director of Forensics at Missouri Valley College located in Marshall, Missouri. My experience coaching has been broad, from focusing specifically on Lincoln-Douglas, to coaching Parliamentary debate to assisting with Individual Events, it’s my honor to say that I’ve dipped my toe into about everything. Along the way I have also had some phenomenal mentors and friends, many of whom believe in NFA strongly enough to be a part of this organization.

I’m really interested in being a part of the organizational structure of the National Forensics Association for a lot of reasons, but for this I want to focus on two. First, I feel like I have unique experience establishing a new program in our community. Growth is incredibly important and the more we can encourage new or younger programs to join us the more we guarantee the stability of the activity. Second, being a debate coach who is expanding into individual events has given me a unique perspective on both activities. One of the things I appreciate most about NFA is that we encourage people to be the most well-rounded competitors in the game while also competing at the highest levels. That, in my opinion, is unique to this organization.

All that being said, I would be honored to be considered for an At-Large position on the NFA National Council. Thanks for reading!

Results of the April election:

Student Representatives:

National Junior Representative: Em Marlow – Ohio University

Student Representative to the Lincoln Douglas Committee: Tanya Pravakhar – Western Kentucky University

Vice-President for Professional Relations

Dr. Nikki Freeman – University of Central Missouri

National Secretary

Julie Walker, Southwest Minnesota State University

At-Large Representative

Jennifer Talbert, Ohio University

At-Large Representative

John Stanley, North Central College

Graduate Student Representative

Damon Mitchell, San Diego State University

Lincoln-Douglas Debate Committee

Shanna Carlson, Illinois State University

Craig Hennigan, Truman State University

Nadya Steck, Lewis and Clark College