Rollins Debate Wins National Championship

The Rollins College Debate Team recently won the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s Novice National Championship Tournament.

Kolten Ellis ’16 (right) and Joshua Brown ’18 (left) represented Rollins at the 2016-17 NPDA Novice National Championship Tournament. (Photo by Scott Cook) Kolten Ellis ’16 (right) and Joshua Brown ’18 (left) represented Rollins at the 2016-17 NPDA Novice National Championship Tournament. (Photo by Scott Cook)

The Rollins Debate Team won the 2016-17 National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) Novice National Championship Tournament on March 10-13 in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Kolten Ellis ’16 and Joshua Brown ’18, who represented Rollins at the tournament, ranked as the event’s No. 1 and No. 5 speakers, respectively.

The NDPA is the largest national intercollegiate debate organization in the United States. Each year, more than 200 schools compete in at least of its tournaments.

Joshua Brown ’18 was ranked as the event's No. 5 speaker. (Photo by Scott Cook) Joshua Brown ’18 was ranked as the event's No. 5 speaker. (Photo by Scott Cook)

This was Rollins’ first NPDA Novice National Championship, but Eric Smaw, associate professor of philosophy and director of forensics and debate, says the team has finished in the top 10 at the tournament each of the last five years.

“We got the sense that we were doing all the right things to land at No. 1,” Smaw says. “We just needed everything to come together at the right time and the right place.”

The national championship is the latest in an impressive run of success for the debate team, which Smaw started during the 2008-09 academic year. Rollins has consistently ranked as the top debate team in Florida and has won a number of local, regional, and national competitions, including the NPDA’s 2009-10 Tournament of Excellence.

Kolten Ellis ’16 (Photo by Scott Cook) was ranked as the event's No. 1 speaker. Kolten Ellis ’16 (Photo by Scott Cook) was ranked as the event's No. 1 speaker.

Smaw credits Rollins’ small class sizes and engaged learning environment for at least some of the debate team’s success.

“Small liberal arts schools like Rollins have an advantage in that our students learn in small classrooms, so the theories they need to know they can actually learn from their professors,” Smaw says. “I tell (my students) that when they are in their classrooms ‘don’t sit quietly.’ Actually engage in the discussions and if a debate comes up engage in the debate.”

The debate team’s 2015-16 season concludes with competitions and exhibitions in Miami, China, and South Korea.