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MU’s Business Debaters Speak About the Importance of Versatility

Monmouth’s Debate Hawks won a team award and reached the playoff rounds at the American Debate Association National Championship, hosted by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia on March 5-7. While the award specifically recognized debaters Sabria Smith and Ariana Valencia, the team’s accomplishment marks the first time the University’s debate team has advanced to this level of competition.

Monmouth’s debate team prides itself on accepting students from all disciplines of study. Professor of Political Science, Joseph Patten, Ph.D., promotes the opportunity to travel and debate. “Joining MU’s debate team is a great way to gain a skill that will help you in law school, graduate school, or in your chosen profession, and a terrific opportunity to travel and make new friends,” said Patten. He added that there are no prerequisites to joining. “We don’t require prior experience, but just an interest in meeting fun and interesting people, a willingness to do your best, and most importantly, be fun to travel with on weekend tournaments.”

Nicholas Yalch, a business student and co-captain of the team, noted how unlikely his involvement would have been if it was not for certain, timely circumstances. “It’s a funny story on the lead up to me joining the debate team,” started Yalch, “I used to work at ShopRite, and a coworker of mine lived next to Dr. Patten; he, having known Dr. Patten, encouraged me to take a course with him and join the debate team.” Yalch mentioned that it was only when he had taken Intro to Political Science with Patten in the Fall of 2019 did he finally decide to join the debate team, as well as declare political science as his minor.

Haider Husaini, another business student, joined out of desire to sharpen his public speaking skills. “Debate competitions involve debaters informing and persuading the judges, just as I would through a sales or ad campaign pitch,” said Husaini. Both Husaini and Yalch agreed that while their majors are not necessarily debate or politically oriented, their studies have enabled them to be successful debaters.

For Yalch, as a finance major, he likened the skill of arguing to buying stock. “In business, I have had to examine facts and make certain arguments and judgements based on those facts, such as recommending whether to buy a stock or not. It’s similar to the concept of debate where you must respond to opposing arguments as well as craft your own,” said Yalch.

Husaini agreed, “I found my business classes helping me in terms of structuring competition arguments. With a subject like student loans, we had to understand the role of the government and loan servicing companies, which I had learned a great deal about in my classes for the past two years.”

Upon hearing of Husaini and Yalch’s accomplishments as representatives of the University’s business programs, Raj Devasagayam, Ph.D., Dean of the Leon Hess Business School, emphasized how critical it is for students to involve themselves in interdisciplinary extracurriculars. According to Devasagayam, “The Leon Hess Business School prides itself on raising leaders well versed with the Liberal Arts tradition which yields critical thinkers, effective communicators, and responsible citizens. In short, the Leon Hess Business School is committed to producing business leaders that are capable of lifelong learning with an interdisciplinary vision needed to meet the demands of a contemporary world.”

Devasagayam added, “Events such as debate tournaments provide a unique learning opportunity to LHBS students to display their education and showcase their multidisciplinary pursuit of an enriched life…My sincere congratulations to all our student participants on this spectacular accomplishment.”

Yalch said, “Outside of simply meeting new people beyond my major, debate has allowed me to utilize the skills I have been learning in the classroom and apply them in the real world. Just as being a business student helps me debate, being a debater makes me a better business student.”

Husaini said that people should get involved with activities outside of their major to increase their versatility. “Today, companies are not just looking to hire the most motivated and accomplished candidates,” he said. “They look to see how many skills are in your arsenal. This is extremely important, and many accomplished individuals in the business world have communicated this to me.”