Chat with the Chair: Lecturer Michael Souders reinstitutes debate program, rapidly gaining momentum

While the University of Washington historically had a thriving debate team, when Lecturer Michael Souders joined the UW Department of Communication in Fall 2013, he had to build the Debate Union from the ground up. Now with a steadily increasing group of about 20 students, the program runs several events a year and competes all around the country.

In this Chat with the Chair, Souders shares how debate has been “the most transformational activity” in his life and how seeing that happen in other kids’ lives affects his coaching.

“Debate kept me in school and kept me involved – I see that happening in other people,” Souders said. “They just need a place where they feel they are listened to and that makes teaching so much fun.”

The events put on by the Debate Union have helped the program gain momentum and grow. Last year was the first annual Gerry Philipsen Debate Forum honoring a now retired professor.  The key to the program’s ability to launch, both Domke and Souders said, has been the support of community members and alumni, especially foundational sponsors Kurt Carlson and Propel Insurance.

“It turns out that [Gerry] and I hold a lot of the same views about debate, but his are polished with years of experience and a greater background for the support of the activity,” Souders said. “It is so impressive how he talks about debate as a pedagogical activity – not just a way of learning, but a way of knowing.”

The second annual Philipsen Debate Forum will be on Thursday, November 20 at 7 p.m. in CMU 120 with featured respondent and UW Communication alumna Dr. Helene Starks. The topic will be physician-assisted suicide – all are welcome to attend.