Meet the Board

Jyleesa Hampton is the Board Chair, HS Institute Programming Committee Co-Chair, Director of WDI Mobile programs. She currently works as the Assistant Director of Speech and Debate at Presentation High School. While finishing another year as KU Debate coach she is also currently completing her PhD in Public Administration, focusing on American policing, carceral policy, law and administration. Leveraging more than 10 years of debate experience as an elite competitor, nationally recognized collegiate coach and experienced high school instructor she is a fierce argumentation professional. Jyleesa is also a strong advocate for making debate accessible to everyone and welcoming to all kinds of styles. She proudly serves her community as an advocate for speech & debate and the Communications Director for the Association of Black Argumentation Professionals.

Sarah Glaser, PhD is the Executive Mentor of the Board Chair and Executive Director. Sarah debated policy for four years in high school in Emporia, Kansas and went on to debate at and coach for Kansas State University. She earned her PhD in biological oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Sarah is currently the Acting Director of One Earth Future’s Secure Fisheries program. Her research investigates marine fisheries ecology, sustainable seafood, and fisheries conservation and food security in East Africa.

Leah Castella, JD is the Finance & Development Committee Chair and a co-founder of the organization. Leah started her debate career at Duncanville High School in Duncanville, Texas where she competed in LD, exempt, and oratory for four years. She went on to compete as a policy debater for four years at Lewis & Clark College. While there, she won numerous awards, including a quarterfinal finish and a third-place speaker award at the 1995 CEDA National Tournament. After finishing at Lewis & Clark, Leah went on to attend law school at the University of Texas School of Law and graduated with honors in 1999. While there, Leah coached the debate team at Southwest Texas State University. Leah is now a full time litigator. She has been practicing in the San Francisco Bay area since 1999, and is a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen. In addition to her work with the WDI, Leah is on the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Urban Debate Commission.

Christi Siver, PhD is the HS Institute Programming Committee Co- Chair. Christi is Professor of Political Science at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in St. Joseph, MN. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington, where she coached the parliamentary debate team for nine years. She competed in policy debate at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR and at Sunset High School in Beaverton, OR.

Ava Vargason, ABD is the Project Programming Committee Chair. She is also the designer and lead consultant for our Harassment Training program.  Currently she is a doctoral candidate at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill studying Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics and a Graduate Research Ass. She was a nationally ranked collegiate debater at the University of Kentucky and champion of policy debate. Ava is originally from Iowa City, where she also debated for three years at City High School for three years.

Squid Monteith Community Development Committee Chair and certified trainer. Squid is an incoming graduate student at K State in the Department Communication and assistant coach. Monteith is former high school and collegiate debate competitor. They have been coaching HS debate for several years and are heavily invested in making debate an equitable and welcoming environment for all.

LaToya Green, Director of Collegiate Scholars Program. Toya was the WDI’s 2016 Keynote Speaker and is active member of the collegiate debate community as a Director of Debate and professor in Human Communication at California State University-Fullerton. She owns and operates her a business that inspires greatness within others, Higher Definition Leadership and Empowerment Coaching (HDLEC), and encourages others to invest in themselves and create positive change in the world around them.

Sarah Partlow Lefevre, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Communication, Media, and Persuasion and has been the Director of Debate at Idaho State University since 2001. Dr. Partlow Lefevre began her involvement in debate in 1991 at the University of Utah where she completed her undergraduate degree. She then pursued both her M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication Studies at the University of Kansas where she was an Assistant Debate Coach.

Kristiana Baez, ABD started her debate career at Norman High School where she competed for four years. She continued to debate at the University of Oklahoma, earning awards at multiple university competitions including the Cross-Examination Debate Association national tournament. Kristiana is currently a Doctoral Candidate and assistant debate coach at Iowa University. She has worked with several college (Baylor, UTSA, Iowa) and high school debate (Caddo Magnet) programs as an assistant coach.

Susan Cridland-Hughes, PhD is an Associate Professor of Secondary Education and English at Clemson. Susan is a longstanding board member and focuses her expertise on assisting our educational assessment efforts.

Rae Lynn Schwartz-Dupre, PhD is a Professor of Communication at Western Washington University and a longstanding board member. In her tenure Rae Lynn has assisted with professional development and assorted programming.

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