The Lynn debate team recently advanced to the semifinals of its first international tournament, the 2019 Pan-American Universities Debate Championship in Panama City, Panama.

Lynn fielded three squads for the competitions, each showcasing various levels of experience.  The six debaters were led by Lynn professors Kathryn and Eric Hamm, the team’s adjudicators.

“Being in Panama for an international debate tournament was amazing,” said Samantha Rodriguez, freshman. “I had the opportunity to not only learn new things regarding the British Parliamentary style of debate, but I also got to meet new people. Being Latina and going to a Latin American country was just the cherry on top. It was a whole new experience for me to compete at an international level.”

Marisa McGrady, sophomore, and Samuel Nvota, freshman, were the sixth-seeded team after seven preliminary rounds against more than 20 teams from North, Central and South America. After a rocky first day, the pair quickly acclimated to global standards for the second day of the tournament, earning multiple first-place rankings and advancing to the semifinals. Two of these top honors were awarded by the tournament’s Chief Adjudicator Dan Lahav, who was named top speaker at the World Championships in 2018. 

“Getting feedback from Dan Lahav, the world’s best speaker, was quite helpful – not just for debate purposes, but also for professional communication growth,” said Chris Cohen, junior and the debate team’s e-board president. 

Lahav spoke highly of McGrady and Nvota, telling them a team so fresh to the scene should be extremely proud of the semifinal break while noting their competitive potential for future international tournaments. 

Overall, the entirety of the debate team performed competitively, representing Lynn with pride on the academic stage.  Each team was ranked 2nd or better at least once throughout the preliminary rounds. 

“The tournament was an invaluable experience of learning from some global top talent, both for the debaters and for us as judges,” said Kate Hamm, Lynn’s assistant director of forensics. “We learned a great deal to bring back to improve our debaters’ skills as well as the Florida debate scene.”

Lynn competed against teams from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Universidad Católica Santa Maria la Antigua in Panama City, The University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, and many others. Now, they look to grow the program with top-notch experience under their belts. 

Debate Team meetings are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m. in IBC 309. For more information, please contact Eric Hamm at 

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