Scott Harris
KU Debate and Department of Communication Studies

Team qualifies for National Debate Tournament

Tue, 02/18/2014

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas debate team of senior Melanie Campbell, Lenexa, and freshman Kevin Christopher Birzer, Leawood, has been recognized as a first-round, at-large qualifier for the National Debate Tournament, which will be March 28-31 at Indiana University.

A national committee selects the top-16 individual debate teams in the country based on their performance over the course of the season and recognizes them as automatic first-round qualifiers for the NDT. The rest of the 78-team field will be selected through regional qualifying tournaments over the next two weeks. It is the 47th consecutive year that KU has qualified for the tournament. They are the 35th KU team to qualify for the NDT as a first-round qualifier.

Campbell and Birzer were recognized based on their performance throughout the regular season. They took second place at a tournament hosted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, fifth place at the University of Southern California and had top-10 finishes at Harvard University, Georgia State University and the University of California at Fullerton. The other schools to qualify as at-large teams are the University of California at Berkeley, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Mary Washington University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, the University of Oklahoma, Rutgers-Newark University, Towson University, Wake Forest University and West Georgia University.

Campbell is a four-time qualifier for the NDT. Birzer is the first-ever KU freshman to be a first-round qualifier.

“We are very proud of the hard work and performance of Melanie and Kevin, but we want to acknowledge the support of many others who have contributed to their success,” said Coach Scott Harris. “The other 23 members of the KU debate squad and the assistant coaches have been instrumental. The financial support of the Student Senate, the Communication Studies Department, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Provost and numerous alumni allow them to travel across the country. We also owe Coach Bill Self thanks as well. He provided an assist in helping recruit Birzer as part of his commitment to the University beyond basketball. We are very grateful that he took time out of his busy schedule to help the debate team.”

It has also been a successful season for other members of the debate team as well. The KU debate squad as a whole ended the fall semester ranked second in the country behind the University of Oklahoma in the National Debate Tournament Varsity National Rankings. The rankings are based on points earned by teams competing at tournaments. Twenty-three different KU debaters have reached the elimination rounds at tournaments this year. This past weekend sophomore Kaeli Wefald, Manhattan, and senior Megan Mapes, Topeka, went 7-1 and took third place at a tournament at Kansas State University. Sophomore Addison Schile, Topeka, and junior Nick Khatri, Edina, Minn., took second place at a tournament at the University of Texas at Dallas and third place at a tournament at Wichita State University. Juniors Matt Bevens, Topeka, and Aaron Miller and Ciera Foreman, both of Overland Park; sophomores Hunter Goh, Bakersfield, Calif., and Bradley Harris, Lawrence; and freshmen Keith Monaghan and Jared Nelson, both of Overland Park, have all finished in the top three at varsity tournaments this year. 

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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@KU bschool 's KIP team includes @KU _SADP students in all-ages housing project. #KUworks
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

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