Listen: Senior debater finishes first and captures Nevada’s second national debate trophy

Grace Miller’s accomplishments in debate lead to successful final year at the University of Nevada, Reno

University debate team partners Grace Miller and Daniel Armbrust at the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship tournament in Colorado.

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3/28/2017 | By: Hannah Richardson |

Grace Miller, University of Nevada, Reno senior, wins big at the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) National Championship tournament, March 23-26 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Miller placed first out of 282 debaters, was awarded NPDA All-American and the James "Al" Johnson Top Speaker Award at this year's national tournament.

According to the NPDA website, the National Parliamentary Debate Association is the largest national intercollegiate debate organization in the United States, with between 200-250 schools attending at least one tournament during the course of the year. The NPDA encourages extemporaneous two-on-two debate, with debate styles varying from traditional public-centered debate to more policy-oriented.

Miller, who is an Honors Program student double majoring in political science and philosophy (ethics, law and politics) and minoring in economic policy, transferred to the University from Santa Rosa Junior College, California, in 2014 to join the debate team, which she chose over top contenders like Berkeley. She is now the current Associated Students of the University of Nevada club president for the Nevada Debate Union and is also responsible for the team's Nevada debate gear, including hats, jackets, polo's, T-shirts and timers. She has also been proactive in planning on-campus events and outreach to share debate with other students.

Miller and her debate partner Daniel Armbrust, who finished close behind Miller in eighth place at the tournament, finished 7-1 in the preliminary rounds of the tournament and were the No. 2 seed in the elimination rounds before finishing in ninth place out of 141 teams. According to Phil Sharp, University of Nevada, Reno debate coach and director of forensics, explained that in each of the eight preliminary rounds of debate, each team of two was issued a win or a loss, but the judge also ranked the individual debaters' performance on a scale of 1-30. Miller's overall point total rose her above the entire playing field and placed her first out of 282 debaters at the competition. Miller's accomplishments garnered a well-deserved trophy, and is the second time in the 24-year-history of the organization that a Nevada student has won the award, after Max Alderman won the first in 2011.

Miller and Armbrust began permanently debating together in January. The duo finished the season strong as they made their way to the finals of the Western States Communication Association tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, and won the Northern California Forensics Association championships in Sacramento, California. The team's overall performance this season allowed for the University to climb to 13th in the national out of 170.

"As a coach, you root for your student's to succeed, even as you are providing them criticism and challenging their conceptions, you want them to accomplish their best in the end," Sharp said. "This whole team has not only risen to the competitive challenge but they have done so with class. The entire team, especially the three seniors, are crowd favorites because of their talent, humor and kindness. Nothing could make me more proud than to know we have good people, and seeing Grace win a national championship makes it all that much better."

Miller has competed in many debate tournaments and championships throughout the past three years, receiving several debate awards and scholarships, including being a two-time recipient of the William Cashill Forensics Scholarship. Miller said that she plans to pursue law school at either Stanford Law School or Columbia in 2018, and is confident in her ability to succeed in law school because of the skills that she has gained from debate. After graduation, she plans to take a year off to coach debate.

"I am still determining where I will be coaching due to recent offers from debate programs," Miller said. "I will most likely be coaching at community colleges and for the University in hopes to give back what debate has given to me."

To learn more about the NPDA, view national results archives, view participation forms and more, visit the NPDA website. For more information about the University's Nevada Debate Union, or to join the team, contact Sharp.

Listen to a University debate practice to find out more about National Parliamentary Debate style:

Hannah: What is National Parliamentary Debate? Phil Sharp, the University’s debate coach and director of forensics explains.

Phil: It’s a collegiate debate organization that focuses on parliamentary debate, which is a form of debate that provides a topic 20 minutes before a debate round. It involves two person teams debating each other for about an hour.  

Hannah: The members of the debate team at the University practice 6-10 hours a week and hold several intensive practices over the weekends.

Hannah: During this practice, debate duo Daniel and Grace argue against corn subsidies while debate team member, Evelyn will argue the opposing view.

Hannah: Daniel starts off the debate with the first constructive speech for the affirmative. He will argue that corn subsidies are bad for the United States economy and farmers in Brazil.

Daniel: The first advantage for this policy is going to be saving the environment. First off, is the uniqueness. The corn uses a ton of resources now. In the United States, corn uses more land with about 97 million acres of total land being used on corn.

Hannah: Evelyn will then give the Leader of the Opposition constructive, arguing that the subsidies are key to education and subsistence farming as well as economic livelihood of farmers.

Evelyn: Ending corn subsidies is bad for farmers; this makes the corn itself at higher risk, meaning that farmers are not going to want to invest in it because there is a high risk with low rewards. This makes things such as most of our groceries go up in price.

Hannah: Finally, Grace will cross-examine Evelyn. In questioning her, she tries to expose flaws in the opposing viewpoints and reinforce that her and Daniel are winning in the debate. 

Grace: Isn’t it true that the subsidies push out other markets, which can also make the price higher?

Evelyn: It pushes out other markets, but it helps us to be able to maintain a global stable price when it comes to corn.

Hannah: If you would like to sharpen your public speaking skills and prepare yourself to become a leader of the community, join the team by contacting Phil Sharp.

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