WDI 2016 Keynote Speaker LaToya Green Starts Leadership and Empowerment Coaching


LaToya Green, WDI’s 2016 Keynote Speaker and Director of Debate and professor in Human Communication at California State University-Fullerton, has recently started her own practice inspiring greatness within others. Higher Definition Leadership and Empowerment Coaching (HDLEC) is LaToya’s brainchild, an organization started out of the desire to motivate people to invest in themselves and create positive change in the world around them.

LaToya plans to reach out to social entrepreneurs, leaders, and followers using a three-pronged approach: workshop facilitation, keynote speaking, and virtual training modules.

“My desire in all of this is to share with people hope and principles that go hand-in-hand. There are people that believe positive change can happen and approaching that from a principled perspective allows for good things to happen. I hope to provide the marriage of both of those things.”

Higher Definition’s name was inspired by LaToya’s mission to help people build a solid foundation with a higher purpose. “I believe individuals are powerful. Allowing those people to find power in collecting around their goals, ideas, and passions and to do so by moving, thinking, and living with a higher definition of purpose is a powerful thing.”

HDLEC operates under six core values:

  • Positivity – Acknowledging the role that attitude and perspective plays in success
  • Intentionality – Recognizing the significance of thinking and doing with purpose
  • Diversity – Effectively navigating diverse people, ideas, and outlooks
  • Accountability – The obligation and willingness to be responsible for your actions
  • Self-Discipline – Understanding sacrifice as an investment in your future
  • Humility – A willingness to minimize yourself in order to maximize the people around you

LaToya believes her interest in life coaching “came from reflections on myself, I didn’t see myself as the premier point person on how to be happy, but I did find myself in various situations where I learned how to become empowered.”

One of those situations, LaToya recalls, was the 2016 Women’s Debate Institute. “WDI 2016 was the birthplace of this. It was the place where I decided to take my aspirations seriously, to develop them into something that would meet the needs of individuals that seek to lead. It was because I had such an awesome experience collaborating with people at the WDI that I started to develop my ideas.”

So far, LaToya brought Higher Definition’s message to WDI’s 2016 campers, where she was a memorable keynote speaker. This upcoming year, LaToya will be taking Higher Definition to new heights as she attends the Emporia State University’s Black Leadership Initiative Summit in 2017. In a social climate that so desperately needs leadership and individuality, LaToya Green has cultivated a talent for helping individuals discover purpose within themselves.

HDLEC utilizes social media formats to engage the public and to provide inspirational messages throughout the week. “The digital concept will be easily accessible and efficient information that people will be able to pull from,” LaToya explains. You can check out LaToya’s inspiring weekly posts on Instagram at higherdefinitionlec, or on Facebook at @higherdefinitionlec. Visit Higher Definition’s website at www.higherdefinitionlec.com.

LaToya looks forward to attending the WDI 2017 this summer to continue the work of motivating greatness in those around her.

Ryan Williams is a WDI 2015 Alumn and a Member of the WDI Board of Directors.  If you have alumni news, please let us know.  We’d love to hear from you!

New WDI @ Cal Workshop Takes the Women’s Debate Institue on the Road


The Women’s Debate Institute is turning advocacy into action! Through a new partnership with the Cal National Speech and Debate Institute, the WDI is going on the road.

WDI @ Cal is a breakthrough series of workshops that will be hosted by the Cal National Speech and Debate Institute and will take place on June 18th. This program marks the first time that the WDI has partnered in an official capacity with an external institution.

The program was developed to both partner with high school debate institutes to create a more inclusive culture at debate camp and to allow debaters who weren’t able to make it to the WDI this August the opportunity to access the inclusive community building strategies that the WDI provides. As Leah Castella, Board Chair and Executive Director of the WDI, explains: “The WDI @ Cal is designed to expand the reach of the WDI, and to make the WDI community accessible for more students.”

WDI @ Cal was only made possible through the KIND grant program that the WDI participated in and won. Online activism through sharing of the KIND voting site has allowed the WDI to branch out and continue to make positive change within the debate community. “The WDI @ Cal is a pilot program, and the WDI hopes to expand the program to other camps in future years,” notes Castella.

Attendees will be able to get to know other individuals with marginalized gender identities in a non-competitive atmosphere and establish strong networks of support that they can turn to when they encounter difficult situations in debate or otherwise.

WDI @ Cal will feature a variety of workshops centering on the creation of inclusive communities within debate. Topics include “Using Debate as a Home,” “Community Building,” as well as many other areas of critical thought. A social worker specializing in LGBTQ+ health will also be available throughout the duration of the program.

Kassandra Colón, board member and former WDI attendee, hopes that they can bring the message of inclusivity to the camp as one of the facilitators of the WDI at Cal Initiative.

Colón is excited to be bringing the WDI to Cal because “programs like the WDI @ Cal can allow debaters to create ties within the community that opens them to people they relate to. I met some of my closest friends at the WDI and it really impacted who I am today. At the end of the day, there’s always negativity, but what if this program helped ignite someone’s passion?”

The WDI hopes that its influence achieves policy changes at partner debate institutes to facilitate a more inclusive experience for future years. The WDI has been instrumental in Cal’s recent move to address the issue of gender-segregated facilities, and Jonah Feldman, Director of the Cal National Speech and Debate Institute, believes, “WDI folks have been very helpful in assisting with establishment of those policies.”

The nature of the workshops aim to facilitate a more inclusive experience for students at Cal. Feldman is “hopeful that the WDI experience will contribute to a more gender inclusive environment at our camp.  If participation in the program by our students and staff can prevent gender discrimination and violence that would be a huge success.”

The email to register for WDI @ Cal was sent to attendees of the Cal National Speech and Debate Camp on May 1st. Register as soon as possible because space is limited. We welcome people of all genders, so if you believe that the WDI @ Cal is the right program for you, it probably is!

Laurel Eddins (WDI, 2015) Named South Oregon’s NSDA/NFL Student of the Year

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Laurel Eddins, a WDI alumna from the Summer 2015 session, was selected as the South Oregon NSDA/NFL district’s ‘Student of the Year’.  Her nomination included the following paragraph:  “Laurel has attended workshops at Kansas and Whitman, and was selected for the 2015 Women’s Debate Institute, which cultivates in young women “the skills to be successful debaters, effective advocates, exceptional public speakers, and educated professionals with the ability to transform our world.”  She called her week there “the best experience of my life” and has applied to return as a counselor.  And she has aggressively recruited other Oregon debaters to apply, as she has become committed to addressing gender-based inequities in speech and debate.” Congratulations Laurel!

Corinne Sugino Leads Prison Workshop About Debate

Corrine Sugino


While the WDI has a lot to be proud of with the competitive successes of our past campers and collegiate scholars, it is important to recognize the real-world application of the skills learned at the WDI. Corinne Sugino, former WDI Collegiate Scholar and college policy debater for Wake Forest University, is demonstrating the connection between debate and activism. As a leader and participant of the Alexander Literary Organization at Wake Forest, Corinne has been volunteering at Alexander Correctional Institute for the past few months.

Once a month, the Alexander Literary Organization introduces a new workshop topic to the group of inmates. Initially started by Wake Forest senior Alex Gibson, the organization is led and run by the students at Wake Forest who believe that everyone should have the opportunity to engage in discussions on liberation.

The leadership and topics of each workshop is rotational, so each student gets the opportunity to present and discuss their own subjects. Sugino chose to present about debate. Sending the inmates the information in advance, Sugino was met with attentive inmates who had compiled pages of notes in preparation for her workshop. The goal of Sugino’s workshop was to teach advocacy skills to the inmates so they could empower themselves and work toward rehabilitation back into mainstream society.

Sugino believes that she’s gaining as much as the inmates: “it definitely gave me some perspective,” she explains, “it’s easy at Wake to just exist in this bubble where you don’t interact with the larger community. Going to Alexander allowed me to meet people with completely different experiences and perspectives.”

It is often the case that debaters and scholars discuss and debate liberation from systems of oppression in their ivy towers without ever interacting with the people that they are theorizing about. “It’s unhealthy to just theorize in academic spaces. It’s easy to let that be all that you do. Talking with the inmates helped to discuss the theories in more concrete terms that you can apply in your own life.” Connecting theory to practice is where Sugino sees the most positive influence of the program for both the inmates and the instructors.

Corinne Sugino initially heard about the program through her former debate partner, Joe Leduc, who had been heavily involved with the Alexander Literary Organization. “I got involved because I feel like a lot of people don’t deserve to be in prison, and they especially don’t deserve in injustices and lack of resources in the prisons.” Sugino believes that her work at the prison has more of an impact than organizing a rally on campus because it meets the inmates where they are. “The inmates genuinely want us to be there and I have learned a great deal from the other members.”

This month, the group is discussing the book Between the World and Me, by Ta Nehisi Coates with a guest professor from Wake Forest University.

Rhian Williams is a WDI 2015 Alumn and a Member of the WDI Board of Directors.  If you have alumni news, please let us know.  We’d love to hear from you!