Board of Directors

Current Board Members

Kristiana Baez
Board Member
Kristiana Baez 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. She received a BA in International Security Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. Kristiana is currently a Graduate Assistant at Baylor University and is coaching their debate team. She was previously an Assistant Coach for UTSA's competitive debate program and assisted in coaching students from Caddo Magnet High School.
Leah Castella
JD, Co-Chair of the Board
Leah started her debate career at Duncanville High School in Duncanville, Texas where she competed in LD, extemp, 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 quarterfinals 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 and coaches the Jessup Moot Court team at Boalt Hall (UC-Berkeley).
Kassandra Colon
Board Member
Kassandra (Kassie/Kass) is a graduating senior from Fort Lauderdale High School and has debated for four years in Policy Debate. During their career they have reached elimination rounds at national tournaments and was the 2015 Florida State Champion. As latina, they are committed to make debate an accessible activity for the latinx community. In 2016, they were a finalist for the Melissa Maxcy Wade Social Justice Award, an award presented by Emory University for students who use debate to foster a positive impact in their communities. Coming from a small program in an urban area, they try to make debate an accessible activity for all of its members and encourage the use of debate as an outlet. They really like pugs, empanadas, and making new friends. They attended the WDI in 2014 and 2015 as a camper.
Susan Cridland-Hughes
PhD, Board member
Susan is an Assistant Professor of English Education at Clemson University and former Baltimore Urban Debate League coach and judge. Her research explores the intersection of critical literacy and debate broadly, along with dialogue and discussion in the classroom. Her publications include articles on the urban debate leagues as communities of critical literacy practice. This will be her third year as staff at the Women’s Debate Institute working with the Lincoln-Douglas debate program.
Sarah Glaser
PhD, Director of Finances
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 a research scientist at the University of Denver. Her research investigates marine fisheries ecology, sustainable seafood, and fisheries conservation and food security in East Africa.
Jyleesa Hampton
Co-Director of PR
Jyleesa Hampton will join the University of Kansas coaching staff and communications department as a graduate student in the fall of 2016. During the 2014-2015 debate season Jyleesa participated in more than 12 debate tournaments earning speaker awards and appearing in elimination debates at tournaments such as USC (finals), Fullerton (Quarters), Wake Forest (Octos), GSU (Doubles) and Pitt Round Robin (finals). In the post season Jyleesa finished 2nd place and 2nd speaker at CEDA nationals and earned a first round bid at large to the NDT where she was a double octofinalist. In addition to coaching at the University of Kansas Jyleesa will continue to coach competitive high school debaters at Blue Valley North and Juan Diego Catholic High School.
Brooke Kimbrough
Recruiting and Admissions committee
Brooke just finished her first year a the University of Iowa majoring in English with a minor in African American studies. Brooke is also a member of the university’s policy debate team. In high school, she debated for University Preparatory Academy high school in Detroit, Michigan. She and her partner advanced to the semi-finals of the Tournament of Champions where she also received a 17th place speaker award. This year Brooke will be joining the WDI board as a member of the recruiting and admissions committee.
Beth Mendenhall
Co-director of Admissions
Beth won the Kansas High School State Championship in both LD and policy debate in high school (2006), and went on to debate for 5 years at Kansas State. There she qualified to the NDT 4 times, and won the Brian Johnston Debater of the Year award and the CEDA National Championship in 2011. Beth is currently attending Johns Hopkins for a PhD in International Relations, but she also teaches and coaches debate part-time. Her dissertation is about the intersection of oceanography and ocean management institutions.
Squid Monteith
Board Member
My name is Squid and I am a high school graduate of 2016. I'm from a small town in Kansas and have been competing in Policy Debate (4 years) and LD (2 years) on the NSDA circuit.In the fall of 2016, I plan to attend Emporia State University an major in Music Ed with a minor in Communications so I can coach speech and debate. I'm also heavily involved in marching band and hope to play for ESU. Since 2012, I've been attending WDI In my years at the camp, I've experience many changes, both in campers interaction and staff. I have been working with staff and board to make it the best environment possible and will continue to for years to come.
Nick Nave
Board Member
Is a debater for the University of Rutgers Newark and is also an assistant coach for University High School in Newark New Jersey. Nick has been a part of the activity of debate for almost a decade now. She is the University of Missouri Kansas city Baby Jo Memorial tournament 2015 champion. She is also a National Forensics League (NFL) Lincoln Douglas national champion. Nick is well versed and read in quare theory and black womanism.
Sarah Partlow Lefevre
PhD, Board member
Sarah has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Kansas. Her areas of study include rhetoric, argumentation and debate, gender, and Kenneth Burke. Sarah has been at Idaho State University since August of 2001. She has been the Director of the James M. & Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society since 2001. During her tenure, the debate team has won hundreds of awards including 3rd place at the Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship, 2nd Speaker at the National Debate Tournament Championship, and 2nd Speaker at the Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship. Sarah has won multiple coaching awards including the Galentine Award, the Ziegelmueller Award, and the Val A. Browning Coach of the Year Award. Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sarah attended the University of Utah before pursuing both her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Kansas.
Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre
PhD, Director of Public Relations
Rae Lynn competed in policy debate at the University of Vermont. She coached multiple first-round NDT teams while getting her Masters at Wake Forest University. She then went on to get her PhD in Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. At Iowa, Rae Lynn coached NDT elimination round competitors and got involved with the Women’s Debate Institute. She is currently an Associate Professor of Communication at Western Washington University with a specialization in rhetoric, postcolonial feminist theory, visual and critical cultural studies.
Christi Siver
PhD, Managing Director
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
Board Member
Ava is a junior at the University of Kentucky studying Chemical Engineering and Gender and Women’s Studies. She is particularly interested in the intersection between feminism and hormone-based drug development. Ava is originally from Iowa City, where she debated for City High School for three years. For the past two years, she debated for Kentucky, qualifying to the NDT both years and reaching octafinals her sophomore year. She is a member of the WDI Student Safety Committee.
Ryan Williams
Board Member
Ryan Williams is a trans guy dedicated to making debate a safe and accessible activity for all of its members. Rhian has been an active member of the debate community as both a debater and an assistant coach for the Mona Shores High School Debate Team. He is currently working towards a sociology major at Muskegon Community College but will be transferring to Wayne State University next fall, where he plans on debating at the collegiate level. Rhian is also serving as the Director of Public Relations at the first-ever LGBT center in his hometown of Muskegon, Michigan. He is the intern for the Progressive Democratic Women's Caucus, whose mission is to attract and insert progressive female candidates into local politics. He has shown his passion for politics by acting as the campaign manager for a local candidate running for City Commission. Rhian Williams is committed to promoting ethical and inclusive politics in and out of the debate space.

Emeritus Board Members

Cate Palczewski
Phd, Emeritus Board Member
Catherine (Cate) H. Palczewski, PhD Board member. Cate is a Professor of Communication Studies and Affiliate Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Northern Iowa, where she also served as the Director of Debate from 1994-2009. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University, where she was an assistant coach for the debate team. She competed in policy debate at Northwestern University and at Robert E. Lee High School in San Antonio, TX. In 1987, she was a member of the US team, and in 1999 she served as coach of the team that participated in the Committee on International Discussion and Debate tour of Japan. She presently serves as editor for the American Forensic Association Journal Argumentation and Advocacy and has authored numerous articles about gender and public advocacy. She co-authored Communicating Gender Diversity, which was shortlisted for the International Gender and Language Book Prize in 2008.
Aleava Sayre
JD, Emeritus Board Member
Aleava Sayre, JD Co-Chair of the Board. Aleava began debating cross-examination debate while attending Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska. She continued debating policy during her four years at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from college, Aleava attended the University of Minnesota Law School and graduated magna cum laude. During her subsequent clerkship at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, she began coaching at South High School, a member of the Minnesota Urban Debate League.
Kate Shuster
PhD, Emeritus Board Member
Kate Shuster, PhD Board member. Kate is the president of Shuster Consulting, Inc. Her firm conducts educational research, program evaluation and project management for national and international clients. She is the author of Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education 2011 and its forthcoming revision for 2014. She is currently working with the Southern Poverty Law Center supervising the launch of Perspectives for a Diverse America, a common-core aligned K-12 curriculum tied to anti-bias education. Shuster has trained more than 5,000 teachers in debate instruction in more than a dozen nations. Shuster is the co-director of the Middle School Public Debate Program, the nation’s largest program for debating in the middle grades, serving more than 25,000 students in class and contest debating. The author of ten textbooks supporting debate instruction in secondary and university instruction, she won the National Debate Tournament in 1996 with her debate partner David Heidt. She is the current president of the Pan-American Debate Association and until recently was the head coach for the U.S. national high school debate team. She has coached at five universities, including coaching students to national championships in three different formats.
Shuster Consulting, Inc




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