Leah Castella steps down as Director

Dear WDI Community:

As some of you know, on October 1, 2010, I stepped down from my role as Executive Director of the WDI and will now be serving as the Recruitment Director. After eight years as Executive Director, I felt strongly that it was time to hand the leadership over to others in order that the vision for the WDI not become stagnant. Aleava Sayre, a long time board member, and Christi Siver a new board member, gamely agreed to take on the role of Executive Director, and I have the utmost confidence that they will do a wonderful job.

In my eight years as Executive Director, the WDI has accomplished a tremendous amount. We expanded our staff, expanded our student base, and expanded our supporters. We were able to do this because of a shared vision and a collective willingness to push forward no matter the challenges. When I look at the pictures from the last ten years, and read the comments of the students, I am extraordinarily proud of what we’ve accomplished as an organization. I am also extraordinarily grateful for the relationships that I have built through this organization. WDI students have become WDI staff and WDI staff have become friends. Together, we have created a community of women who have, among other things, this unique and rewarding activity in common. While I am downsizing my role, the WDI community is something I cherish, and I will always be a part of it.


J. Leah Castella

We’ve MOVED! Here’s Why…

Ten years ago, Jeff Shaw and Kari started the Women’s Debate Institute. The camp hosted twenty-five girls from Washington and Oregon at a small junior high school in Bellingham, Washington. There were many logistical challenges, but the experience was amazing. For the last eight years the Women’s Debate Institute has taken place at Fort Worden State Park, in Port Townsend, Washington. It has been a perfect location: affordable, on Puget Sound, surrounded by glacial mountains, and offering classroom space, a dining hall, and bunks for campers and staff. Although far from Seattle (two and half hours north – if the ferry was on time), most students and staff drove from various areas in the northwest and we were able to manage. A lot has changed.

In the last ten years we have more than doubled the size of our camp and its staff, going from a small regional camp to a specialized national program. This year our campers and staff came from x many states. For most, travel was long and expensive. A major goal of the WDI is to make debate affordable for any girl wishing to attend. While we love Fort Worden, we all knew this goal would be better achieved if we were willing to relocate.

After a year of searching, we are excited to report our new home is at the Koinonia Retreat Center in South Haven, Minnesota. This is a great facility that meets all of our requirements: it is close to a national airport hub (about an hour from Minneapolis), it is centrally located so that more students and staff can drive, it can host over 100 people giving us options for expansion, the facilities are nicer (not that we won’t miss the army barracks and group showers), and the meeting space has wireless internet and more sophisticated technology (something we were seriously lacking). Most importantly, it is a beautiful outdoor environment on a lake with lots of campfire space.

As with everyone, growth requires change. While Washington will always hold a special place in the hearts of the WDI Community, we are excited to make new memories in Minnesota. We whole-heartedly invite you to take part in those memories- please join us at camp this summer August 7-11, 2011. Register now.