May 25, 2019  

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Speech and Debate Team brings Home National Championships

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The University of Southern Mississippi Speech and Debate team recently returned from Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., where it won two national championships at the 2018 International Public Debate Association (IPDA) National Tournament.

USM Speech and Debate Team members competing at the tournament included John Beckham, a history major from Mandeville, La.; Richard Bradley, an economics major from Birmingham, U.K.; Evey Williams, a philosophy major from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.; and Jonathan Bridenbaker, a communication studies major from Gulfport, Miss. USM Director of Forensics Dr. Paul Strait and Assistant Director Seth Fendley, a graduate student, traveled with the team to the event.

The squad competed in both team and individual debate. Beckham and Bradley won the national championship in Team Debate out of 59 teams from across the nation. In Individual Debate, Bradley won the Junior Varsity division out of a field of 64 debaters. Williams advanced in the tournament on a 5-3 record to compete in the double-octofinals round. Fendley brought home a 7th place speaker award in the professional IPDA division.

The squad also brought home two season-long awards based on their cumulative success before the national championship tournament. Bradley finished 8th in nation for the season in the junior varsity division, capping off a season of successes which included five out round appearances, and two finals appearances. Fendley finished 10th in the nation for the season in the professional division.

The team has three more events this semester. Charles Marshall, a theater major from Hattiesburg, competed in the American Forensics Association’s National Individual Events Tournament at Colorado College. Marshall qualified in both extemporaneous speaking and impromptu speaking, and is the first competitor from USM to attend this prestigious tournament. 

Those who traveled to the IPDA nationals will be on the road again for the James Madison Cup, where the two teams of Beckham and Bradley and Bridenbaker and Williams will compete in the invitational tournament which features a long-table style of debate focused on universal healthcare.

The team will conclude its season at home with an end-of-the year showcase highlighting many of the different events it competed in during the season. The showcase is set for April 27 from 3:15-4:45 p.m. in the Gonzales Auditorium, Liberal Arts Building room 108 on the Hattiesburg campus. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Southern Miss Speech and Debate Team is sponsored by the university’s Department of Communication Studies. Learn more about the team at