For years, Samford University has had a rich tradition of being a powerhouse debate team. Not only is the school ranked in the top 50 nationally in the National Debate Tournament, but it also offers opportunities to engage others through the Summer Forensics Institute, the Samford University Public Debate Series, the Birmingham Area Debate League, and the Bishop Guild Debate Tournament.
In 1831, when Alabama’s Baptists first began the idea of founding a college, the Manual Labor Institute of Greensboro, Alabama, the central focus of the curriculum was the art of declamation. Each Friday, all students participated in informal debates on contemporary issues. These required meetings took the name of the Franklin Polemic Society. The directors of the college believed that such exercises led to quicker and more insightful minds.
Although the Manual Labor Institute closed in 1836, the Franklin Polemic Society and its traditions were transferred to Howard College, which is now the College of Arts and Sciences at Samford University. The Franklin Society tradition of weekly declamations and debate continued until well into this century when, due to a host of changes in technology, the tradition of on-campus debates gave way to a demand for intercollegiate debates. Starting in the early 1900s, Howard College students participated actively and successfully in intercollegiate debate under the name of the Alabama Oratorical Society.
In the 1950s Samford joined the National Debate Tournament (N.D.T.) and began the tradition that still lasts. Samford marked its 60th year in N.D.T. debate in 2014. Under the leadership of coaches G. Allan Yeomans in the 1950s and 1960s, Brad Bishop in the 1970s (where Samford won three DSR-TKA national championships) and Skip Coulter in the 1980s where Samford made the late elimination rounds of the N.D.T. four times), Samford University has established itself as one of the traditional debate powerhouses and will have a team at the national tournament this year. In the 1990s, Samford continued its long tradition of debate excellence under director Michael Janas, Ph.D. Samford was routinely represented at all national debate tournaments and is considered one of the most stable and successful programs in the Southeast region.
In the 21st century, the Samford Debate Team has continued to flourish under the leadership of Dr. Ryan Galloway. The debate team has represented Samford at Georgia State University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Alabama, Harvard College, Wayne State University, Wake Forest University, University of North Texas, University of Texas-Dallas, State University of West Georgia, University of Florida, Augustana College, the University of Texas, the University of Kansas, the District VI/SEC CEDA Regional Championships, the ADA National Debate Tournament, the CEDA National Debate Tournament, and the National Debate Tournament.
In addition to its nationally competitive teams, Samford also hosts the Samford University Summer Forensics Institute, the Samford University Public Debate Series, the Bishop Guild Debate Tournament, and the Birmingham Area Debate League.
Debate is a central focus of the curriculum at Samford and we encourage all students to debate. However, we can not offer every student a scholarship. In addition to carrying over commitments from earlier years, the number of students that come to Samford to debate stresses the limits of our scholarship budget. One consequence is that we have to choose between relative qualifications when we make scholarship offers. Our paramount concern is that we offer scholarships to students that will succeed academically and actively contribute to Samford's debate team and community. Strong preference will be given to students with high-level NFL/TOC style policy debate experience.
We look forward to receiving your application for a scholarship. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Dr. Ryan Galloway for further information on the team and scholarship opportunities.
Erin debated for Samford for four years where she earned degrees in Communication Studies and Political Science. Erin took a semester off from school her senior year to travel to Colorado to work as a Field Staff Coordinator for the Obama for America Campaign. She now works at Samford as an Admissions Counselor. We are so excited to have her on campus, just a short walk from the debate office!
Nick debated at Samford for four years where he earned a degree in Political Science. He qualified for the NDT three times, cleared at several major national tournaments, and was an irreplaceable resource for other members of the team. He was named Varsity Debater of the Year for 2007-2008 in the Southeast Central Region. He is currently pursuing a law degree in Florida.
Clark graduated from Samford University in Spring of 2007 as an honors candidate, majoring in political science, with a minor in writing. After a spectacular debate career that included qualifying for the National Debate Tournament three times, Clark attended the University of Alabama Law School.
Stephen Davidson is a former debater at Samford University who is now a doctor at the Montgomery Cancer Center in Montgomery, Alabama. In 2006, Stephen generously established the Stephen L. Davidson Forensics Scholarship to Samford University's debate program.
Keith Herron is a former debater at Samford University who is now the Executive Vice President of Regions bank in Middle Tennessee. In the Spring of 2007, Keith generously contributed the Susie Herron scholarship, named after his grandmother.
After an outstanding debate career at Samford that included qualifying for the National Debate Tournament three times, Davi Johnson pursued a doctoral degree in Communication Studies at the University of Georgia. The author of numerous published articles in communication theory, she is now an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Southwestern University in Texas.
Jamie Radford graduated from Samford University in the Spring of 2003. Jamie had a great debate career at Samford, qualifying for the NDT twice in his four year career. Jamie graduated from the law school at the University of Georgia and is an attorney in the Atlanta area.
Ashley graduated from Samford University in the Spring of 2006 with a degree in International Relations. Ashley had a spectacular career at Samford which included winning the Capitol Debate Tournament and qualifying for the National Debate Tournament twice. She also attended the University of Alabama's masters degree program in International Relations.
John Wilkerson graduated from Samford University in the spring of 2007 with a degree in History. John had an outstanding debate career, which included qualifying for the National Debate Tournament three times, and winning the University of Florida Debate Tournament. John is an assistant coach at Stratford Academy in Georgia.
Thomas Brad Bishop was a long-time Director of Debate at Samford University, and coached Samford's DSR-TKA nationals winning team numerous times. Samford debate takes its name, the Bishop Guild, from Brad Bishop. Brad is now a Professor of Law at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, having taught contracts at Cumberland for over thirty years.
Ben worked as the Assistant Director of Debate at Samford University for eight years, recently moving on to the Cumberland School of Law. Ben served as the Director of the Birmingham Area Debate League, the Director of the Samford Summer Institute, and Director of the Bishop Guild High School Tournament. Ben was the coach for several qualifiers to the National Debate Tournament, and two teams qualified for the NDT in Ben's last three years as a coach.
Skip was a long-time Director of Debate at Samford University, and twice had teams in the "final four" at the National Debate Tournament. Skip recently retired from his position as the junior high debate teacher at Mountain Brook Junior High in Birmingham, Alabama. In 2007, Skip was inducted into the Alabama Debate Hall of Fame.
Ryan is the current Director of Debate at Samford University, and has coached teams to the late elimination rounds of every major national tournament in the country, including numerous teams to the deep elimination rounds of the National Debate Tournament. In 2005, Ryan coached the National Debater of the Year, and was voted the third best judge of the past decade (2000-2009) in a national poll of his professional peers.
Samford Student Appointed to US National Debate Team
Since 1921, the United State Committee on International Discussion and Debate (CIDD) has appointed a national team and sent them on debate tours around the world. This year, the CIDD has announced that Samford Junior Natalie Bennie (Communication Studies) has been appointed to the US National Debate Team’s tour of Japan.
Natalie won the honor after completing a rigorous selection process where she was evaluated for her debate knowledge, cultural sensitivity and critical thinking ability. She is a member of the Samford University Debate Team and the second Samford student appointed to the National Debate team. The last was James Radford who was part of the 2003 tour of Japan.
Natalie will be paired with Cody Walizer, Captain of the University of Denver Debate Team. The two will compete in more than twenty public debates held throughout Japan during the month of June. The debates will focus on a variety of issues regarding US-Japanese international relations and will pit the US team against debate teams representing range of teams from English Speaking Clubs for professionals down to high schools preparing for the World Debate Championship. The Japan Debate Association organizes the Japanese elements of the tour.
The CIDD is part of the National Communications Association. It hosts debate tours of the United States by representatives of other nations. In addition, it sponsors the US National Debate Team tours of Japan, England, Ireland, Russia and Central Europe. This year, the team is coached by Dr. Theodore Shekels, Jr. from Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. Dr. Shekels is a longtime supporter of international debate and is a scholar of American political rhetoric and Asian film.
Regarding his participation in the 2003 Japan tour, James Radford, a civil rights attorney in Atlanta, said: “This trip broadened my understanding of the world and my place in it. Beyond that, it was a great deal of fun to meet new people, try new foods, see unfamiliar things, and experience a different culture. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will always remember as a hallmark of my growing up.”
Natalie Bennie is a Junior Communication Studies major and University Fellow. She is from Brentwood, TN. She is a varsity competitor for the Samford University Debate Team coached by Dr. Ryan Galloway.