Monday, March 28, 2016

ISU Junior, Mike Chen, Ties for 9th at National Debate Competition

Mike Chen
POCATELLO - While many Idaho State students were enjoying their spring break, The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society was competing at the Pi Kappa Delta (PKD) National Comprehensive Tournament in Lexington, Kentucky for a large part of the break (March 15-22nd). Idaho State University Junior Mike Chen tied for 9th place in the Varsity division of International Parliamentary Debate Association (IPDA) Debate.

Left to right: Mike Chen, Sydnee Harris, Erik Ekstrom, Ethan Likness,
Michael Mares, Casey Santee, Cora Bidet.
Right back: Nate Graves. Right front: Jonah Ruhter.
Hosted by the University of Kentucky, the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament featured 87 schools with 1,956 individual events entries and 354 debate entries. There were almost 1,000 individual participants.  Chen finished with a 4-2 (66.7%) winning record and finished as the 14th individual speaker and 10th seed. Ultimately, his showing means he tied for 9th place. IPDA is an individual debate format that features a different topic in each debater.  For each round of debate, the competitors are presented with five topics.  Each side is allowed to strike two of the five.  The remaining topic is the subject for debate. 

In recalling the tournament Mike said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to not only compete at a Nationals tournament for debate, but also place 9th and win a trophy. The competition was tough, and my competitors were fantastic debaters. Not to mention that it was a four day competition, so everybody was pretty tired by the time of the award ceremony. I am so impressed by my fellow debaters, and I am proud to represent both the debate team and Idaho State University as a competitor and a student.”

Left to right: Michael Mares, Erik Ekstrom,
Ethan Likness, Mike Chen, Cora Bidet.
The Rupp Debate Team has enjoyed its share of success. Last March, Seniors Patrick Loftus and Brock Sondrup claimed ISU’s first national championship at the Pi Kappa Delta National Championship in British Parliamentary debate at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  ISU debaters Jessica Yeats and Izak Dunn placed third at the 2007 Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) National Tournament. In 2008, Jessica Yeats placed second in individual speaking at both the National Debate Tournament (NDT) and CEDA Nationals.

At this year’s PKD National Comprehensive Tournament, Ethan Likness and Cora Bidet also represented Idaho State in IPDA.  Michael Mares, Erik Ekstrom, Sydnee Harris, and Jonah Ruhter represented ISU in British Parliamentary debate. The Idaho State students are members of the PKD honor society which was founded in 1911 and has more than 200 active chapters nationwide.

According to David Bailey, President of PKD, "Speech and debate is vital for the development of oral and written communication skills—the very skills that employers consistently tell us they are looking for. Even more importantly, it fosters research, independent and critical thinking, and leadership—all qualities necessary for a more informed citizenship. In short, there are few educational activities that are as important as speech and debate."

In addition to developing their debate skills, the team had a great time. Mike Chen stated, “Aside from the Debate tournament, I also had a lot of fun on the trip too. We saw a lot of amazing sights, we took plenty of pictures, and we ate food to die for (I recommend the corn bread). My favorite part of the whole trip was our downtown stroll in Kentucky during which we saw a giant, psychedelic mural of Abraham Lincoln. Most of all, I enjoyed spending time with the Debate team. By the end of the trip, everybody looked like they enjoyed themselves. Despite being exhausted by the end of our week-long venture, they still kept positive attitudes. I was also incredibly happy that Nancy Legge was able to join in on the fun and even help out. Overall, this trip was a blast in and out of competition with an amazing group of debaters and even greater friends.”

Left to Right: Jonah Ruhter, Sarah Partlow Lefevre, Cora Bidet, Mike Chen, Sydnee Harris, Ethan Likness, Nate Graves, Michael Mares, Erik Ekstrom.
Professor Sarah Partlow Lefevre, Director of the Rupp Debate Society, agrees, “I’m so pleased that all of our debaters were strong team players.  They focused on the process – not the product.  That way, everyone learned a lot.  As our most experienced debater, Mike made us all proud by placing in the top of his field.”

The James M. and Sharon E. Rupp Debate Society, an AISU student organization, is sponsored by K-ISU and in housed in the Department of Communication, Media, and Persuasion in the College of Arts and Letters at Idaho State University. To learn more about the Rupp Debate Team, visit its blog at or find the team on facebook at ISU students who have questions about the team, or are interested in joining, should contact Partlow Lefevre at