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Our Mission

Our mission is to advocate for and facilitate a more gender-inclusive environment that advances educational and professional opportunities for marginalized gender identities. We continue to fulfill this mission with our constant expansion of programming and resources. Please check out annual reports to find out more!

Our Story

For the past 21 year’s board members of the WDI have continued to work countless hours to ensure that the mission of the WDI is fulfilled. Founded in 2001 by Leah Castella and Jeff Shaw, we began as a 3-day debate workshop in the Pacific Northwest. In 2018 Nic D. Nave(Include link to staff page)  became the Executive Director of the organization becoming the first Black Woman to led the organization and the first paid Director. Nic continues to grow the organization with the support of Jyleesa Hampton (Board chair)  (Include link to staff page) the organization has expanded to an international resource with anti-harassment training and mentorship partnerships extended around the globe the WDI continues to transform the lives of the youth we serve! Before the pandemic we annually hosted  a 5-day summer debate camp, conducted outreach to the debate community to reduce harassment, taught professional development and gender inclusion courses. During the pandemic we have continued to bring our camp to the homes of debaters by  creating an interactive virtual program we were able to reach over 20 students! providing them with anti-harassment training, mentorship, debate content, and  lectures about critical studies of race and gender from nationally-recognized scholars. We create a community of supportive peers who have an interest in debate, and we provide strong role models to encourage younger debaters when times get difficult. We are committed to the investment and success of our students.

Why does the WDI Matter?

The Women’s Debate Institute is a community of debaters dedicated to empowering young people to discover and use their unique voices. To that end, we support self-empowerment of the participants in our organization by providing a community that cultivates the skills to be successful debaters, effective advocates, exceptional public speakers, and educated professionals with the ability to transform our world.


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