We are proud to announce some of our faculty members. The WNDI faculty is one of the best and we pride ourselves on our individualized focus and concern for each student. We strive to be inspirational and encouraging teachers for all levels of experience and our low faculty-student ratio (about 4 to 1) allows us to provide the most productive and concentrated environment possible. In sum, Whitman College coaches and debaters are well-trained in a host of debate styles and techniques, a range that will assist students in quickly improving across a number of skills.
In addition to the following faculty members, we hope to be joined by additional members of the prestigious Whitman Debate Team and a few more coaches from the larger debate community.
Marlene Anderson is a successful policy debater at Whitman College. She also competed for three years at Ballard High School in Seattle, Washington. At Ballard, Marlene co-founded the Debate Program and served as team captain until her graduation. She won multiple top speaker awards and elimination debates in Washington, including her appearance as a finalist at the 2013 State Competition. At Whitman, Marlene has continued her success, competing and traveling nationally, reaching the semifinal round at the 2013 Steve Hunt Classic, and winning numerous speaker awards. Alongside her teammates, Marlene closed out the semifinals of the Western Championships held in Sacramento, California. Marlene has previously worked at the Women’s Debate Institute, a unique all women debate camp that increases the number of girls involved in debate, creates an environment that fosters community, and encourages young women to attend college. Marlene brought that enthusiasm and commitment to Whitman’s Prison Debate Project at the Washington State Penitentiary and the Great Inland Northwest Public Debate with Gonzaga University held in late February. She is very excited to teach at the WNDI and hopes to create a fun, inclusive, and educational experience for campers.
Kendra Doty was a very successful national circuit college debater for Idaho State University for three years after debating throughout high school at Centennial High School in Idaho. Kendra Doty finished last season as one of the top policy teams in the Mountain West to qualify for the National Debate Tournament, earning 2nd place at the extremely competitive District Tournament. She has had great success over her career, winning two tournaments, including a 9-1 record at the prestigious Gonzaga Jesuit Tournament in Spokane and a 10-0 record at Weber State’s Mukai Tournament in Utah. Kendra has also advanced to elimination rounds at a number of major national tournaments such as Wake Forest, and, most recently, she and her partner beat Kansas University in elims at the CEDA National Tournament to receive a ranking in the top twenty as a double octofinalist. Few teams in the State of Idaho have ever ranked higher than top twenty in the nation, and Kendra is now ready to carry that success and experience into her teaching and coaching. She brings a valuable and unique academic foundation to debate, having graduated with a degree in Psychology and also having developed an in-depth understanding of critical theory in debate. She has an acute understanding of being persuasive on a range of arguments, but also knowing a few positions better than any opponent and putting in the work to become one of the best. We are extremely pleased she will be teaching at the WNDI this summer, and even more elated to have Kendra Doty joining the Whitman Debate Team Faculty to coach policy debate for Whitman College next season.
Matt Gander is one of the most accomplished debaters and coaches in the country, if not the world. He is one of a select few debaters to have won two national tournaments, achieving victory at both the NPDA and the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence in 2011. He also coached at California Irvine and the University of Oregon where his teams won numerous tournaments and were ranked nationally throughout the season. Most recently, at Whitman, Matt Gander and his colleague Joe Hykan coached the team to one of its more impressive seasons, including a victory at the Mile-High Tournament and qualifying four teams to the NPTE (as well as clearing all four of those teams). Matt’s debaters also reached the finals of the tournament and one earned the top speaker out of over 300 debaters at the NPDA. Matt is an experienced and knowledgeable teacher, having debated at Sprague High School and then earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon. In addition to directing the Oregon program in 2012, Matt also earned his master’s degree in conflict and dispute resolution there. He will be attending Georgetown Law School next year and we are very fortunate to have him on the WNDI faculty.
Joe Hykan has nine years of debate experience teaching and coaching Lincoln Douglas as well as Parliamentary debate. Joe competed primarily in LD in high school, advancing to the final round at an impressive seven tournaments, including victories at four. On the collegiate level, Joe competed for four years at Lewis & Clark in parliamentary debate and achieved an excellent record of competitive success. He qualified four times to the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence with three different partners, finished 15th at the tournament in 2012, and 7th in 2013. Joe also took first place at four major invitational tournaments, finishing 3rd at the 2012 NPDA National Championship Tournament. Joe also has extensive teaching experience from working at multiple debate camps over the past two summers. He has recently emerged as one of the top young college coaches in the country, leading Whitman to numerous victories and multiple sweepstakes awards. He has helped bring a novice team of debaters, after coaching them to a number of tournament wins in novice, to the cusp of qualifying to the NPTE and winning a number of debates at the NPDA in their first year. Along with Matt Gander, Joe Hykan coached the team to some incredible accomplishments, including a 2nd place finish at the NPTE and multiple teams winning elims at both the national tournaments.
Dr. Kevin Kuswa is Directing the WNDI and has taught over 40 sessions of debate workshop, including at Dartmouth, Texas, Catholic, Kentucky, Santa Clara, Richmond, and Vermont. Although he has published numerous articles and book chapters in the field of Communication Studies, his primary passion is for teaching and debate, an energy that has helped his students to win almost every major high school and college tournament in the country. As a high school debater, he was the top speaker at NFL nationals, and reached the final round of the Tournament of Champions in Lexington, Kentucky. In college, he received second place at the Kentucky round robin, Wake Forest and Northwestern before winning the National Debate Tournament for Georgetown University in 1992. Significantly, he reached at least the "Round of 16" at the NDT four years running, each year with a different partner. Kevin coached the NDT Champions and Top First Round Team from Dartmouth College and coached numerous NDT first-rounds, including two semifinal teams while at the University of Texas, matching their best performance. Kevin received his PhD in Rhetoric from the University of Texas at Austin after being named the Graduate Student of the Year. As a Director, Kevin’s teams qualified to the NDT an unprecedented seven years in a row at the University of Richmond and he helped to resurrect the debate program at Fresno State by building the team from zero students to over twenty, including numerous novice and junior varsity victories. He also won the Provost’s Outstanding Faculty Award at Fresno State for scholars combining accomplishments in research and teaching. In his first year at Whitman, the team has weathered a difficult transition with integrity and poise, finishing the season with an appearance at the NDT and as the top performing school in the nation for both policy and Parliamentary debate. Having also won the Val Browning Coach of the Year Award this past season, Kevin is extremely excited to carry on the tradition of excellence at the WNDI this summer.
Andy Larson has been actively involved in debate for nine very successful years. Andy competed in policy, Parliamentary, and Lincoln Douglas debate, including four years at Whitman College and a top ten national ranking in parliamentary debate his senior year. Andy is a meticulous and skilled researcher, graduating from Whitman with a degree in Economics and then taking the position of Head Policy Coach and leading Whitman’s return to the NDT this past season. In addition to being ranked 9th at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence and winning the Western Washington Debate Tournament as a competitor, Andy has demonstrated incredible skills as an educator, taking debaters to out-rounds at numerous tournaments in his first year as a coach. Andy coached the squad to a second place showing in the Western region last season and, most recently, his teams reached the semifinals at Gonzaga, the semifinals of the California State junior varsity tournament, the finals at Lewis & Clark, the elimination debates at CEDA Nationals, the finals of the Western Championships at Sacramento State, and 4th place (qualifying to the NDT) at the Northwest District Tournament. Andy brings extensive workshop experience to the faculty, having taught at many summer institutes such as the WNDI, the Pioneer Debate Institute and the Treasure Valley Debate Cooperative. He is particularly skilled at debate strategy involving case research, counterplans, and arguments involving domestic and international politics. We are very pleased Andy is joining the faculty this summer before he heads to graduate school in public policy this Fall.
Ben Menzies graduated from Whitman College in 2014, capping seven years of policy debate. In high school, he debated for Nevada Union High School in northern California, where he helped to restart the program, an experience that has made him deeply appreciative of small upstart programs. His three years on the California circuit resulted in back-to-back wins of the Harker tournament in San Jose and he advanced to elimination rounds at every bid tournament he attended (Long Beach, ASU, Golden Desert, Stanford, Berkeley) his senior year. He accepted the President’s Scholarship to debate at Whitman, where he has competed in over 200 rounds of policy debate. Some of his proudest accomplishments include finishing second at the Emporia tournament after five straight “win-or-go-home” rounds against higher-seeded teams, finishing .500 as a maverick at the California Swing tournaments, and an unparalleled streak of second-place finishes in debates against district rivals University of Puget Sound. He unconditionally believes in conditionality (ask him this summer) and does not believe in negative fiat, having searched in vain for the “should not” resolution. Ben also won the “Becky Galentine Trophy” for the Most Valuable Debater in the region en route to his NDT Qualifying season and his appearance in elimination rounds at CEDA Nationals, where he was selected as an All-American debater and was awarded CEDA's National Debate Scholar - Summa Cum Laude honors. Ben is a very conscientious teacher, leader, and debate practitioner, wise beyond his years and one of the most persuasive and compelling advocates of the value of debate you will ever meet.
Avery Miller got into an argument with a debater her first year in high school, and the next day was invited to try out for the team. Since then, she's become more and more invested in the world of argumentation and debate. Beginning with Moot Court competitions that required quick, on the spot answers to questions, and moving into Mock Trial where questions are weapons and the emphasis is on a communication-based version of policy, Avery has explored as many different types of debate as she could find. By the end of her high school career, her school team had won their Regional Policy championships for the first time ever, and she had taken the first place and top speaker at Princeton University’s Moot Court Competition. Avery finished as a semi-finalist in the National Moot Court competition, catapulting herself into her first year at Whitman College where she discovered the world of Parliamentary debate and worked towards improving at the new structure and format. After winning two tournaments in JV, she moved to Open and managed to break at her first tournament. She and her partner, also a first-year, made it within a third of a point of qualifying to the NPTE. Avery will spend the summer doing research for a professor in the area of thermo-optics, and hopes to major in physics, which will give her an edge in teaching how to debate about science. Her enthusiasm for debate of all kinds and her overall energy make Avery one of the most promising young teachers on the faculty.
Scott Odekirk is one of the anchors of the faculty, bringing a rare combination of five valuable characteristics to his unparalleled skills as a debate coach: excellence as a participant, as a college coach, as a scholar of Philosophy in debate, as a technology expert (videotaping and play back coaching sessions), and as one of the best high school directors in the country. He is currently the Director of Speech and Debate at the Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah where his team has won countless awards in every event in Forensics and positioned themselves as one of the best programs in the entire Western region. Scott Odekirk’s experience is deep and wide-ranging, having debated at Fort Hays State University, Weber State University, and the College of Eastern Utah where Odekirk was the only Junior College qualifier for the NDT in the last 25 years. He debated at the NDT three times and participated in elimination debates at more than 10 major national tournaments including CEDA nationals. Odekirk won multiple speaker awards at major national tournaments and was the top speaker at 4 tournaments during his debate career. As a college coach, he has qualified 4 teams to the NDT, coached multiple teams to late elimination rounds at major national tournaments, coached an Idaho State tandem to a First Round At Large Bid to the NDT, and coached the third place team of Izak Dunn and Jessica Yeats at the CEDA National Championship in 2006. Not surprisingly, Scott has won multiple awards for coaching and 4 straight critic of the year awards, including the Val Browning Coach of the Year Award. He believes that debate is a space for academic rigor and a uniquely important place for the promotion of social consciousness, just a few of the reasons we are elated he is joining the WNDI faculty this summer.
Margaret Rockey is a rising junior at Whitman College. Though she had no high school debate experience, she joined the Parliamentary Debate team as a first-year and she and her partner went on to win first place at five tournaments in the novice division. This past year, she and her partner competed in open for the first time, took second place at the Whitman Withycombe Tournament and qualified to the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence where she cleared into the elimination debates and took 17th place in the nation! Margaret enjoys foreign policy topics, advantage counterplans, internal link debates, and telling bad in-round jokes to give her partner something to roll his eyes about. On a more impressive note, Margaret’s debate acumen and ability to learn arguments quickly has been absolutely meteoric. Her rise to the elite levels of Parliamentary debate has been astronomical and gives her the unique ability to relate to both novice and varsity debaters in a way that will propel their skills forward very quickly.
Emma Thompson has been successful in a variety of different types of debate, earning many tournament championships in both Lincoln Douglas and Public Forum, including breaking at the Colorado State Tournament and NFL Nationals. She achieved significant national success in Public Forum, featuring Tournament of Champions bids from a second place finish at the Dowling Tournament and semifinals at Alta both her junior and senior years. Furthermore, Emma has shown great success as a coach, working with novice high school teams and bringing one pair into debate that went on to clear at the TOC. In college, Emma has been a leader on Whitman’s top-tier policy program, reaching elimination rounds at tournaments like Gonzaga and Lewis & Clark, not to mention a break-round and 4-4 record at CEDA Nationals as a sophomore. Alongside Marlene Anderson and a number of other Whitman debaters, Emma Thompson was instrumental in an innovative debate project in the Washington State Penitentiary. As a demonstration of her amazing abilities to teach, she spent at least a dozen hours in the State Penitentiary working with incarcerated individuals on a culminating public debate that was attended by the Superintendent, Whitman Faculty and Administrators, and social movement leaders from throughout the region. Emma brings a great presence to the faculty and is on-track to become one of the most effective instructors at any workshop in the nation.
Alex Zendeh is one of the best policy debaters to come out of Whitman and the Northwest region in the last decade. Amazingly, he cleared at every single national debate tournament, including the NDT, and was ranked second in the country as a result of reaching the Final Round of the CEDA National tournament in 2012. Alex is also a brilliant researcher and strategist and has been a dynamic policy coach for Whitman over the past two years. His teams have cleared at countless tournaments, including qualifying for the NDT and clearing to elimination rounds at CEDA Nationals. Showing the depth of his coaching skills, Alex helped clear three Whitman teams at the Gonzaga Tournament and place second overall in the Western region. He brings four summers of WNDI experience to the faculty as well as work at the GDI. He is outstanding at being able to balance a ferocious work ethic with an insightful and Zen-like approach to strategy, having mastered the ability to work with debaters on all of their weaknesses while remaining patient and supportive. The team will miss Alex Zendeh’s coaching next season as he will be attending the prestigious University of Texas Law School, but we are ecstatic he is able to join us this summer.