Graduate Student Representative
Hailea Stone – San Diego State University
I am Hailea Stone and I have been in the forensics community for almost nine years now. Currently, I’m the Assistant Director of Individual Events for San Diego State University’s Forensics team. Starting in the Fall of 2023, I will be the Director of IEs. I graduated from SDSU with a B.A. in Communication Studies, and am currently pursuing an M.A. at SDSU’s School of Communication Graduate Program. While on the SDSU team, I competed primarily in IE events from 2018-2022. Such events included POE, PERS, DUO, POI, ADS, INFO, etc.
During my competition days, I was also the President and Speech Captain of Individual Events for four years and helped establish a foundation for the SDSU team on the local and national circuits. Some accomplishments from my competitive career include 1. Qualified for the Interstate Oratorical Association (IOA) tournaments during my junior and senior years. Junior year, I was a semi-finalist, and for my senior year, I earned 6th place. 2. Earned 6th place in Poetry Interpretation at the American Forensics Association’s National Championship and earned a spot on the 2022 All-American Team. 3. Earned 1st place in Persuasive Speaking and Poetry Interpretation, as well as placed 4th in Individual Sweeps at the 2022 National Online Forensics Tournament. 4. Earned 3rd place in Persuasive Speaking at the 2021 Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament and earned $100 for the Equity Alliance non-profit advocacy group. 5. Partnered with Project Rebound, the Institute for Dialogue and Social Justice, as well as the Playwrights Project to perform my persuasive speech at a Social Justice Speaks Event. Beyond the SDSU team, I also coach for the Argumentation Communication Leadership Academy (ACLA). I coach an ACLA Network class, a course at Columbus Tustin Middle School, and hold private coaching sessions. From being a competitor on the local and national circuit to an IE coach, I only hope to help students find their voices, share their truths, and turn their sparks into flames within and beyond the forensics community. As a coach, former competitor, and with my student leader experience, these experiences have all led me to believe that it is my duty to give back to a community that has done so much for me.
Damon Mitchell, University of Utah
Damon (they/he) is a Master’s candidate graduate teaching instructor and the out-going Director of Individual Events at San Diego State University. They have spent a total of 11 years in competitive forensics with six years of involvement in the various national collegiate forensics circuits. After competing for three years in high school, Damon started their journey in collegiate forensics at El Camino College where they competed for two years, obtained several community college national titles, and then spent a semester student coaching under the guidance of Francesca Bishop and Brittney Hubble. From ElCo Damon transferred to Concordia University Irvine where they competed for an additional two years. During their time at CUI, Damon served as Limited Prep Captain (junior year), Speech Captain (senior year), and AFA District 1 Student Representative (senior year). Damon finished out their college career ranked in the top 24 in 5 of the 11 nationally recognized speech events. For the last two years, Damon has coached for San Diego State University, but in the pursuit of a Ph.D. will be ending their time with SDSU and obtaining a coaching position at new institution (TBD)
Joe Gantt – Lewis & Clark College
My name is Joe Gantt, and I am the Director of Speech/Debate at Lewis & Clark College. It has been my honor to serve on the NFA Executive Council as at at-large member for the past two years, and I would like to continue that work for the next two years.
I have a long history of service to national forensics organizations. I have served as President of both the National Parliamentary Debate Association and the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, as well as serving as Tournament Director for both those tournaments as well. I have also been the District II chair for the AFA-NST for the past eight years, and I have been a member of the NFA Lincoln-Douglas Committee. I am familiar with the issues that forensics organizations face in the current academic environment and the crucial need for organizational leadership. Despite having the acute phase of the pandemic behind us, the challenges that lie before us are many and varied.
As a program from the Western United States, our forensics regions sometimes face difficult challenges based upon geography. Having a member of the National Council who understands those challenges would be important as the organization potentially welcomes more programs from the west and other underserved regions. Lewis & Clark also participates in both speech events and Lincoln-Douglas debate, so we have an interest in and understanding of all aspects of NFA.
I would be honored to continue to serve the mission of the NFA as a member of the National Council.
Trent Webb, Hofstra University
Trent Webb is the Director of Forensics at Hofstra University. He has spent over 25 years coaching intercollegiate forensics for various programs, including Texas Tech University and Nassau Community College. He competed at Texas State University where he completed both his undergrad and graduate degrees. To date, he’s been a part of nearly 30 academic panel discussions at NCA regarding forensics trends, diversity issues, and scholarship.
Goals: With my recent certification from Cornell University, in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I seek to work with the NFA Council on furthering the mission of the NFA Tournament and organization to bring more DEIB issues to the foreground. In addition, I’d like to find ways to help future tournament hosts find more qualified hired judges and assist the tournament site committee with any local arrangements.
Vice-President of Tournament Administration
Dawn Lowry, George Mason University
For those who do not know me, my name is Dawn Lowry. I am the Director of Forensics at George Mason University. I just completed my first term as a NFA Vice-President, but it far from first year in this community. My first introduction to NFA was as a graduate student at Illinois State University. I understood at once my friends in undergrad would say, “You would love NFA.” Because I did – the sheer number of competitors, the divisions in Sweepstakes, experimental events, the coach’s meeting, the presence of debaters…it was a fundamentally different type of tournament. And regardless of the changes that have happened over forensics, I believe it still is, which is why I am running for the position of Vice President.
It has been almost twenty years since I left Illinois State. Most of my forensics career has been spent as an assistant to other Directors. Like any Assistant Director can tell you, I believe that those were important years where I learned crucial skills: listening, advising, supporting, and questioning. I believe these to be crucial skills for a Vice-President as well. The President has their own vision of what NFA can be, but they will need someone who can ask questions regarding practicality, pedagogy, and resources. I have been fortunate to work at numerous institutions, which reflects the diversity of our organization. I have worked at large schools (30,000 students) and small (1,000), large teams of almost 50 and small ones with fewer than ten, public and private, programs with scholarships and without, HBCU’s and PWI’s, as well as teams with and without LDers. Students do not have the same needs at these different institutions. They all have different barriers to entry for this activity. If forensics is to be a force shaping tomorrow’s thinkers, I want to make sure the students know that they have someone who sees their needs, will work to make sure their ideas are presented in their entirety, and will help them get access to the resources they need.
The past three years have been a steep learning curve. It often felt like we were inventing forensics online as we were doing it, stuck in a cycle of reacting as opposed to be proactive. But as a result, I believe we also know more about what this organization can and should be doing. Our foundational documents need to be updated to allow for flexibility in light of quick changing technology. Our coaches need more support. Our by-laws spell out ways students can seek accommodations to be protected from bias and harassment. Those provisions do not exist for coaches, judges, and graduate students. Our community has only begun to talk about the ways in which ableism is woven into our activity, and I would very much like to continue to be part of that discussion.
I’ve been lucky enough to work in so many parts of the country. I would be honored to serve the remarkable coaches and students I have met on my journey. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Lincoln-Douglas Debate Committee
My name is Shanna Carlson and I am the current Director of Debate at Illinois State University. I have been involved with debate for over 20 years and hope to stay involved for at least another 20 years. I would like to serve on the NFA-LD committee so that I can help the activity to continuously grow and evolve. As a member I am already involved in open forum discussions that occur within the community. In my time I have seen many improvements to the rules and I believe that it is our duty to continue this tradition of evolution.
Additionally, I would love to be part of the committee that helps ensure that NFA-LD grows and attracts more debaters. We are in a time where many forms of debate are shrinking in their memberships, but NFA does not have to be one of those forms. I have international debate teaching and coaching experience and I believe that I could bring a unique view to the committee to ensure that NFA stays on the positive course it finds itself currently on. I also believe that student input is extremely important and I love to hear the ideas that students have. We ought to create a dialogue between more students and coaches around the country. As a committee member I see my job as one to listen, respond, and advocate for the best debate activity possible.
Craig Hennigan, University of Nevada Las Vegas
My name is Craig Hennigan and I’m currently directing debate at UNLV. I am very proud of the work the current committee completed this year. There was a good variety of topic papers sent out on time and we’ve been able to work together cordially and efficiently. I’m very open to making some changes in the process of topic selection. We can work a little more about discussing topic papers prior to topic committee review and/or increase the amount of papers that we vote on in the future. The main purpose of the committee is to provide topic areas as well as resolutions that can sustain a year of debate with adequate ground on both sides of the controversy. I feel we have lived up to that expectation and I would be happy to continue that work next year.
Parker Hopkins, Truman State University
With a Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and extensive experience in coaching debate at various educational levels, I am passionate about fostering a dynamic and inclusive debate environment. As the Assistant Director of Forensics and Head Debate Coach at Truman State University, and in various positions at other high schools, I believe I am uniquely suited to assist in making NFA-LD the best it can be for a modern student.
As a member of the Lincoln-Douglas Committee, I would aim to focus on enhancing the debate experience for all participants by promoting diversity and inclusion within the debate community. I also wish to explore innovative ways to integrate technology into debate practices, as demonstrated by my thesis on the potential of online speech and debate. In addition, I hope to develop and support programs that provide resources to underprivileged students and schools, ensuring equal opportunities to engage in debate and grow essential skills.
I appreciate your confidence in my abilities, and I look forward to serving the debate community through the Lincoln-Douglas Committee.
Nadya Steck, Missouri Valley College
In the last 5 years my main focus has been on fostering the best possible team environment for my students and those on other teams, and I greatly believe that there is no one correct way to debate. Instead I think that the debate space is capable of being so many different things to so many different students and only through encouraging them to explore the possibilities can we really see how amazing this event can be.
As a member of the topic committee my main focus would be constructing a topic that ensures consistent and reliable ground for both the affirmative and negative, while also listening to concerns of coaches and students in the community to try and create the best possible topic for the season. So much of this event is dependent on what the topic is and I promise that I would do the absolute best I can to ensure a great topic.