Whitman Alum Speak to the Academic and Professional Benefits of our Debate Program


Keola Whittaker

Attorney, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz


The experience on the Whitman debate program gave me critical thinking skills that prepared me for a career as an attorney. As a member of the Whitman debate program I was challenged to research topics in depth in order to understand arguments on both sides of an issue, advocate my position in a reasoned and logical manner, and confidently speak to a variety of audiences. Debate has influenced my life, both personally and professionally, more than any single college course or extracurricular activity.


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Keola posing with the thinker look in 2001.

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Nicole back in 1993.

Nicole Levin Mattarelli

Product Manager for American Computer Software


In some ways my software manager job seems very far away from debate and liberal arts at Whitman. In reality, I am having to negotiate what should be in our software and services with every part of our organization, find ways to convince development to do what's best for the customer (even if it takes more time or resources), teach salespeople how to sell it and persuade customers as to why it benefits their business. The persuasion and communication skills that I gained through debate at Whitman were probably the most important skills I learned.


Brian Simmonds

Attorney, Associate (Antitrust) Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr LLP


Debate taught me to focus on what matters.  In my work, we always have more facts than we can present to a court or government agency. Comprehensibly presenting the essential facts makes all the difference.

My job is a whole lot more like being on a debate team than being in an undergraduate seminar.


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Brian in 2001.


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Jessica in 2000.


Jessica Clarke

Law Clerk to the Honorable Rosemary Pooler, Second Circuit Court of Appeals


I cannot overemphasize the impact debate has had on my career. The research, critical thinking, and communication skills I learned have been invaluable to me at Yale Law School, as a law clerk to two federal judges, and as a litigator. Debate requires you to learn to think on your feet, handle time pressure, and be thoroughly prepared -- there's no better way to prepare for a career in law.


Jason Smith

Assistant Dean, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs

Marine Corps Officer


Debate gave me the ability to stand in front of my Marines and communicate my orders effectively in very stressful situations. Many times you only get one chance to make a decision, and it taught me how to analyze information quickly, and develop on time solutions.

I know it sounds cheesy but it's true. Debate prepared my mind to operate in a high tempo environment.


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Jason Smith in 1996.

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Sean in 1997.


Sean Harris-Campf

Social Studies Teacher and Debate Coach, Holy Names Academy


I would not have my job but for debate.  My range of knowledge about social studies and current events topics has been directly shaped from the diverse topics I researched as a high school and college debater.  I use cross-examination skills in class each day to lead discussions and ask questions that will encourage students to think critically. 


Rowland Hobbs

Chief Executive Officer, DMD Network (www.dmdnetwork.com)


Debate is more than the final presentation, which has served me extremely well over the years. It is also the thought process that goes into creating a persuasive argument. Finding the weaknesses and strengths, the true stress testing of a case or plan, that has truly benefited me first as a graduate student in European universities and then in the competitive world of New York advertising and public relations. Nothing in my education prepared me more than my experiences as part of Whitman debate.


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Rowland looking very young back in 1993.