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Debate Team Group Photo

UT is home to one of the best competitive college debate teams in the United States.

The Tennessee Speech and Debate Society is among few student-run teams that competes nationally. The team most recently competed at the International Public Debate Association National Tournament and won awards in several categories: Novice, Junior Varsity, Varsity, and Professional (individual); and Founders and Scholastic (team). The team has previously won five national team titles.

At the tournament, TSDS Vice President Caroline Rogers, a Knoxville native, placed eighth as a debater nationwide and placed fifth as a speaker. Rogers is a senior studying language and world business. This was Rogers’s last tournament.

“Nationals are a tough tournament, with more than 60 competitors in each division,” Rogers said. “But our team has perfected the art of preparing great cases together.”

TSDS provides UT students a chance to explore competitive debating and prepares them for a variety of professional opportunities.

“Debating helps students become better speakers, especially in interview settings,” said Codey King, communications director for the team and Seymour native. “It helps students think on their feet quickly while delivering a precise point that can effectively persuade the audience.”

Debating also helps with time management.

“You are granted only 30 minutes before each round to prepare a case,” King said.  “You have a lot to say but little time to say it, and you have to prioritize what you are going to say.”

TSDS President Mickayla Stogsdill, a senior from Knoxville studying public administration and Russian studies, has been a part of the team since her freshman year. Before coming to UT, she gained experience from being involved in high school mock trial.

As president, Stogsdill helps coach members in preparation for debate tournaments. Understanding the ins and outs of debate takes practice, but the team has managed to stay ahead of the curve every time.

“As a debater, you don’t know what topic you are going to have coming into a tournament,” Stogsdill said. “Debate topics can range from pop culture to political science. We just practice debating with each other. Freshmen debate seniors and vice-versa. Everyone gets a chance to try.”

This is what Stogsdill says contributes to the family-like environment that inspires the team to do better and push for more.

“We’re one big family. We share our successes and our failures, no matter what,” Stogsdill said.

To learn more about the TSDS team and how to participate, visit the team’s Facebook page.


Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Courtney Cox (