UAM News

UAM Debate Team Places at National Tournament

Attached image: (left to right) UAM Debate Team members Mikaela Brown, Anna Ward and Ezekiel Nail-Clemmer recently competed at the 2023 International Public Debate Association national tournament. Brown and Ward placed in their respective divisions.

MONTICELLO, Ark. — The University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) Debate Team traveled to Boise, Idaho, for the 2023 International Public Debate Association (IPDA) national tournament on March 23-25 and left with three significant awards. 

Seniors Anna Ward, a Communication major from Texarkana, Texas, and Mikaela Brown, a Computer Information Systems major from Garland, Texas, both advanced to elimination rounds. Ward, who won five of eight preliminary rounds, competed in the Junior Varsity division, and Brown, who won six preliminary rounds, competed in the Novice division. Each won their first elimination round and finished in the octafinals, or the “sweet sixteen” round, of their respective divisions, tying for ninth place in the country. 

“I am extremely proud of our team,” Jim Evans, director of Debate and Forensics at UAM, said. “They worked hard all year and it paid off. We brought a small team, but every competitor advanced to elimination rounds.”

UAM’s success at the IPDA national championship also extended to its graduate students. Arthur “AJ” Edwards, a graduate student in the Master of Fine Arts in Debate and Communication program, won the Bennett Strange Coach of the Year Award. Named after the late coach of Louisiana College, the award is the highest honor a coach in IPDA can receive except for the organization’s hall of fame. Edwards is the first UAM graduate student to receive the award since the program started in 2021. In 2013, Evans also won the award, and Dr. Adam Key, director of the Master of Fine Arts in Debate and Communication program at UAM, won the award in 2012.

“We’re thrilled to see AJ be named Coach of the Year,” Dr. Key said. “It speaks highly to his abilities as a coach and to the quality of our MFA program and our students.”

Earlier in the year, Anna Ward placed third in the Communication Analysis event at the Southern Regional Debate and Forensics Championships. Communication Analysis is a speaking event that requires a student to apply a communication theory to explain or evaluate a speech or speaker. 

The UAM Debate Team has existed since 1971 when it was founded by the late R. David Ray. During that time, the team has won over 40 team and individual national championships and countless regional team and individual awards. 

Students interested in joining the UAM Debate Team can contact Evans at Coaches interested in the MFA program can contact Dr. Key at


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