Club Ed: Genesis Barraza Gains New Perspectives through Debate
By AnaChristina Arana, Senior Communication Studies Major
Today’s Club Ed features Senior Communication Studies Major Genesis Barraza’s involvement in the debate team. In this interview, Genesis shares what students can gain from participating in the club.
Could you please describe the opportunities the debate team provides for students?
Students engage in various types of public speaking through the debate team. Members participate in public debates and compete at intercollegiate tournaments at the novice, junior varsity, or varsity level. It also provides opportunities to participate in individual events, including persuasive speeches, impromptu speeches, and original oratory.
What is the structure of the events the team participates in?
The team participates in three types of debates: policy, parliamentary, and Lincoln-Douglas. In policy debates, students are given one topic for the year to prepare arguments for different tournaments. For parliamentary and Lincoln-Douglas debates, they are given new topics each time. At each tournament, students debate in front of one judge for six rounds to determine their qualification for the semi-final and final rounds. If they qualify, they compete for majority vote among three judges.
The intercollegiate tournaments the team participates in each year are the Golden State Season Opener, Southwestern College Hannie Shaft Tournament, California State University Northridge (CSUN) Robert Barbera Invitational, Las Vegas Classic Invitational Collegiate Debate Tournament, Western Policy Debate Championship, and Division I Qualifier and Pacific Championship.
Why did you decide to join the debate team?
I joined in October 2015 during my freshman year. I always had an interest in debate, but because my high school did not offer the program, I did not have the opportunity until coming to USF. I learned about the team from my public speaking professor, Orion Steele, who joked that I would be good at debate due to my persistence during a class discussion. I was intrigued, so I asked for the coach’s contact information and reached out. Now I participate in policy debate at the varsity level, with Steele as the current coach.
Could you please share a memorable experience you had as a member of the team?
The best experience I had on the debate team was when my partner, Senior Nicolas Landeros, and I won our first tournament at the Western Policy Debate Championship on March 11, 2016, solidifying our move up from novice to junior varsity. Because we were in the top seed, we were selected to participate in a by-round, where we qualified for semi-finals. As semi-finals progressed, we became stronger and more confident. In the final round, Nicholas and I faced two students that defeated us at our first tournament. I felt both admiration and intimidation toward my opponents, so when my team won, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.
From left to right: Assistant Coach and Senior Graysen Stille, Senior Genesis Barraza, Senior Nicolas Landeros, and Coach Orion Steele pose with the plaque that Genesis and Nicholas earned for First Place Novice Division at the Western Policy Debate Championship Tournament 2016.
What might students gain from joining the debate team?
It provides new perspectives and transferrable skills. Debate allows students to improve their public speaking skills, which are essential in every profession. It changes the way an individual looks at the world by allowing them to see a clear breakdown of everyone’s ideas. It also helps individuals understand their own place in the world, as they start to recognize why they think the way they do.
Participating in debate helps you show up in the world. Curiosity is not necessarily encouraged in our upbringings, but debate helps us question why things are the way they are. As a person of color who was always shunned as the “sassy one” or the “smart mouth,” it validates my opinions and gives me room to express them.
How can students get involved in the debate team?
We are a close-knit community consisting of 12 students, and we are always seeking new members and perspectives. Most members watch and practice with the team before participating in debates. Students interested in debate are encouraged to attend meetings and support the team, as we could always use a new set of eyes for our arguments.
The debate team meets on Tuesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. in Kalmanovitz Hall, Room 365. Students may contact the coach, Professor Orion Steele, at firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com. To learn more about debate, I also recommend taking Steele’s course on Argumentation and Debate.