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

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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

BY RHIAN WILLIAMS

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!

WDI Alumni Lock Out Texas Finals

BY RHIAN WILLIAMS

 

The WDI locked out the finals at the Texas Open tournament hosted by the University of Texas at Austin in February. Board member Nicole Nave and 2015 Collegiate Scholar, Corinne Sugino, faced each other in the finals of the Texas Open. In a 2-1 for the negative, Sugino’s Wake Forest team took home the championship.

Charles-Anthony Athanasopoulos and Corinne Sugino
Charles-Anthony Athanasopoulos and Corinne Sugino

Both Sugino and Nave’s teams went 6-2 in prelims. Sugino’s team was the 19th seed overall at the tournament; Nave’s team was eighth seed.

In her sixth round, Nicole Nave received thirty speaker points- a perfect score. Overall, Nave earned 12th place speaker.

In the finals round, Rutgers NM (Nave’s team) read their Beloved aff, which “involves a performance of hauntology based on Beloved by Toni Morrison that focuses on black women in history, and in the US military, that are erased in the status quo,” according to Nave’s affirmative cites.

As the negative, Wake Forest AS (Sugino’s team) went for criticisms of their call for subjectivity and indicts on the discussion of gender within the 1AC.

Sugino believes that the reason for the split decision was clear: “Rutgers debated really well. Especially Nicole, her 2AR was bomb and had us super nervous for the decision.”

Both Nave and Sugino fully embody their arguments. “What I say in debate is important to me,” Sugino explains. “I don’t see it as a game the way many people do. Something that forever influenced the way I think about choosing which arguments to make was when Joe Leduc (my partner last year) used to say, ‘there’s only so many speeches you are going to give before you graduate. So what are you going to say in them?’”Nicole Nave

While there may be nuances in a critical argument that never get addressed, Sugino believes that “there’s value in debate that I don’t think you get in a classroom discussion; for example, you have to be ready to defend what you say in front of people who, by the nature of competition, have to disagree with you.” The platform of debate provides a uniquely beneficial point of contestation and deliberation for critical debaters, one that is essential to exploring all the angles of the theory.”

For both Nicole Nave and Corinne Sugino, success in a debate isn’t simply a win, it’s the education of their judges, their competitors and themselves.

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!

Meet WDI’s Collegiate Scholars: Pauline Esman, Ava Vargason, Meg Young

Pauline Esmanir-leasing.ru

“My summer at the WDI was an amazing experience. The meaningful discussions and community building activities we had impacted my perception of belonging and community within debate. Through my time there, I developed closer relationships with fellow debaters which is so invaluable given the demanding nature of debating we all face. It was also especially rewarding to meet debaters from all different kinds of backgrounds — younger and older and who did different kinds of debate– which let me think critically about both our similarities and differences. Finally, the methods we engaged in through the scholars program were unique and very cool. Overall, an incredible time full of rigorous thought and building relationships with wonderful people!” -Pauline

 

Ava Vargason

“Being a scholar at the WDI was an amazing experience. The friendships I made at the WDI was one of the biggest reasons why I continued debating this year. I come from a team that emphasizes competitive success, so the WDI gave me a unique opportunity to build relationships outside of my team. I really wish I had applied to the Scholars program earlier in my college debate career. Having the connections I have now during my first and second years would have made debate more enjoyable and motivating.” -Ava

 

 

Meg Young

“My name is Meg Young, and I’m a rising freshman at Northwestern. The WDI College Scholars program combined lab-style readings and lessons with critical discussions about issues facing the debate community and strategies for coalition-building. The highlight of the WDI for me was the conversation about the important of rhetoric and its implications for activism and community-building, because the analysis was not only interesting but also provided me with a more nuanced understanding of issues in debate and the varying perspectives. I encourage people to apply for the chance to both work with Kate and Shanara and also to build close friendships with passionate and engaging people.” – Meg